The London 2012 Olympics: My Experience

HA HA HA I got tickets and you didn’t!

HA HA HA I got tickets and you didn’t! Somehow, by strategized family effort, sheer opportunism and depleting my savings my family has managed to secure tickets for Men’s Hockey, Centre Court Tennis and a session of…Athletics. Yes, I saw Usain Bolt in the 200m semi-finals.

I have loved watching the Olympics ever since I first started getting bored during the summer (age 12 or so). When the local park and your neighbourhood friends no longer fill the summer weeks with endless fun, we teenagers and students depart to sofa’s in front of the TV to spend the summer moaning and scowling. The Olympics are absolute lazy student TV gold.

Getting the Tickets

Our ticket bidding began several decades ago, and all family members went for tickets to increase our chances. My account came back with the two Hockey tickets and Volleyball for my parents; pretty good, but we wanted Athletics. In May 2012, tickets went on sale again for those who had missed out originally and my Mum was ordered to buy Athletics tickets on pain of death. I was revising for my exams and couldn’t be there to supervise, I was terrified she would either accidently pay 4 x £2000 for the 100m Final and bankrupt the family, or secure back seat tickets for a Steeplechase heat (no offence Steeplechasers). But the woman did me proud, she secured an awesome session of Athletics for the 8thAugust for all four family members, lots of events, finals and semi finals and of course the opportunity to see Usain Bolt run, and for 20 seconds rather than 10! The funding for these ambitious Athletics tickets has come straight out of my savings but who needs financial security, there are plenty of graduate jobs!

The next tickets I managed to get my eager little fingers on were a bit of a surprise. On the 31stJuly, I bought tickets through a friend for Centre Court Tennis. Despite having torn a ligament in my foot and being heavily in the minus of my poor student account, I dished out on coach and train tickets and limped my way to Wimbledon.

Men’s Hockey 30th June

The Men’s Hockey session I saw with my brother had two matches, Spain v. Pakistan, India v. Netherlands. We set off insanely early, fearing huge queues, tube network inertia, lost tourists standing in the middle of paths and security cock-ups. But for anyone who has ever been to a festival and queued to get in, use a shower, go to the Porta-loos, and get out, the Olympics were nothing!

I was able to sit through my tube journey, and it maybe took 30 minutes in total getting into the Olympic Park where I was greeted by all manner of strangely dressed volunteers smiling at me. I don’t know how someone can still be cheerful after a day of standing in the sun/rain with a huge foam finger, funnelling crowds of sweating spectators down a labyrinth of paths. And they do it all for free?! Fair enough for the volunteers handing Michael Phelps his towel or lining up the hurdles but God bless the Crowd Control folk!

The Olympic Park is really quite special. A good chunk of the sports are held in the Park, either in permanent venues like The Velodrome (or Pringle) and Olympic Stadium or temporary structures like the Basketball Arena and Riverbank Arena where I saw the Hockey. The Olympic Park is really…a park, everywhere there isn’t a venue, food stall, sponsorship exhibition, toilets and merchandise shops is meadow-like countryside. Half of my pictures are of the flowers! The place is spotless as well, bravo litter pickers, now do the rest of London please.

The Hockey I saw was of an incredibly high standard, I would know as I play terribly and can therefore appreciate all the more how awesome they were. Since I didn’t have any national allegiances I decided to support the underdogs: Pakistan and India. Actually I know more Indians and Pakistanis then I do Spaniards and Dutch, living in Birmingham, so it did feel natural to support these excellent teams. Unfortunately the Pakistani team only managed a draw and the Indians lost 3:2.

Centre Court Tennis 1st August

These were my last minute tickets and only cost £30. I arrived in Wimbledon with no idea who was playing or what was happening in Olympic Tennis because embarrassingly, I wasn’t really following this particular sport.

With pure luck I managed to see some really special players and matches: Serena Williams kicking unknown Russian ass in the morning, Djokovic v. Hewitt and Murray v. Baghdatis.

But Olympics Tennis in London is a bit weird. It’s basically colourful, cheaper, tackier Wimbledon. Screaming babies and children, the audience nattering through the serves, the umpire repeatedly telling the crowd to be quiet, crazy applaud for Murray and booing for his opponents. It was quite uncomfortable for me as I was supporting Baghdatis against Murray (I am half-Cypriot and you got to love Baghdatis, he’s lovely!). This match was the one and only time in the last two weeks where I was not supporting Team GB and Jesus it’s rough being on the wrong side of the Home team. So although the Tennis was excellent I didn’t really enjoy the venue or crowd, Wimbledon is the place to be for Tennis in London not the Olympics.

Athletics 8th August

These were our ‘re-mortgage the house quick’ tickets but every penny was worth it. I know this is cheesy but being in the Olympic Stadium is like being in a huge cauldron of anticipation and excitement. You clap every jump and throw, groan with disappointment along with the competitors at failure, it’s a surprisingly cathartic experience. Everyone in that Stadium loves Athletics and we cheered every athlete regardless of nationality or ranking in the competition.

The session we had booked had a bit of all Track and Field: Decathlon events, Javelin Qualification, Women’s Long Jump Final, Women’s 400m Hurdle Final, Women’s 200m Final, Men’s 110m Hurdle Final and the Men’s 200m Semi-finals where I saw Blake, Wier, Spearman and Lemaitre sprint to the final and Usain Bolt…jog.

I handily bought some binoculars as the one thing you miss out on as a distant spectator rather than TV viewer is facial expressions. Instead you get to see every event, feel a crowd roar (when a certain Jamaican or anyone wearing the Union Jack shows up) and get a real perspective of the speed and distance of the sports.

It has been the opportunity of a life time to see the Olympics in London. I know these Games will bankrupt the country but I personally think it was worth it.