Nothing but positives for my amazing Games experience
As an Aussie living in London I have experienced many highlights whilst residing in one of the greatest cities in the world – the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Boris Johnson’s hair – and now, the heart of the world is positively pulsating with excitement as it plays host to the biggest festival of sport, the Olympics.
By Donna Roberts
AS an Aussie living in London I have experienced many highlights whilst residing in one of the greatest cities in the world – the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Boris Johnson’s hair – and now, the heart of the world is positively pulsating with excitement as it plays host to the biggest festival of sport, the Olympics.
With the panic button well and truly pressed by the media with regards to transport to and from stadiums I set out for my first visit to Olympic Park with great trepidation (and hours early for my event!). After collecting my friend Tara from work, we headed off to the men’s Handball competition at the Copper Box – a journey that would no doubt be ‘a seemingly endless time of queuing’.
To our very pleasant surprise, we arrived at Stratford quickly (even scoring seats on the tube!) and followed the rest of the flag-adorned and smiling crowd towards Olympic Park. Dotted along the course of our journey were many purple and red bedecked Games volunteers offering, as expected, assistance to those who required it but also, quite unexpectedly, amusing conversations conducted with Olympics attendees via megaphone atop umpire chairs. Some volunteers just wanted a high five; to ask us which event we were attending; or to wish us a great evening! It was so great to be in such a brilliant atmosphere right from getting off the train.
Queue barriers in place, we wandered towards the entrance (perhaps a 10 minute stroll from where we disembarked our train) with expectations of long queues, bag searches and pat downs. Well…the bag searches and pat downs occurred (by very friendly soldiers) but the queues were completely non-existent!
Upon gaining entry to Olympic Park itself, we walked around the area intending to use the time we now had – two hours – to soak in the atmosphere and mingle with the other UK residents, expats and tourists. Highlights included seeing an entire group of tourists in very shiny silver jackets and witnessing a troupe of performers play a game of table tennis with no ball.
Once we had collected our two other friends – Louisa and Stacey – we made our way to the Copper Box for the handball. It is at this point I feel I should share with you that Tara and I had been gaining a fair bit of attention from the crowd! Because, being proud Aussies, we were dressed head to toe in green and gold outfits despite our event – the men’s handball – not even having an Aussie team representing. I can only imagine how strange we looked; faces painted, flag capes in place, only to watch Denmark play Spain and Argentina take on France in a sport that NONE of us had ever seen before.
In an interesting conversation with my Spanish and South African housemates a couple of nights before our big Olympic event, I discovered that PE lessons in different countries involve completely different sports. In Spain, there is a great emphasis on handball and salsa dancing. In South Africa it’s all about rugby and soccer. I decided to support Spain solely on the basis that my Spanish housemate, Sergio, said there was a healthy competition in the sport in his home country. And they did not disappoint!
The first game, Denmark vs Spain, was a nail-biter. I can only describe the sport as something like Water Polo, but without the water. Being a complete novice, it didn’t take long for me to work out the basics in order to enjoy the thrilling display of athleticism and endurance that I was viewing on the court. The game resulted in Denmark winning the match by one point, much to the delight of the masses of Danish fans in the crowd who completely lost their minds when the final buzzer rang.
The second game between France and Argentina was not quite so enthralling to watch, with the score line blowing out in France’s favour quite early on. But with my new mate John sitting next me in the stands, I soon learnt that France were the world champions of the sport so it was still a treat to watch their dominance on the court.
Thousands of people were streaming out of all of the active venues when we left the Copper Box and, once again, I was resigned to the trip home being a long and cramped one. To my surprise, I walked straight onto a Central line Tube at Stratford and was home in about one hour. Bravo to the organisers who have made things run so smoothly! I left the park with a few photos but a head full of memories that I will no doubt reminisce about during every Olympiad to come.
Bring on my next Olympic trip – watching Aussies at the Boxing in the ExCel Centre!