Jul 30

London 2012: A day at the tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

Saturday was the first of my eight events (that I currently have…I’m looking for more!). It was a day at the tennis, Wimbledon, somewhere I’d never managed to get to when the Championships are on so I was really looking forward to the opportunity to take a look at the place.

First impressions – small! A lot smaller than it feels on the TV. Then how well put together it is. It’s obviously a permanent structure that has developed over the years and it knows how people move around it. It’s just been plastered with Olympic branding.

Getting there was straightforward. Train to Putney (where I found the street lined with people waiting for the men’s cycling road race to go by) then one stop on District Line to Southfields before the 15 minute walk to the venue. Getting back was just as straightforward – no problems at all with getting transport. I’d turned up just as the gates were opening, so the queues were very, very long but they moved quickly and security was easy to get through.

We were called to go along to the hill for a ‘special surprise’. Sitting down, waiting for it to start, I was surprised at how many young women appeared to be in the audience – had there been a student offer? It turned out that they weren’t the typical tennis audience…they were part of the special surprise. A ‘flash mob’ of dancers got everyone cheering before the Pet Shop Boys turned up for a few songs

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

After all that entertainment, it was time for the tennis. I had a seat on centre court and settled in for the day. We had the pleasure of four matches, including seeing the two reigning Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and British player Anne Keathavong. The celebrity spotting was high as Michelle Obama popped in to see Williams.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

It was definitely not like normal Wimbledon; it was bright and brash. Music was playing in between matches and the people watching seemed to be a different crowd from what you saw at the regular games – more noisy, less likely to quieten and sit down for serves. There was also more of a patriotic crowd – turning up to see their national players and then seemingly going. That contributed to the lots of empty seats that were obvious, both in blocks and scattered around the grandstands.

This was the scene for the most watched match on the day, the Federer match. Plenty of court side seats available – the most expensive ones. This was a theme of the day in many, many venues. Given how short the supply was, how many wanted to go but could not get tickets, why weren’t these being filled? For the final match of the day, with a British player, it was even worse.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

The unfilled seats became the national story on Saturday and because of my tweets, by comments got picked up by the BBC for a news story and then I ended up heading east to take part in an talk show on the World Service, talking about empty seats and all other things Olympic, which was great fun :-) There were about a dozen people, BBC reporters, bloggers and other people who had been at the event discussing seating, cycling and the other events of the day.

BBC World Service at the pub

Jul 29

London 2012: The Opening Ceremony

Did you watch it? 27 million people in the UK are reported to have watched the show, the biggest UK TV event in the 21st century. At £27m, that’s a cost of a pound per person, pretty good value I think. You’ll have noticed that last week I went along to the technical rehearsal and had a sneak peak at some of the elements, but we didn’t see it all, so I tuned in on Friday ready to watch the whole thing.

My initial reactions too the pastoral scenes were fed, in part, by the media. It was cute, it was old fashioned, what are they going to do next

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

The songs from around the nation, had me welling up; I love a good patriotic hymn. And the the drums started, filling the stadium with sound and feeling, driving the clearing of the pastoral scenes and turning it into an industrial nightmare.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

This was the bit that had me gasping in the stadium, sitting quite low down and not being able to see it all, it was brilliant to see the whole picture on tv, see what has happening across the stands and then to see HOW the ring was forged. All I saw was the rings moving from the sides and then the bright molten one rising from the ground to join them, in, for me a symbol of hope. This was just amazing.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We didn’t see the James Bond cutscene in the rehearsal – we heard the music, saw the helicopter, but had no idea what was going to happen. So a just laughed out loud when watching the clip. How did they get teh Queen to do that – and what other country would try something as insane!

Dancing Nurses, flying Mary Poppins, the Child Catcher and Voldermort. What a fun sequence. You could see that everyone was getting into it – especially the children. They performed Monday, Wednesday and Friday, did they ever get any sleep because they were obviously excited!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We heard the music for the next change scene, with Chariots of Fire, and caught a glimpse of Atkinson at the end, but the skit (and video) again were hidden to save the surprise, another brilliant execution. The final bit that we saw on the Monday was the dance section. One thing they did not show on the TV was everyone banging their heads to Queen – we’d practised it in the run-up to the song, and I saw the queues in the stadium, but they did not show the audience. A pity, because that was a fun moment!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

For us, that was it. We did not get the reveal of Tim Berners-Lee (and wonderful touch, tweeting from the middle of the show), We did not see the memorial dance nor the torch scene, which was one of the best kept secrets ever. I loved that they used young athletes for this, nominated by Olympic heroes. All of the speculation passed for nothing with that decision, doing something really different. passing on the toch to the future.

The challenge for the UK was always ‘to beat’ China. but how can we play that game. We didn’t plan to beat them; Danny Boyle just played a different game. A massive pageant, staffed by volunteers, with humour and awe-inpsiring moments. With all that symbolism, then why did the show close with Paul Mcartney doing what he always does. Nothing different, the same old Hey Jude with no surprise or re-interpretation. for me, that just brought a small sour note to the whole show. So off the TV went before the first verse was done and that was my night over.

