The summer of 2012 was an amazing summer of sport, with the Olympics and Paralympics capturing the imagination of the entire nation over a six week period.
While I hadn’t bought tickets for the games myself, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to share in the incredible atmosphere on the second Saturday of the Olympics. I was booked as a guide for a German corporate group, who were based in Birmingham and had a trip to London and the games as the highlight of their stay in the UK. While they had stadium tickets – the last night of athletics competition, tickets priced at around £450 each! – I was given a park pass, but I was delighted with that, as it gave me a great chance to explore the whole of the park and to watch the action on the big screens.
I had first seen the Olympic Park when it was a building site, when we had a site tour as part of our “2012 Venues” guiding accreditation in early 2011. While most of the buildings were up by then, at least the shells of them anyhow, there was no landscaping or anything like that and I was excited to see how that muddy, chaotic construction site had been transformed into a venue for a global event. My excitement only increased through watching the events on TV in the days leading up to our visit.
From the moment we arrived in Stratford, it was an amazing experience. The atmosphere was one of celebration and friendliness, personified by the volunteers who directed us from the station to the park entrance, checked our tickets and got us through the airport-style security checks. It has been said so many times lately, but the Games Makers were as much stars of the event as the athletes, helping to make everyone’s time at the games special, easy and enjoyable.
After escorting my group to the stadium entrance, I set off to explore the park. Was I impressed – I certainly was! Plenty of space, well laid out, excellently signposted, and attractively designed as well, especially the beautiful wild flower meadows next to the waterways and around the stadium. And everywhere smiling faces from a hundred different countries, all sharing conversation, banter, beers and the true Olympic spirit, captured so unbelievably well by everyone involved in the organisation and delivery of the games.
With my exploration complete, I made my way to the “live site” to watch some athletics – Mo Farah was going for a second gold medal in the 5000m that evening! The siting of the big screens (and they were BIG) on an island in the river, with seating areas on both banks turned the space into a second stadium, and the atmosphere was electric. They say that the stadium crowd was at its very loudest as Mo Farah was on his last lap, well the same applied to the crowd at the live site, as everyone was on their feet cheering the local boy to his wonderful second gold. As if that wasn’t enough, we later witnessed Usain Bolt and his team-mates round off the night by breaking the world record for the 4x100m relay, to huge acclaim throughout the park.
While in some ways jealous of my clients, who got to see it all in the stadium itself, I feel very privileged to have been there on that special night of sport, to have sampled a bit of the atmosphere, and to have had the chance to wander around the whole of the park during the evening.
My clients, needless to say, had an amazing time too, taking unforgettable experiences back to Germany with them. Now the games are over, the Olympic Park is sure to become a major attraction for visitors from this country and overseas, and I look forward to taking many more groups to the places where those great sporting achievements happened in the years to come.
To find out more about the tours I offer and how to book them, visit my website.