Yesterday I was fortunate enough to go to the Olympic Park in London to watch the Women’s Basketball and Handball, and what a day it was. We left home at 8.30am and didn’t get back till nearly 2am the next day, and I think that just demonstrates how much of a good time we were having. Oh all right, and the fact that we live nearly two hours away from London, but still. First off, for anyone that hasn’t been or won’t have the chance to go, the Olympic Park in incredible. All the buildings (even McDonalds!), stadiums and arenas are architecturally beautiful and despite arriving in torrential rain, entering the park still took my breath away. There are recycling bins everywhere, loads of loos (minimal queueing even for the ladies!), and lots of water fountains for refilling bottles. On the subject of drinks, I would recommend getting yours from McDonalds, not the sellers all over the park. A tea from the former is 95p, compared with £2.40 at the latter. No joke
All the volunteers and staff are incredible. They made such a difference to the day. Friendly and helpful all day long, they raised many a smile amongst the crowds. In Park Live (where the big screens are), volunteers even came round offering free squirts of sun cream when the sun finally came out!It seems to me that the organisers have been trying to manage our expectations: we heard awful reports of two hour airport-style security checks to get in, but it was actually very quick and efficient. And after being patted down (I was beeped when walking through the scanner, as per), the lady who did so complimented me on my dress. Now that never happens at airports. Similarly, when we were leaving the park late at night we were told there were severe delays on the tube, but in reality it was fine. The general atmosphere was really special. Bar three rather rude Australians, every member of the public I encountered was good-natured, excited, and there to have a good time and make the most of a very special day. WhenAndy Murray’s tennis final match against Roger Federer was screened in Park Live, the atmosphere was electric: thousands of people were packed in front of the screens, and oh how we whooped, clapped, cheered and waved our flags in support. People were eating strawberries and cream and drinking Pimms, and quite honestly, we could have been at Wimbledon! Luckily, my family and I had a great spot to watch it because we sat through the torrential downpour for nearly two hours before the match began. We are British, after all.
Foodwise, there’s pretty much everything that could take your fancy on offer. From jacket potatoes and hog roasts to noodles and good old fish and chips, we were spoilt for choice. Although if you can’t be bothered to queue, I would just hit up McDonalds. We may have done so. Don’t judge. It was delish. If there was one slight disappointment to the day, it was the megastore. Sure, there’s clothing, accessories, homewares, keyrings, posters and all sorts on offer, but I was just slightly uninspired. I wanted a souvenir, but there was nothing that really made me go “Ooooh I want this!” Actually, I did really want one of the Links of London 2012 Collection Union Jack charms, but they’d sold out of silver. Boo. When it came to actually watching the events, that was brilliantly organised too. Inside the arenas, there was enough to entertain even those who weren’t that into sport most of the time (who, me?), with cheerleaders, dance troupes and presenters coming out to entertain the audience (sorry, spectators) during the intervals (oh, right, I mean half time). The big surprise for me was just how great handball is! It’s aggressive, fast-moving, extremely entertaining, and I’m feeling rather keen to give it a try myself. Who knows..? Maybe you’ll see me playing for Team GB in Rio in four years! You probably won’t, but you never know. Overall, it was a cracking day. Seb Coe and all the organisers really have done a fantastic job, and I sincerely hope that the London Olympics boosts the national economy and image just as much as it’s already boosted our mood.