Published: July 31st 2012August 1st 2012
A nightmare of a journey down to London - why does there have to be a crash on the M1 on the afternoon of the Opening Ceremony? The first of many questions on the Olympic adventure. We had got some tickets for Wimbledon in what seemed like phase 33 of the official ballet, but had been applying on and off for others to fit in around the tennis session for what seemed like a lifetime of internet hours. Alas, no luck. We waited for what must have been the inevitable price crash on the Thomas Cook Olympic packages. The prices were at best over inflated – not the tickets – but the associated hotel rooms accompanying the tickets. We dived in for Women’s Volleyball and Men’s Handball with a night at the HI Express in Fulham, once the price hit a half of the original quote. After the purchase, the bad press for Thomas Cook seemed to appear – tickets not appearing, no response to phone calls, total confusion etc. We arrived in London knowing we would have to pick them up at Marble Arch, but would it all run smoothly?
The £20.12 ticket never came through ..... must have
Mens Cycle Road Race 28 July
gone to the Olympic family........so we headed for Hyde Park Corner to collect the above tickets for the volleyball and handball and watch the Red Arrows on their way to Danny Boyle's celebration of British history. The ticket collection went like a dream. It took a total of 10 minutes. Thomas Cook came up with what they said they would and after a queue of 4 other people, the much sought after tickets were in hand. We nipped next door for a light refreshment and wandered across to Hyde Park for the Red Arrow fly past. They roared in from the Oxford Street direction taking most people by surprise. The nationalities mingled, as crowds thought better of parting with £65 to listen to Simon Le Bon trying to belt out Planet Earth on the big stage in the distance. The voice didn’t seem on the same level as my last encounter with them at Manchester Poly in 1981! The screens advertised ..... last few tickets available...Hospitality VIP tickets available............which set the theme for the weekend – in other words if you are a VIP there’ll be plenty of room for you. We found a seat for the Opening Ceremony after
all ............. in front of the TV at the very pleasant Oyster Rooms at Fulham Broadway. OK it wasn’t quite the same, but it was easier to get back to our Fulham base than the hike from Stratford. The ceremony went down well with the viewing public, apart from the serious gaffe of playing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles as a song to portray British life in a pub a couple of hundred yards from Stamford Bridge.
We checked out of our Travelodge and chanced leaving our bags at the new Saturday hotel a couple of hundred yards further up the road, rather than drop them at the car. More smiles, no problems, we have a room ready for you ...... it was only 7.30 am! We checked in and wandered back to the Oyster Rooms for a breakfast. The security hype caused a bit of a dilemma - should we hang around and watch the start of the Men’s Cycle Road Race or get down to Wimbledon as soon as possible. We settled on the former and secured a spot on the bend past the tube station. It took the race 6 or 7 minutes to race down from
Fulham Broadway 29 July .............. hot on the heels of Marianne Vos
the Mall. They don't hang around these cyclists. No sign of Bradley or Mark Cavendish, but a full on 30 seconds of the pack racing round the bend towards Parsons Green. They were preceded by all the support cars - watch out for a lot of 2nd hand BMW estate cars coming to a dealership near you soon! It gave us a taste of the Olympic spirit which after the torch relay had gone through had been mostly missing in the East Midlands. In London, the Olympics were all consuming. Flags, banners, Olympic volunteers and transport staff all beaming with smiles and wishing all a good day. London was seriously friendly and I never thought I’d say that!
The tube was fairly relaxed en route to Southfields, as was the security getting into Wimbledon. It was our first trip to the All England. A few touts wandered past in amongst the crowd, but there seemed no takers. The forces personnel dealt with the bag search in a manner that could be copied by a few airports. It appeared that G4S were absent from all proceedings. The order of play was a bit of a disappointment. We just assumed that
there would a match that would stand out a bit more on Court No 1. Federer was on Centre Court followed, as was Serena Williams. In contrast, we were going to be treated to Janko Tipsarevic followed by Sam Stosur. We wandered around to soak up the atmosphere and bumped into our old friend from the Australian Open 2007, Jelena Jankovic, doing some strange warm ups in between two outside courts. She paled into insignificance compared to the later spot of the First Lady, Michelle Obama, dropping souvenirs from the Centre Court balcony. We had to settle for a London 2012 tennis ball, which was secured earlier as a souvenir from an unknown participant of the Women’s Doubles.
