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August 03, 2012

Olympics so Far

So far, the Olympics has been not particularly disruptive and rather good fun. We're going for a mix of glued-to-the-telly and actual London experience.

The only tickets we won in the ballot were for Wednesday's archery. It was really good. The audience was a mix of about 10% UK archery enthusiasts (lots of club shirts in evidence), 10% Korean fans, and 80% clueless. Arriving early would have been good for that latter batch, because there was a very clear exposition of what was going on. It would have helped with the endless stream of questions from people around us of very basic things about the sport ('what's with all the metal bits on the bow', 'how do they know where to aim', 'why do they all wear bucket hats'). I don't know what can be done with people who don't know how to turn the flash off, or mute, their digital cameras, or who witter on to their mates as people draw. There were sharp words from the commentator but I think the legions of volunteers should have had Quiet boards like at the golf.

Overall it was a brilliant day out; our top tickets were much less pricey than for most sports (and in particular, every seat in this small venue will be better than all but the £1000 seats for the athletics). We got to see two plucky Brits be knocked out, the top ranked man get beaten, and the awesome Iraqi woman on a wildcard getting to lose to the top ranked woman. Round the back it was possible to do 'have-a-go archery', too. Infrastructure was good because obviously Lord's normally has a lot more people visiting than this, but the food and drink choices were pretty limited.

Yesterday we had park-only tickets for the Olympic Park, so that we got the other half of the Olympics experience. These tickets were the one clear benefit for host borough residents; they weren't free, but they were very cheap. Our plan to buy sandwiches was foiled because we entered from West Ham and were funnelled through a shop-free 25 minute walk to the site. We had spent the earlier part of the day at South Kensington, lured there by free exhibitions, some of which were interesting and some of which appeared not to exist. The Science Museum milk shake bar is becoming a regular for us, too. By the time we got to the Olympic Park we had already walked for several miles. Possibly a mistake. The park is beautiful in fine weather and you could easily spend an entire day there, especially if you have cameras, even without event tickets. The plantings, which are all sort of like wildflowers only better, are exceptionally lovely, and the buildings are interesting (and interestingly lit at night). There are interesting sculptures, random music, a range of things to see and do, and lots of walks. Much of the art and activities are small-scale, like micro-programming, so you sort of stumble over it. The park has sturdy permanent benches set in all over the place, and agreeable grassy banks. And rivers. And the new Royal Yacht Gloriana.

The only downside is food and drink choices; water fountains are plentiful and free, but otherwise it's overpriced and not very good. We bought burritos, our standard go-to festival food because they normally fill you up deliciously with mostly plants for little money. This was no more expensive than the excellent burrito I had the other day from a burrito shop, but was much smaller, and had been made earlier and left under hot lights so the tortilla was crispy. So take a picnic and empty water bottles. And if you're going to an event, also take a Union flag; they're sold out everywhere in the park, with new shipments being sold instantly as soon as they turn up.

We stayed till about 11pm, fetching up for much-needed crepes at the still busy Westfield shopping centre before catching a fast bus home. The space between Westfield and the rest of Stratford was the only place all day where we saw significant numbers of police; perhaps a dozen mounted police and 50-100 other officers, clearly focused on preventing trouble from Stratford. Which does not, to me, seem excessive.

As everyone else has pointed out, the army of volunteers are wonderful; unfailingly cheerful and delightful to talk to. Trained by McDonalds; they did a good job there.

Exercise notes: I walked 28 thousand steps yesterday, doubling my previous Striiv best.

We have early bird guaranteed tickets for the Victoria Park Live Site today, but after exhausting ourselves yesterday I think we are going to go for the Walthamstow Living Room Live Site instead.

And tomorrow, wonder of wonders, I have got last-minute tickets off the 2012 ticket site for the morning athletics. This is a treat for my mum, who has loved the Olympics for her whole life, especially the athletics, and didn't get tickets. So we'll be back then. And then I am done with Olympics live and am back to telly.

Posted by Alison Scott at August 3, 2012 09:33 AM


In the dressage yesterday, we got to see two plucky Britons come first and second out of 25. And we saw the oldest Olympic athlete since 1920, who is 71, and says he probably can't make it to Rio in 2016 because his horse will be too old.

The oppressive military presence turned out to be a bunch of unarmed sailors in their undress whites being conspicuously nice to people. Didn't really feel like the militarisation of the Olympics.

Posted by: Mike Scott at August 3, 2012 12:01 PM

I was at that archery session on Wednesday! I was sad that the Spanish woman didn't get through, I was rooting for her :)

Posted by: John Coxon at August 4, 2012 03:11 AM

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