I’ve had my Olympic experience. We brought into the whole experience, literally. My Dad purchased at a London 2012 partner supermarket T-shirts for him, me, my son and Mr Noo. My initially concern was less gratitude and more would we look like numpties but actually the t-shirts turned out to be tasteful and a large section of the crowd also came in London 2012 merchandise (hurrah for the economy) and given that if you wanted a slice of the T-shirt action at the event you needed to fork out £28 I think we were wise to shop early. Wearing the t-shirt and waving flags is all part of it. Being identifiable as supporting Team GB, in our case the mens road cycling team.
Our Olympic experience was the first day of the games to see the recently Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Wiggo), Mark Cavendish (Cav aka The Manx Missile). Frome Dog. Stannard (he worked very hard but I’m not sure hard enough to earn a nick name) and David Millar.
Amongst large crowds we boarded a train before 8 am on Saturday morning. A big issue around the London 2012 experience has been whether the transport system will cope. To feed into this fear the train operator elected not add an additional carriages or train which made for a tight squeeze out to Surrey, they did include extra trains for the return journey so not all was lost.
There was a palpable excitement, not just the crowds but the banners on houses, the people who had staked a place beside the road at 6 am. Box Hill is no Alpine route but it is still a steep climb over uneven ground and that combined with security checks meant it took nearly an hour to get into our alloted area.
The sun was shining and Team GB supporters were pretty confident, compared to Le Tour, 9 times around Box Hill would be a breeze for Bradley and Co. Cav was certain to win.
The views from the top were splendid, miles of green Surrey countryside and given Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony tribute to Great Britain’s green and pleasant land it was all very fitting. Box Hill has been decorated with some Olympic ring and flags. It very much felt like something special.
The tickets to allowed us to sit on a hill and watch cyclist fly past at nearly 30 mph no less than 9 times. We had access to a big screen, toilets and food stalls. Nine times worked well because due to the crowds I failed to see anything the first two laps. The alternative was to watch see the action on the big screen but given the action was a few feet away this seemed a little disappointing. Great for viewing the cyclists as they sped through London but not the way I wanted to see them on Box Hill. Comparative to many Olympic tickets road cycling offered a cheap option at £15 per adult and £5 for a child, but I still felt £15 was worth seeing athletes first hand. However, ever resourceful Mr Noo found a barrier to climb over and we secured a little spot right on the roadside. This was more like it. As they flew past you could feel the breeze. See the detail, identify different teams in the seconds between them appearing and disappearing.
I am a fan, an arm-chair fan of cycling, I enjoy the Tour de France and I have a vague understanding of the tactics and the workings of the peloton. I understand the brilliance of Mark Cavendish but also his limitations. I also know they go past very quickly. The voice over on the big screen reminded us they were climbing the hill just below us. Suddenly, the crowd further down the road grew louder. Every began to shout and cheer. Round the bend the pack of cyclist appeared. Flags waved. Names and encouragement shouted. Whoosh. They’d gone past. While I was still struggling to focus on who was who. At first, which ones had ‘Great Britain’ on their lycra.
The stragglers suited my limited ability to “take it all in” and as they slowly dragged themselves up the hill minutes behind the main body, I was able to focus and know exactly that I was cheering on; Iran and Malaysia. So we cheered for Team GB 9 times and we cheered on the stragglers and after the final lap we headed with the crowds to watch the rest of the race on the big screen. The predominately Team GB crowd was silent, it was very tense and then the tension dissolved into quiet disappointment as it was clear Team GB were not going to win. It was a big “Oh” moment. “Oh….. it wasn’t meant to be like this”.
A medal, would obviously, have made a fantastic day very special. It wasn’t to be. We did have a wonderful experience. I hope I made a memory for my son. It was a great way to start the London 2012 fortnight. Right now, I am back on my sofa, flicking from sport to sport across various channels. Its fun but not the same as being there. I’m glad I was. I did spent Sunday night looking at (prohibitively expensive) ticket prices because I’d love to visit the Olympic Park during the games but that isn’t meant to be either. In the meantime I’m enjoying watching sports I’d normally have no interest in; fencing or water polo and the loving the thrill of the big events; swimming and of course waiting for athletics.
So tell me how are the Olympics so far for you?