The first thing I have to do is say a big thank you to GB. No, not the Great Britain team, but one of my best friends in the world, Gary Butt, without whom my trip to the Olympics simply wouldn’t have been possible. I had an absolutely wonderful day, probably the best I could have had without my wife and kids.
The journey to the Olympic park was nothing like I had imagined it would be. We arrived at Richmond, parked with ease, and two minutes later, were boarding a London overground service directly to Stratford. The staff in the station and on the train were polite and professional. The train itself was spotlessly clean and on time, while all of the passengers were happy, polite and in great spirits. On reaching the station at Stratford, everyone exited, followed the signs, and made their way to the park at a leisurely walking pace, despite another train arriving at the same time as ours. All in all, a journey that could not have been any better or quicker than it had been. On the short walk to the park, there were plenty of games makers, all happy and helpful. The movement of people through security was thorough, professional and not really any hold up at all. Again the games makers were fabulous, but it was the personnel from our wonderful forces that really came to the fore. They were polite, efficient, always had a smile, but the you could see the pride that they all carried in the professional way that they were doing their jobs. Before I’d even got in, I was proud to be British, just from the sterling job and the way these wonderful men and women were conducting themselves.
On entering the park…..I remember thinking how gobsmacked I was. It was just awesome. Everything was so clean, so well planned and laid out, so aesthetically pleasing and, even late morning, so well……quiet. I won’t bore you with the details of what we did, but needless to say probably everything that everyone else before us had done. Checking out all the facilities, shops, toilets, attractions…..the whole lot. We’d arrived more than a few hours before the hockey was due to start….which for us seemed to turn out perfect. I couldn’t have believed that you didn’t have to queue for the toilets or the food, and even in the very busy shops the movement of the people was so well organised, and the staff everywhere were so polite and helpful.
On entering the hockey stadium mid-afternoon, there was little in the way of hold ups, with the thousands of people all heading the same direction, merely looking like a few hundred. We found our seats straight away (with an absolutely wonderful view) and settled down alongside the other spectators. The crowd as a whole, and the spectators around us, were well behaved and enjoyed joining in with anything from the banter with the compere, to the feet tapping, stadium rumbling music, to the ‘only knowing a few songs’ brass band. The atmosphere was nothing short of jaw dropping. Needless to say the game didn’t go the way I’d hoped. It was fast, furious and I have to say Great Britain played with a lot of courage. They didn’t attack as much as I thought they should have (hey, what do I know?), but whether that was because Australia stopped them playing and imposed their own game on them….who knows? Take a look at the match and make up your own mind. Never the less, considering what had happened to them in the semi-finals, I thought they did themselves proud. They were in the game, right up until the end, and I for one was proud to be there to watch. The Australians, on the day, played the better hockey and had just that bit more, and thoroughly deserved to win. It was nice to see the whole crowd having banter with both teams, and cheering and clapping both at the end of the game as they did a lap of the pitch. Wow, what a day!
Our journey out of the Riverbank Arena was a little slower than going in, but I suppose that was only to be expected. The human flow always continued moving, and although we considered staying longer, we opted to head back home straight after the hockey. With many others obviously doing the same, I was amazed at how well the flow of thousands of fans worked so efficiently. In relative terms, it didn’t take long to get back to Stratford station, and board a train that was just about to depart. The train was busy, unlike the journey in, but that was nothing more than we expected. It got a little quieter along the way, and then some of the fans who’d been watching the Olympic football final joined at one point, making it a whole lot busier. But still, it was efficient, clean and tidy, professionally run, on time, and all the passengers that we met were really happy. We got back to Richmond, retrieved the car, and very easily headed back to where we had come from.
The whole day was fantastic…..more so than I could ever have believed. You see all of the interviews on the tv, radio, in the paper and I know that I for one, was more than a little sceptical about how good, well run and professional it was. How many games makers there were, how clean and tidy it was. How well it coped with the huge influx of people. Before I went, I just didn’t fully believe everything I’d seen and read. But having been, I have nothing but praise for everyone involved. Obviously, I had no idea I would be going when it started, but I can assure you that it more than lived up to any supposed hype. Everyone involved should hold their heads up high. There are too many people for me to name here, but EVERYONE involved should be given lots of credit. My day there was the best it could have been, despite the team I was going to support failing to win the medal they were playing for. I couldn’t have been prouder to be BRITISH, and seeing our armed forces and the games makers in action just reinforced it all.
Congratulations on the best Olympics ever, from a very ordinary individual, who by complete accident found himself with the chance to share in just a tiny little bit of the magic.
Check out my pictures and videos from my day at the Olympics on Bentwhistle the Dragon’s Facebook page, a link to which is provided at the top of the page on www.bentwhistlethedragon.co.uk