Jul 28

London 2012: the torch relay

London 2012 Torch Relay

Our office is in Southwark and on Thursday 26th July it was perfectly placed for the torch relay. Just after 10am,t he torch was due to go right by the office. Some crowded the windows for an overhead view. Caroline and I decided that we needed a ringside seat. So 45 mins before, we headed outside with our chairs for a meeting – and, to be fair, we actually did have a meeting, before packing away and getting ready for the torch to come by. Right on time, the sponsor buses made their way past

London 2012 Torch Relay

And then finally the torch..just a brief glimpse as it ran by to the kiss point on the corner

London 2012 Torch Relay

And on Friday, we had another chance to see the flame, as it came down the Thames on the Glorianna. A slight mistiming meant we were slightly too late to see the flame go by the closest point, but a mad dash down the bank got us to London Bridge where the final (but one) stage of the relay was to happen, as the torch got passed to City hall for safe keeping before its star turn tonight.

In both instances, what was so, so apparent was everyone’s enthusiasm. This was an EVENT…something everyone wanted to be part of. They stood on balconies and in windows, on cheery pickers on on top of walls. They ran down the side of the towpath and tried desperately to get a glimpse of what was happening at London Bridge, standing on tiptoes to peer over the heads, or raising arms high to snap photos in hope of getting a shot. The buzz was palpable and excitement was high. This was not just tourists, but office workers and local families, out to take part in the biggest event they are ever likely to see in London. Let’s bring on the Games, London is ready!

Torch Relay

Torch Relay

Jul 25

London 2012: Queueing for Cosport tickets

I’ve been quite lucky with my Olympic tickets. Following my initial disappointment of not getting any tickets in the initial ballot, my sister asked me to accompany her to her Taekwando and Diving events. I also got a ticket in the resale, – for people who did not get any in the first round – and I’m off to the Modern Pentathlon. I then did some digging, realising as we’re EU members, I can buy tickets from any EU agent. Off to take a look at Cosport, as recommended by a NZ friend (they’re official agents for US, Canada, Australia and certain EU counties, which means no issue in my buying from them).

The Cosport website was a LOT simpler than the London 2012 one. You could see everything that was available on a single page, instead of having to keep clicking on different events. Far simpler to glance and see what tickets were there for the events you wanted. Buying was simple and they sent plenty of information through before the event.

But then came the collection. I’d decided not to have my tickets posted, deciding that as I’d have to make a trip to the post office anyway to pick up the tickets, I may as well pick them up at the desk and save postage. In hindsight, not the most sensible idea – given how their first day of collection went. Following up on the stories earlier in the month about Cosport selling sponsor tickets, you then had complete chaos at the collection point on the first day. There were long, long queues, 7-8 hours for some. There was no organisation and no news about what was happening. for some, who’d ordered multiple tickets, they were not seated together. They were the lucky ones – many tickets seemed to have gone missing and could not be found ‘out back’

By today, things had improved. They had a tent up to shelter you from the sun. They gave out water and wandered around the lines, checking up on if you were OK. I waited 55 minutes before getting in and out in 5 minutes, a pretty simple process. But the delays are still there and some problems are – there are still issues about tickets lost and seats not together, so there have been some major mistakes made

So the queues may have been sorted – the general organisation seems to be lacking at the moment

Jul 24

London 2012: Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

I’m still on the reserve list for the Olympic volunteers. I’m not happy about it and I’d rather be taking part, but one compensation I did get was a ticket to the Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsal the Monday before the games start. This was to be a major test event for the ceremony and for all the transport and organisation around it. So how did it go?

Transport: Travelled in from London Bridge to Stratford; returned Stratford to Waterloo. Had no real problems either way. Getting there was straightforward – although the station may not be a easy to traverse during the games. Getting out of the stadium was harder; somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand people exited the Olympic Park at 10.15 all looking to get home – with the Central Line broken. There were queues, but they kept moving and I got right onto a train and got a seat. The train was filled up completely before it started moving, so it was a pretty warm journey back. There routes to and from the station were well supplied with friendly Gamesmakers keeping everyone informed. However, I see issues arising if the trains are kept regular, because the queues and jams will quickly build.

Olympic Park

The Olympic Park: Slightly underwhelming. Lots of concrete, no where to sit around the stadium. Outside of the Stadium island, nothing was open and it looked pretty sterile – although the wild flowers were good. I was only in the bit immediately around the stadium and the rest of it is supposed to be better, but nothing brilliant there.

Olympic Park

The commercial bit: almost all the stalls were open around the stadium itself. This was the first time for all of them and they seemed to be doing Ok for the main. When I approached the bar, the servers were calling me over, so they could have their first customer. Later on it got a bit more hectic – a lot more queues were seen. This seemed to be a combination of slowness due to not quite sure what doing, slowness due to Visa restriction – and the payments, which were NOT fast – and the bars running out of soft drinks and water so people being turned away. Water IS going to be a BIG problem – there were long, long queues for the few water fountains that were available, so I think something needs to be sorted there

Olympic Park

The Gamesmakers: definitely some first day nerves for some, but overall everyone was brilliant. Bright, bubbly, keeping everyone moving. I did see a few occasions of them not quite knowing what to do and passing it along chains, but for a first day, think they did OK.

The Ceremony: Wow. Just wow. I’m still buzzing from it. But you are going to have to wait until Friday because we all promised to #SavetheSurprise – and watch the hashtag on twitter on Wednesday evening for peoples reactions. I wasn’t sure going into the evening what to expect and the first part did not fill me with confidence. The very first bit was slow and full of some of the clichés that have been talked about. But then, it took off and kept delivering. We didn’t see everything, but what we did see was absolutely amazing. Watch it!!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal