What is the ‘ultimate’ Olympic experience? If the answer to this question is the Athletic Stadium, then I was there today for the ultimate experience!
Did it come up to my high expectations?
Yes it did.
How I got there only requires me to backtrack one day.
Yesterday (Wednesday) I got onto the ‘Search Events’ page on the Olympic website and searched for athletics tickets. From time to time, athletic sessions were shown as available. However, each time I hit ‘Search’, I got a message saying they had ceased being available.
I finally hit lucky at 6.30 pm.
After a wait of 7 or 8 minutes it booked me a ticket!
I went along to the Olympic Park the same evening to collect the ticket.
Today I caught the 3.24 train from Harrow & Wealdstone. The start of the session was 6.30. The Underground Central Line train was more crowded than on previous occasions on my Olympic travels but at after 4.00, I was hitting the start of the normal evening rush hour.
With increasing elation, I approached the athletics stadium. When I finally entered it, I paused. The impressions of being in this awesome place crowded in on me.
I found my seat and sat down. It was a warm evening. The recorded temperature while I was there was 21 – 23C. There was no breeze. It was wonderful just being there, seated on the 2nd tier of seats up from the field, close to the Olympic flame.
I think everyone else in the stadium must have felt the same way, judging by the enthusiasm of their reaction to the events and the exuberance with which they cheered.
As the light faded it became more difficult to take good photos. I left my camera on my lap and surrendered to the magic of being there.
There were finals for the men’s triple jump and the men’s 1500m.
The high point of the evening had to be the men’s 200m final, with Usain Bolt, having cunningly created a sense of drama by declaring that he was ‘only 95% fit’, added to his 100m victory, with his Jamaican team-mates second and third.
Two 1500m races made up the final stages of the decathlon. Then, with the final scores calculated, US athletes were declared first and second.
In addition to these finals, there were races for first rounds of the women’s 100m relay and the women’s 800m semi finals.
The last event of the evening was the women’s javelin. As at Eton Dorney where I was on Saturday, there was a Czech woman gold medalist. Barbora Spotakova successfully defended her Olympic title.
Sitting next to me was a British chap enthusiastically waving the Czech flag! I got talking to him. Mark, a British Airways pilot, told me he was supporting the Czech Republic because his mum was Czech; his grandparents having fled Czechoslovakia in 1948 after the Soviet takeover.
He is a sports fanatic who uses his job to attend sporting events the world over. He was in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. He had already been to a number of 2012 Olympic events and has ticket for two more; – the diving on Friday evening and another session in the athletics stadium. He proudly showed me on his mobile a photo of himself and Usain Bolt taken after a chance encounter at Heathrow airport.
I love watching victory ceremonies. Here there were six; – three for the USA, one for the Russian Federation – still with the old Soviet national anthem –one for Kenya and one for Jamaica. As with all victory ceremonies, there was the firefly flicker of photo flashes from around the stadium – futile surely, for flash coverage due to the distances involved – but contributing nevertheless to the charged atmosphere of the ceremonies.
By just after 10 pm it was all over. I reluctantly dragged myself away from my spectacular surroundings.
The people from the part of the stadium where I was were directed to West Ham station because of ‘overcrowding’ at Stratford. It took nearly an hour to get there and I eventually caught the 12.04 from Euston back to Harrow & Wealdstone.
What a memorable day. And I still have the men’s marathon on Sunday to round off my ‘live’ Olympic experience.