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"Our Man at the Games" - Tickets ,lovely evenings & flags!
I spent most of the morning (3rd August) catching up on the blog (the previous one!) as well as watching the rowing. The sun was out; a warm breeze met me when I walked over to the Underground Station. I was on the late afternoon shift, so I could take it a little slowly – giving me more time to “soak up the atmosphere” - it was the first day of athletics at the Olympic Park.
Although the TV showed scenes of thousands of people packed into the stadium I was unprepared for what I saw when I got to the Park. Yes – hundreds of thousands of people were milling about – huge lines outside McDonalds, the Fish and Chip stall, the “Mega 2012 Store” to name just a few – everywhere it was people eating, drinking, walking, sitting on the grass soaking in the sun, resting wrapped in their country’s national flag. I have been really taken at the number of people who have embraced the UK colours – small flags, little flags painted on cheeks, huge flags and vivid full face painted flags on many adults and children. I found myself being asked to take pictures of many such happy souls – one group down from Durham for the whole two weeks “making a holiday and pilgrimage” of it all. I sat in the sun for about half an hour before starting work musing about this – the British can be a bit laid back about flag waving – you tend to see people from other countries very quick get out the national colours as a great big badge of identity – so what was going on – thousands of “British” all very happy to be labelled thus, but more importantly flaunting it.
The other phenomenon, which I have mentioned before, was even stronger today – maybe it was the way the wind was blowing, but while sitting down for a moment I heard it many times – it was the noise of thousands of human beings screaming with passion. I was between the Aquatics Centre and the Stadium conducting an orchestra of sound – it was spine tingling as this was the sound of pleasure, happiness – complete abandon for a few hours enjoying the spectacle. Nothing else mattered – a 2012 “high” generated out of other human beings giving of their best glued together by “patriotism” and national pride. I was soon brought back to earth by a colleague greeting me and reminding me not to be late for the shift briefing.
It was a shorter shift today all of us rotating duties but getting time on the public side to watch some of the proceedings. We were joined again by two members of the Armed Forces, freshly scrubbed, in uniform with a “what are we doing here” look in their eyes together with “this must be better than the desert”! They soon got into the swing of it, quite happy to do whatever was asked of them but one young soldier particularly wanted to know where he could have his “fag” break. Their presence does add something – one told me of an incident where one enthusiastic member of the public from overseas was giving one of the volunteers some grief – as he did not have the correct accreditation- when all he had to do was glare at him saying “hop it” and that was the end of it – I will say he seemed a bit embarrassed by this result!
The “tickets” thing is still going on – some venues still have empty seats particularly where the IOC have specified the number that should be reserved for members of the Olympic Family. Apparently this is the first Olympics where, given the media pressure etc, that they have been persuaded to give up some of this allocation for resale. Stories still abound about people being unable to buy tickets on-line – yet there are thousands on the Park enjoying their event or just wandering around. It’s really difficult to understand the scale of all this – but suffice it to say that even at the “grassroots” level I am working at there is real sensitivity around all this including much sympathy for those unable to secure their precious tickets!
I went into the Olympic shop to see if I could buy something suitable for my lovely wife – there are some wonderful things and the range is very comprehensive. I suppose like any event which has a moment the prices reflect this – chatting to some of the volunteers behind the counter it was clear that even they felt that some were a little steep. But, thousands of pounds were being exchanged for all kinds of Olympic goods many holding on tightly to their purchases with pride. I will reflect a little more and you never know may take the plunge.
The Olympic Park is magical at night – as I walked back to West Ham Station I noticed a use of colour in the lighting on the roof of one of the venues which I had not seen before. A “fairground” – but with more style that was the image I was looking for – it’s the element of surprise with an attention to detail that forces you to appreciate the genius of the lighting design – lovely!
Yinnon Ezra MBE