Day in the Olympic Park

September 5th, 2012 , 20:55

So, we’ve been rather grumpy about the Olympics. Meh to the whole idea of spending loads of money to have London full of tourists and difficulty getting around. But then we watched the opening ceremony and the lighting of the torch. And then the first few days of competition. And the photos of the park. And the emphasis on ‘Inspire a Generation’ which was so well demonstrated in the torch lighting. So we were inspired to see the park and I headed online to get tickets and saw that Paralympic tickets were also on sale. So we went with that.

We’d also heard complaints that the venues were very loud. Not just the cheering crowds cheering on the athletes, but also lots of loud thumping music. And the tickets available in the park were mainly for the indoor venues. But we decided that if it was too loud we’d leave.

So I clicked a few buttons and we had tickets! Joe said ‘what for?’ I said ‘Goalball, in the Copperbox.’ J: ‘Oh, what’s goalball?’ Me: ‘I dunno, let me check.’ Google and Wikipedia later ‘oh wow, it’s sort of handball for blind people. And it has to stay absolutely silent in the venue while the ball is in play!’ J: ‘well, that’s convenient!’ The ticket was also a day entry for the Olympic Park which included day entry for other venues (so if venues have space you can go in) but not the Stadium.

So up early on Tuesday and sorted out stuff. Though we still forgot a camera! So no photos! We’d checked the weather and saw that it was going to cloudy with showers. However, on the Monday the weather report was saying cloudy with some sunny spells and dry. In the event, we had bright sunshine and heat and both came back with tans. Absolutely lovely perfect weather.

We were in the first session in the Copperbox. The staff are really good, cheerful and helpful, and pointed out the best seats for the game. We got on the upper deck in the front row about at the halfway mark which ended up being wonderful seats. Unfortunately between the games and during the breaks the music was awful – very loud with very loud shouting over the top.

So we had no idea what match we were going to see (and didn’t see the HUGE board on the wall with the schedule somehow) but I did see the small board near the court with GBR and DEN on it. So we got to see the women’s Great Britain goalball team play their last game in the group. YAY! unfortunately Denmark hadn’t won any of their games and I think they came out defeated. It was a rather one-sided match. But from the moment they said ‘shhhhh’ and got started I was hooked. I have a new favourite sport. It’s very quiet and very intense. We really enjoyed both games even though they were a bit one-sided (second game was China and Finland, and China hadn’t lost any matches!) Unfortunately Channel Four aren’t showing any goalball. At all. At one point Joe got nudged and told that Prince Harry was sitting across from us. I never saw him, cause Joe didn’t tell me. Then again I was watching the game very closely!

After the two matches we headed out to walk around the park. Got brunch and ate near the Copperbox listening to live music. Then walked. Got into the megastore which was ok, but nothing really special in there. Walked around the Orbit, but didn’t go up it (we can go next year when it reopens!)  and managed to walk around the park a couple of times to see all the venues and areas. We sat on the riverside and watched the large screen to see some of the dressage and athletics. Then strolled along the river before heading up to the Riverside Arena for the 5-side football.

We ended up in our first queue at the Riverside Arena – we’d walked straight into everything else, even the megastore, with no queues and no waiting. But not the Riverside. It was a whole, oh, 2 or 3 minute wait then they let us all in (after warning us we might not get in). We even got great seats near one goal with a good view over the field. It was Argentina vs Spain and a good game, but at halftime we learned why it was so full – Great Britain’s men’s team was playing next.  We didn’t enjoy the football as much as goalball – similar as they were both played by visually impaired with blindfolds, but the football was noisier. And the crowds didn’t seem as good – that may have been because I ended up next to some younger people who seemed to only be there to laugh and make fun of the players (they were not British though). And the people behind us had several small children that really weren’t too keen to be there. So while the players were impressive – really great spacial awareness and a very good match – the crowd weren’t so good. So we left before GB came on.

A bit more walking and looking, some last minute purchases (had to find a goalball badge!), and then we headed for the Eton Manor Gate exit. Paused at the Eton Manor tennis courts, but decided not to go in. Instead we headed to the gate debating which way to head for the bus. I said ‘well ask a volunteer!’ so we did and ended up chatting to two of them for a while – they got to tell us about being in the stadium during the games and the people they’d met. Very interesting.

Then caught the bus and home. Tired, a bit sunburnt, and having had a great day.

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