Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Olympic Diary of a Yorkshireman - Day One

By Jonathan Wilkinson

The athletes have gone home, the rules of handball have been forgotten, and football is dominating the sports pages again, but for two glorious weeks our lives were dominated by the greatest sporting event in the world.
As one of those lucky enough to get tickets, here are my thoughts on my time in London:

Day One: Sunday 5th August – Trains, Tents and Fight backs

Ah the train, is there are better way to travel? I think not, assuming it all goes right of course, which this did not. A power outage near King's Cross led to me getting into London 45 minutes later than planned, and having to stand up for the last part of the journey. But this would not dampen my spirits because I was going to the Olympics, in my own country, a once in a lifetime event.

With my tent set up, I set off to the Olympic Park for my first event; hockey. Luckily my campsite happened to be on a bus route that went to the park, which meant no need for complex route planning, and with free travel ticket in hand (by the way, whoever came up with this plan was genius, what better way to encourage the use of public transport to the events than giving them free travel in all zones on the day of said events) I got on the bus, next stop Stratford.

As I followed the general flow of the people into the Olympic Park, a few things struck me. The first was how well organised it was, with volunteers pointing everybody in the right direction and keeping people moving. Even when I hit the shopping centre, it never felt overcrowded. Now back to those volunteers for a moment because you may have seen them getting huge amount of praise over the course of the Games, and by god did they deserve it. Those on the final mile were enthusiastic, cheerful and helpful, setting a great first impression and getting everybody in the same mood. Next up was the dreaded airport style security to get in, but again this was well organised and quick to get through. Thankfully they hadn't gone for the TSA experience.

So I was finally into the park and the feeling was amazing. I have been lucky enough in my life to experience a wide range of sporting events from Grand Finals, Challenge Cup Finals, NFL games, baseball and football, but hands down this was the best of the lot. The atmosphere was unique, everybody was on a high, soaking up the experience with people from all corners of the globe just happy to be there. There was no nervousness concerning the fate of their team, no people who had obviously had too much to drink and doing their best to ruin a great day out, just people enjoying themselves.

Fast forwarding to the hockey, where I awaited my first live experience of Olympic sport, and what a game, Team GB vs the Aussies. No matter what the sport, this is always a grudge match. If there is one country we love to beat, it's the Aussies, forget the Americans, French or Germans, give me victory over the Aussies any day of the week. Now my dealings with this rivalry is normally one of getting beat whenever it matters and for much of the first half it was the same old story as Team GB were left chasing shadows and found themselves 3-0 down.

What a damp squid, here I was meant to be enjoying my first event at the Olympics and Great Britain were crap and getting thumped by the bloody Aussies. Then we pulled one back, some pride! At least we were going to go down fighting, oh wait, what's this another goal, and then bang 3-3, the place erupts. It finishes 3-3 and the crowd played a huge role, even when 3-0 down, they didn't stop supporting the team and then really took it to the next level as GB clawed their way back into the game.

The next game wasn't so good and I, along with most of the crowd set off early to watch the 100 metre final on the big screen. Bolt wins and everybody is happy, especially the Jamaicans who turn the bus station into a mini-party zone. It was one of those moments where it hits you what sport can mean to a nation. Even if it is all so brief, for that moment, those people are united in less than 10 seconds worth of action. And so ended my first day at the Olympics.

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