Personal highlights have included:
Watching the opening ceremony on the big screen at Greenwich, especially when the cries of ‘Turn it up!’ were finally acknowledged by the sound technicians. The conversations on social media sites were amusing, as fellow Tweeters smiled at Danny Boyle’s subtleties, laughed at the downfall of Aidan Burley and watched the Daily Mail recoil in horror. Reports stated that the opening ceremony cost in the region of £27m. That said, it was witnessed by the same number of viewers; £1 for a Friday night’s entertainment seems like a bargain to me, especially in these austere times.
The Men’s Cycle Road Race may have lasted 250 km, but from my vantage point at Hyde Park Corner it was over in a flash and the loudest cheer was reserved for two young lads who cheekily followed the cycle cavalcade on their Boris bikes. The one-hour wait included a chance encounter with Norman Hughes, who had spare tickets for the following morning’s session of women’s hockey. His generous offer of tickets brought to mind the answer to the question, ‘Do bears s*@t in the woods?’ An early-morning meeting was arranged and thus began my induction to the Olympic Park in general and live hockey in particular. The much-anticipated queues and delays did not exist thanks to an efficient and warm welcome. Walking through the park to the Riverside Arena, Norman told me about his predictions for the tournament and also his involvement with the sport, casually remarking that he had won a Bronze Medal for Team GB at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for all things Olympian was growing by the minute.
As the morning session, featuring teams from Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and Holland progressed, I could see why so many people become hooked on hockey. The atmosphere was incredible, unlike any other I had experienced; Premier League football matches will never seem the same again. Even the torrential rain failed to dampen the spirits. After the matches, I wandered around the Olympic Park wearing the same ridiculous grin as countless others. The anticipation had become reality and we were simply in awe.
Another ‘minority sport’ I attended was beach volleyball. The television images of the stadium at Horse Guard’s Parade really had done justice to the scale of the conversion and any cynicism about the sport quickly evaporated. Again, I was enthralled by the spectacle and atmosphere generated by and for the four matches, eight teams and sixteen competitors. The only downside was the sight of blocks of empty seats, most noticeably in the premium seating areas. That said, I managed to ‘upgrade myself to business class’ and found myself ringside for some matches. The same situation occurred at two other events. Wembley Stadium may have had a crowd of over 70,000 for Team GB versus Brazil in the women’s football, but spectators seemed to be crammed into certain areas. The other upgrade took place at one of the women’s basketball sessions, where again the Olympic experience was one that will never be forgotten.
As to ‘non-live coverage’, I have attended screenings at Hyde Park and Victoria Park as part of the BT London Live series of events. Both parks were great places to participate in the Olympics and praise is due to the organizers and staff, even though my cashew nuts and raisins were deemed offensive weapons at the airport check-in! In my mind, Scouting for Girls were worth the wait and the Temper Trap set was short but sweet. However, the medalists, in my opinion, were Blur, Newton Faulkner and Feeder.
Back in Yorkshire, my Olympic involvement has been restricted to TV screenings by the BBC. However, I feel that I have not missed out at all; the coverage has been incredible on so many levels. Thanks to Roger Mosey and his team who have taken sports coverage to new heights.
Final thanks to the volunteers who have helped make the London Games such a success. Their warmth and humour have been infectious. On one occasion, one spectator sneezed and was greeted by at least three “Bless You’s” from the purple and pink clad Games Makers.
If this feel-good factor continues, one legacy of the Games is that London could become a better place…with friendlier faces. Another legacy will be that of continuing and further developing the Olympic values and attitudes in all sport, not just the ones currently given priority by the media. Hopefully, this in turn will develop another legacy, that of increased participation in sport and ‘I Can…’ attitudes.