The Serb theme continued on Court 1 as Tipsarevic outclassed Nalbandian ...... well he did after got over the fact the grass was still a bit damp behind the service line. Nalbandian showed flashes of brilliance and distinctly average in equal measure. He took his 6-3, 6-4 defeat without resorting to a spot of football! The seats weere on Row Z, but it was nice and cool up under the roof. The empty seats below baked in the sun. Sam Stosur
The sceret Serb supporter finds Jelena warming up for Serena Williams
cruised through the first set over Carla Navarro Suarez 6-3, but was eventually beaten in a mammoth third set 8-10. We had long departed for Court 2, in eager anticipation of the appearance of the Murray brothers in the Men’s Doubles.
There was a Women’s Singles to finish off first. Na Li took Daniela Hantuchova to three sets before succumbing 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. The press have been raving about beach volleyball, but let me tell you there is much merit in spending a couple of hours watching Miss Hantuchova on court. The crowds flowed for the Murray match. The sections filled up rapidly apart from the Olympic family seats, which remained stubbornly occupied at 20%. Andy’s partner surfaced, as did Judy Murray. The weight of expectation didn’t seem to bother the Murrays and they cruised to a 7-5 first set. The rot set in the second, as Jurgen Melzer and Alex Peya capitalised in Jamie’s serve to take it in a tie break. The third set was a missed opportunity. A break up was squandered and the Austrians grabbed a 7-5 victory. The Team GB factor evaporated.
It had been a long, long day – but it wasn’t
Daniela Hantuchova (Slovakia)
............who needs beach volleyball?
over. We had less than an hour to get to the Women’s Volleyball at Earls Court. It was only a few stops after the walk back to Southfields. We alighted at West Brompton to see long queues. Were they to get in? No, don’t panic – they were Brazilians collecting their pre-purchased tickets. The military were once again very slick with the security and we were in our seats from 1955 hours. A 2000 hours start – it’s called timing. The empty seats highlighted in the press were much in evidence. The match between USA and South Korea was in theory a simple task for the former, but it didn’t work out to be the gentle warm up. USA won 3 sets to 1 (25-19, 25-17,20-25, 25-21). The American flags were replaced by Brazilians and Turks, as the reigning champions came to the court. Once again, the walk in the park didn’t materialise. Brazil sneaked it 3 sets to 2 (25-18, 23-25, 25-19, 25-27, 15-12), but the close nature of the game meant it didn’t finish until nearly 0100 hours. We were out for the count and went to the hotel after the end of the second set for the
0600 hours start to get to the Olympic Stadium.
The much maligned transport system worked liked a dream on Sunday morning. We were in two minds whether to head for Saint Pancras to get a Javelin train, but swapped from the Central Line to the Piccadilly Line at Holborn and breezed through to Stratford in no time. The military did their security efficiency bit again – once again no sign of GAS – and we were into the Park with a good hour and a half before our event. The Park is sizeable. I felt the same as entering a US theme park – which ride do we go on first. Alas it doesn’t work that way. You, don’t have a ticket. A man in the Olympic family is keeping it warm for you. It would have been nice to have a peek inside in Olympic Stadium. We had to settle for a look in the Megastore. Visa, cash or not at all. £7 for a fridge magnet. Not at all was an easy choice!
We did have a ticket for Men’s Handball double header in the Copper Box. The much heralded eco friendly Copper Box, with an
exterior of copper and cylinders bring natural light into the arena. Shame then about the restricted views to accommodate a near empty press box with extremely irritating flickering monitors. The dominant support was from Argentina, but don’t underestimate an Icelandic handball player. The silver medalists from Beijing. Argentina seemed to dominant possession, but the more physical got the goals. They won 31-25, but they were always in control after the first few minutes. The second game was a canter for Croatia over a physically intimidated South Korea 31-21.
We went outside into the park and wandered across to the Basketball and Velodrome area. The heavens opened, prompting a dive for cover. Near the Basketball Arena this equates to a few umbrella on the picnic tables at the Food Court. Mcdonalds near the Copper Box had probably never been so popular as at this point! We sheltered under a Team GB umbrella of some nice people heading for the USA basketball match. Thank you, whoever you were!
There was one more event we could squeeze into the weekend – no ticket required. We had about 90 minutes to get back to West London to intercept the homeward leg of
the Women’s Cycle Road Race. The 7 minute Javelin train to Saint Pancras saved the day and with 5 minutes of alighting at Fulham Broadway, Lizzie Armitstead and Marianne Vos were battling out for the Gold Medal in the driving rain en route to the Mall.
There are more photos below