Back in May, I booked a ticket for one of the swimming events, taking advantage of the special allocation of tickets for those who had applied in 2011 and had been unsuccessful.
I tried for one of the sessions which included a final but they were sold out. I succeeded in getting a ticket for a set of the heats and had to be content with that.
I got to the Olympic Park at about 8 AM. The morning was sunny. There were already a considerable numbers of people there, converging on the tents set up for the rigorous security checks done by the military.
Some people feel they have been through specially privileged experiences, with heightened awareness, when visiting sites such Machu Picchu or viewing phenomena like the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). I felt this way when, in March 2006, I witnessed a total solar eclipse in Side, on the Turkish Mediterranean Coast .
I had such a sense of a privileged, heightened awareness today, when visiting the Olympic Park.
I felt it on entering the Park itself. I felt excitement and awe even more when I went into Aquatic Centre.
Out in the foyer it was quite chilly. Being something of a cold-sensitive creature, I wondered if I was going to be warm enough. My concern was groundless. Going through the doors into the pool area itself, I was enveloped by the warm clamminess typical of indoor swimming pools. Also familiar was the chlorine laden atmosphere, though it was less throat-catching that usual.
I arrived half an hour before the start. The contestants were swimming up and down the pool. It was a delight to watch them. My delight is comprehensible. I was watching the economical and graceful strokes of the best men and women swimmers in the world, warming up in preparation for their races, exercising their meticulously honed skills, getting into their flow.
I was there for the heats of the women’s 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley. There were also the heats of the men’s 200m butterfly.
Although there were some closely contested races, for me they lacked the drama of the finals with the medals at stake. They were over in an hour and I was left with a sense of anticlimax. Also, I felt tired after an early start to the day and I started to feel drowsy in the warm, moist atmosphere.
There was a block of seats on the other side of the pool from me occupied by just a few spectators. I questioned one of the support staff about this. She told me it was reserved for, ‘the Olympic family’. This term refers to delegates, officials and what have you. They can just turn up or not turn up, according to their whim. That morning it was definitely a case of not turning up. For the folk frustrated by not being able to get tickets, only too eager to pay serious money into the Olympic coffers to secure seats, I felt great sympathy. I could have been among them.
I had a substantial cheese and onion pasty for lunch from one of the food outlets in the Park. It was very good. Piping hot, it had a crispy, brown pastry shell which was not at all greasy and a tasty gooey filling. There was a good choice of types of food there. I had chosen a pasty place but other options included places selling pizzas, roasts, Indian, Chinese and delis selling a range of sandwiches and tasty morsels . I had good pizza slices twice the other night when I was at the Excel Centre for the fencing. Just cooked, the vegetables in them were obviously prepared from fresh rather than tinned. Perhaps, like me, you can recall the dire state of British fast food in days gone by. For me, the food on offer at the Olympics was a pleasant surprise and added to the pleasure of being there.
I left the Park at midday and was back home in a little over an hour. I’d risen at 5.30 that morning after just a short sleep. I was shattered. I went to bed in the afternoon and slept for three hours.