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A Day at the Olympics

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by Danielle Falknor (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer based in South West London, but i'm frequently travelling. Stay tuned! I pop up in the strangest places.
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If you are one of the lucky few that have managed to score a ticket to the London Olympic Games, I think you'd agree, its kind of akin to winning the lottery. Not only are the tickets horrendously expensive, but seats are as rare as gold dust. Even though the row over empty seats has increased ticket re-sales, there still seems to be nothing available for the general public not even on the website. So as the time ticks on towards the grand finale of the closing ceremony, its increasingly obvious that the only way anyone is going to get tickets, is the old fashioned way - through friends of friends.

With an extraordinary amount of luck my husband and I were able to get tickets to the Track Cycling and we were over the moon. True they were 290 each, so it definitely burned a hole in our savings for our summer holiday, but still we didn't hesitate. It is after all, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

At first, I was a little apprehensive as we set off. There was a lot to worry about and from London's previous history of holding events I wasn't optimistic. As we walked down to the train station, I worried about the transport, thinking that it might take longer than your average time to get to Stratford. I then began to worry about the security checks, fully expecting that there were going to be miles upon miles of queues, so that we'd be late for the races. I began to wander if we should buy food outside the park, thinking that the food and drink inside would be very expensive, and finally that the seats in the stadium would have horrible views and uncomfortable seats. In short, I was expecting the worst that London could possibly dish out.

I was astonished.

It took us just under an hour to get from Richmond to Stratford, no delays and the carriages were not crowded. The route to the security checks were clearly marked and lined with loads of volunteers eager to help, the security checks themselves didn't take long to get though, and we got searched and frisked by handsome men from the Royal Air Force - I liked that bit. Soon we were smiling brightly and walking quickly to the Velodrome. It was quite a walk through thick crowds, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and stopped off for a quick coffee and fish and chips which turned out to be an alright price. The seats we found were not only very comfortable, but had fantastic views. We were very impressed with the quality of service that the London Olympics offered and we both relaxed, opened a beer and sat back to enjoy the sport.

The atmosphere was electric. As soon as we walked into the park, we could hear the screams and applauds coming from the bowels of other stadiums surrounding us. A huge roar of the crowd in the swimming arena erupted just as we crossed the athletic stadium, followed by a similar roar as we passed the basketball stadium further down. Everyone outside smiled brightly and echoed the cheers. I couldn't help but get caught up in it all.

Watching the cycling was very exciting. I loved it all right down to the 'Shhhh..." video clips on the monitors, acted out by a host of British actors including Dame Helen Mirren who whispers "button it!".

The athletes had me fascinated right from the start. I was amazed to see such quality strength, dedication and talent all in one place. They were all professionals and seeing their focus was really inspiring. It was easy to see just how much they all loved their sport and how much just being there meant to them all, not to mention the herculean effort each athlete put into their performance to win.

However, the one down side I must mention was that despite the fascination I felt whilst watching such amazing people, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed by the crowd's favouritism towards the UK team at the expense of all the others.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm English myself and I am very proud of the UK athletes effort, but I was quite surprised that the crowd didn't even bother to cheer for races when there were no UK athletes competing. Whereas when it was a Team GB athlete's turn to compete, the noise in the stadium was so deafening it almost raised the roof!

To me, even though I enjoyed the feverish atmosphere, this felt really unjust. True London is hosting the games, but each athlete from every country has had to dedicate many years of hard work to get to the Olympics, so the least that we could do is show some Olympic spirit and cheer some support for their effort in the finals. I was even ashamed at the less than enthusiastic applause for the non UK athletes at the medal ceremonies. I mean, come on. Give them some credit. Each medal won was totally deserved regardless which country that athlete was from, and some members of the audience should probably keep that in mind.

Anyway, even though few others cheered the other nationalities on, Phill and I made a point of doing so and we had the best time ever.

When the cycling was over, we went to the Park Live large screens where people sat on the hills and watched the swimming and the athletics as the sun went down. After the last race finished, we followed the mass exodus to Stratford Station and stopped at Westfield where a lot of Olympic athletes were out eating, drinking, dancing and generally enjoying themselves. We stopped at a Pub called The Cow and got stuck in with other spectators still riding the Olympic high. We stayed until the last train threatened to leave without us. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day and we felt very privileged and lucky to have experienced the games.
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Why? Once in a lifetime experience!
When: Anytime from now till the 12th August
Where: The Olympic Park
Cost: Good Luck!
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