Instead of cycling, running, work or play we would hunch before the screen refreshing and refreshing the Olympics tickets page, waiting and waiting only to be told that the tickets we had selected were no longer available. If there was one aspect of the games that was and should be rightly criticised it was this, not only the fact that so many seats were left empty when other people would have given their hand for one, but that even when they were available, people could not buy them without spending a week on the computer. And so we did, night after night, hour after hour, together, taking it in shifts, using two different computers, using three different browsers simultaneously. Meanwhile Sebastian Coe and the Olympics organisers were facing the flak for allowing or causing this situation, and this provided the only possible relief from the situation, reading through the comments on the Guardians blog, hundreds and hundreds of them, vilifying the organisers of this fiasco. Was it possible that the Games themselves could be well executed if this was the opening sequence?
Finally on the Wednesday before the last weekend an enormous tranche of tickets was released. Suddenly on the screen there was a choice of 22 different events to choose from and from this we chose athletics on the final Saturday evening, without really knowing which events would be included. We paid a lot of money for these tickets, and wondered what we had done. As we travelled to London carrying them in our rucksacks, we should really have had a bodyguard to protect the tickets.
The Games caused another unusual phenomenon, that of London itself being deserted and begging for customers. Luxurious city centre hotels were crying out for customers, the shops bemoaning the lack of trade, and so we had a wide choke of hotel at excellent prices right in the middle of the summer tourist season.
The hotel we chose was a ‘hidden gem’, listed as such anonymously because the hotel did not want it publicised that it was begging for custom. It turned out to be the 4 star hotel right on Oxford Street and beside Hyde Park and Marble Arch.
An awareness of being sucked towards the games started as soon as we boarded our train, where the entire carriage were kitted out in red white and blue and sporting flags and face paint.
As soon as we arrived in London we took the Javelin (the Japanese inspired high-speed bullet train) out to Stratford to collect our hard earned tickets at the Olympic park. This gave us a tempting foretaste of what the park had to offer, although it was so heavily guarded that it was hard to see anything. We were expecting massive crowds and to have to wait for 2/12 hours to collect our tickets as this is what we had read in the paper. So we were pleasantly surprised when we could get to the box office immediately. The state of the box office itself was however a surprise, literally a small box like a navvies tea shelter apparently placed as an afterthought on the perimeter of the park. Hastily scrawled handwritten signs on A4 paper informed us of its location. Returned to central London via the Javelin (7 minutes through a tunnel) The whole transport was very heavily managed, which is always unwelcome but on the other hand does avoid crowding and queues or even worse, stampedes.
Glimpses of other parts of London in her summer frock provided a brief view of Olympian swimming in the Serpentine, splashes flashing in the sunlight a mile away across the water and distant cheers and applause rising from the banks. Hyde Park was sunny, hot, humid, and speckled with green and white striped deckchairs, and wreathed in a long queue of expectant viewers waiting to be searched and scanned before entry into the Park Live area.
London’s bejewelled Eye is beckoning, winking and swivelling above the working brown river barges, the arrays of slim bridges, and the ceaseless scurry of consuming tourists. The capsule interiors are pleasantly air conditioned, and the smooth upward gliding so slow that no motion is perceived, just a consciousness that more and more of London is now visible. The Shard is hidden from view until nearly the zenith, the glistening Gherkin is there, and the whole skyline of London shining in the sun. We take a ride out of the centre to Notting Hill hoping to find pleasant restaurants and after consulting the phone find the Mall Tavern, which serves English with a touch of humour and very well thought of although we did not know this. Ensconced here, we hear the excitement mounting as the 4 x 100 ladies relay team produce a new world record.