As a sports fan there can little that is more exciting than the Olympics coming to your city – and in 2012 they came to London. I still remember the announcement in 2007. Everyone thought that Paris would win, so it was a wonderful surprise to hear that London would be the host city.
Sadly that excitement was short-lived; on the very next day we suffered the dreadful terrorist attack on the Tube and a bus. It was a reminder, should we need it, of how quickly we can go from elation to devastation.
But by 2011, when ticket sales began, the predominant emotion was again excitement. My husband and I put our names into the ballot for multiple events; had we been successful in all our applications it would have cost a small fortune! As it was, we heard that we had secured tickets for Table Tennis, Beach Volleyball and Cycling. I was so thrilled with the news that I posted it on Twitter. As a result I found myself later that day being interviewed for the BBC’s early evening news broadcast!
Later a further round of ticket sales gave us the chance to apply again and we were able to add Taekwondo and Volleyball to the list of sports we would see. For us, summer 2012 couldn’t come quickly enough!
London in 2012
There was something special in the air in London during the Olympics. In this usually quite reserved city, people smiled at each other – everywhere! They talked to each other on the Tube; what are you off to see today / what have you seen / how was it / who won what???
And an army of volunteers ensured that everything went smoothly. And doomsayers were proved wrong. The city didn’t grind to a halt; the public transport system coped; the Games were a huge success.
And we were part of it!
Both of us used to play table tennis competitively for a local club – my husband very well, with a collection of trophies to show for it, and me rather less well but still enjoying it. So we were very happy to be able to watch some of the best in the world compete. We travelled across London from west to east to the venue at the Excel Centre. There we got our first taste of the atmosphere surrounding the games, which was fantastic!
The venue for the beach volleyball was iconic, against the backdrop of one of London’s most famous sights, Horse Guards Parade. We had been slightly concerned about the unpredictable British weather; but the day was fine and we had another wonderful time. From our perch high in the stands we also had a rather unusual view of some of the city’s icons.
Our day at the cycling was the highlight of our Olympic experiences, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was the only event we attend that took place in the Olympic Park, so it was our one chance to explore this central focus point for the Games. We came early and took advantage of the opportunity, seeing the main venues and even getting to hold a genuine Olympic Torch! And we stayed late, despite the drizzle, to watch the Triathlon on the big screen.
But secondly, and more importantly, this was the final day of the cycling when lots of medals were decided, many of them going to British competitors. We saw Chris Hoy (now Sir Chris Hoy, of course) win his sixth Olympic gold medal, breaking Sir Steve Redgrave’s record and becoming the most successful British Olympian ever. Laura Trott also won gold for Britain, while Victoria Pendleton had to settle for silver behind Australia’s Anna Meares in a thrilling race.
And if we had though the atmosphere exciting at the other events we’d attended, here in the velodrome it was truly electric. The design of the building maximised crowd noise; I can still feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I think about it!
We’d seen beach volleyball, now for the traditional indoor version. This was an exciting evening at the Earls Court venue, mainly because of the enthusiasm of the Brazilian fans who saw their team reach the final.
For our last event we went back to where we had started, the Excel Centre. My husband’s sport these days is Choi Kwang-Do, a form of karate, and this was the closest Olympic sport to that, so he was especially happy to be able to watch some of the best in the world. We had pretty good seats, so I took the chance to practice my sports photography! My timing was OK, but my camera not really up to the job in the low light. Still, I enjoyed having a go.
Postscript: the parade
Even after it was all over there was still a buzz in the air in London. We felt the city had done us proud and put on a great show. Of course there was a sense of anti-climax, but we’d proved something to the world and to the doubters in our own country.
A month later, in early September, the country celebrated its Olympic heroes with a parade through central London. Crowds turned out to watch them, me included, and for one final time I could enjoy that very special 2012 atmosphere.
I’m sharing this for Challenge your Camera #8 Sport. As sports memories go this is hard to beat, although if Newcastle United were ever to win a major trophy in my lifetime (not looking likely) that could change!