London 2012 – I was there!

How long have I waited to be able to go to the Olympics? Any Olympics. I’ve dreamed of it for years. I’ve watched it since I was a kid. Especially the swimming. I remember watching David Wilkie, Adrian Moorhouse, Duncan Goodhew. Swimming is beautiful to watch, the glide of the stroke, the stroke hitting the water, the underwater shots, everything. And having a love for swimming myself, just made it all the more exciting for me.

So when they announced the Olympics were coming to London, I was ecstatic! What happened in the end was that I forgot the closing date to apply for tickets, and I only remembered at the last minute, thankfully the ticketing was kept open for a few extra hours to cope with the surge of applications, and I got in. I ended up with one ticket for the swimming. I had gone for athletic tickets and cycling tickets too, but swimming was what I had been after really.

Tuesday 31st July arrives and I was just too excited. I was up at 4am to catch the 5.30am train from High Wycombe to London, so that I would miss the queues and get to my seat in plenty time. The swimming was due to start at 10am, but I had to be in my seat before 9.30, and I wanted to soak up the atmosphere in the aquatics centre, so being early was fine. I boarded a near empty train and made my way to London, then walked to Baker Street to get the tube which was near empty too. By the time the tube reached Stratford, there were quite a few gamesmakers on the tube, all with their purple and yellow tops, beige trousers and matching adidas trainers. From Stratford station I had about a ten minute walk to Olympic Park, and by this time I could see the Orbit rising up past the buildings I walked past. It was getting exciting! I entered the park and had to go through security, which was equivalent of going through security at an airport. I had been worried that my 70-200mm zoom lens would be a problem, but it was scanned and nobody seemed fussed that I had a big camera lens with me. I wandered up to the Aquatics centre and then found out I couldnt get in until 8.30! I was far too early (I had about an hour to wait!!) so I wandered for a while, saw the Olympics shop, Macdonalds (largest one int he world – and not open until 8am!) so I went and found a sandwich bar that was open and stood in the drizzle eating.

I was one of the first in the queue for entry into the Aquatics centre. The queue became quite long, and the volunteer sat on a high chair was trying to rouse the crowd, but I think it was so early and everyone, although excited, were rather tired! Then we were divided into 3 queues and each queue then progressed to the Aquatics centre!

Wow!! The building looks amazing from the outside. It’s hard to get a good view of it until you are standing outside it. There is a grassy verge that has the 5 olympic rings on it, with a staircase either side of it. Once inside, there are signposts for the seating areas. I found the relevant one and started climbing!! Lots of steps!! I didnt realise at the time that I was actually climbing up the back of the building.

I then reached what looked like fire exit doors, and on opening them, the swimming pool smell hits you. These doors gave you entry into the swimming pool area, then I had the next job of climbing the steps up to the 3rd last row at the back! My quads ached by the time I got there. You really didnt want to have to go get a drink of water or go to the toilet, as I’m sure the walk back up would be killing on the legs!!

I found my seat and got aquainted with people sitting beside me, on my right I had a couple from Basingstoke, and on my left was an older guy from the USA who had taken his teenage son to watch. I was sitting VERY high up. It took me a good 20 minutes to get used to the height, as every time I looked at the pool I thought I was going to be sick!

The view was great though, it didn’t seem that I was that far away from the pool (certainly not as far away as it looks in the photo), and because I was so high up, it became a bit of a bird’s eye view. The swimming didn’t officially start until 10am, but from 8.30 until 9.55am the swimmers were all in the pool doing their warm ups, practising their turns etc, and divers were doing practice dives, so quite a lot of activity to keep everyone going until the racing started. The seats were comfy, the view was great, the atmosphere was amazing, and it was a warm 28 degrees in the building!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Phelps race, but I can say that when he became the most decorated Olympian ever, that was the day I was at the Olympics! During my time in the aquatics centre, I saw: Men’s 100m freestyle heats; Women’s 200m butterfly heats; Men’s 200m backstroke heats, Men’s 4x200m freestyle relay heats. I saw a couple of GB competitors swim their heats and saw Jamieson win his heat which was AMAZING, as the crowd erupted like nothing I’ve ever heard before!! He went on to win Silver 🙂

The whole atmosphere in the aquatics centre was amazing, and I was so excited to be a part of it. However, my day wasn’t done yet!!

I waited until most people had left the aquatics centre so I would not get caught up in the queues to get out, and also because I wanted it to last longer. I didn’t want to leave!! I came out of the exit doors to the cold and damp air outside, and descended the stairs. There was a mezzanine level that offered a good view of the Olympic Stadium so I stayed awhile to try and get a decent photo. The photo below shows the Orbit on the left, with the Olympic Stadium on the right, both framing the Shard in the distance.

Once I was out of the Aquatics Centre, I decided to spend the rest of my time just wandering around the park, to take photos of the various buildings, and also to take photos that I hoped would show the whole spirit of the Games. I hope you agree.

One thing I would say about my day at the Olympics (apart from the fact that I LOVED it!!) is that the volunteers (or Games Makers) were amazing! They were so helpful, so friendly, always trying to help, asking how you were enjoying your day, always smiling. They made it very special.

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