Thanks to a twitter alert which triggered a frantic scramble for the credit card and the need to overcome a major panic when the password for the security payment page totally eluded me, I found myself on Saturday night sitting with a friend behind the triple jump pit in the Olympic Stadium. Having only secured the tickets on a third (and I had told myself it would be the last) refresh of the search button late on Tuesday night it was a truncated experience of anticipation, hotel sourcing and weather watching, but it was so worth it.
Reaching my train was a close run thing as I entered Preston to find all routes being blocked by barriers for the Preston Guild Parade. Preston Guild for the uninitiated, happens only every 20 years… hence the expression ‘once every Preston Guild’ and I landed smack in the middle of it. Cue yet more panic and a slightly hysterical plea to a steward that I had to get to the station as I had Paralympic tickets, but she rose magnificently to the occasion – or more likely decided she needed to to get this bonkers woman out of the way of the parade quickly, telling me to just head through a no entry sign and to keep going and ignore anyone else – which with heart in mouth I did, and made the train with seconds to spare.
There are numerous blogs and articles about how wonderful the whole Olympic Park experience is, and more articulate people than me have written about the inspirational performances of the athletes. All I can say is they are correct, we loved every minute of being in the park, the buildings and the sheer happiness of everyone, especially the much lauded volunteers and the marvellous street entertainers was exceptional. Though for me, one of the things I loved most was the wild flower meadow, a wonderful touch and hopefully an indication of the future legacy for the area.
Once inside the Stadium what hit me most was its intimacy even with 80,000 people it was a cocoon enveloping spectators, officials and athletes together and generating a power of its own. I have been in large football stadiums and the difference here was there was no opposition, no home and away end spitting venom at each other. The whole crowd appeared to be on the side of every competitor and whilst the biggest cheers were for the home team, winners were roared across the line in every event.
I had been particularly desperate to see the beautiful cauldron, and a thing of beauty it is, nestling in the seating it is almost part of the crowd, flickering and dancing along with the noise. I am not sure what the plans are for this amazing sculpture but I hope it takes it place in a public place to be celebrated for a long time to come.
Over the night there was emotion, laughter, tears, some very dodgy track suits, breathtaking performances and more world records than you could imagine – we saw the big names and the (well to us at least) not so well known
and celebrated as they went their own extra mile creating their personal triumphs.
It was truly a night (and a day) to remember and as we relaxed over a glass of wine following an unbelievably efficient journey back to our hotel we reflected it was not something we had ever imagined doing, but we were glad we did.