These last few days I have had the privilege to attend a couple of events at London 2012* and to be in the city at this exciting time. I wanted to give my reflections on the Olympics.
Firstly, I was like many people very happy that London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics back in 2008. It shines a positive spotlight on the country and not just on London as events were taking place outside London too. The mood in the country has shown how so many people have got behind the games starting with the torch going all over the country (along with many of my neighbours, I got up early in the morning to watch it go past the end of my street in Leeds), and culminating with the start of the sporting events. Major events like these show how we can come together as a nation.
The first event I attended was the women’s football on Tuesday 31 July where I was able to watch the British team beat Brazil (that never happens with the men's team....) at Wembley Stadium to go top of their group and qualify for the quarter-finals. The atmosphere at Wembley was fantastic and with just over 70,000 people in attendance, it was a record crowd for women's football too.
On Thursday 2nd August, I went to see the first day of the Dressage Grand Prix at Greenwich Park. The setting was stunning and although I had cheap tickets, I got a good view of both the dressage performance area and the London vista from my seat. Not being an expert in dressage, it was not always easy to distinguish good from excellent performances, but it was still impressive watching the amazing partnerships between horses and riders. This being the UK, I also managed to get both sun-burnt (forgot my sunscreen...) and soaked to the skin by torrential rain while at the event!
While there has been some problems with the games, the issue of empty seats being much talked about, there is no doubt that it is so far looking to be a successful Olympics – not just in terms of number of medals won by the UK either! The fears about travel disruption have been largely unfounded, various friends in London told me about contingency plans their employers had made including working early and late shifts and working from home, but most found them unnecessary. When I travelled to the dressage, I had to take
the underground at 8am, which (when I lived in London) usually involved waiting 3 or 4 trains before cramming myself on to the train to stand sardine-like for the whole journey, but to my great surprise (and delight) I waltzed on the first tube train that arrived and got a seat about 4 stops later! It seems that many Londoners took heed of official advice and either went on holiday or worked from home.
I also managed to speak to several of the many thousands of Olympics volunteers. They came from many different walks of life, but all said that while volunteering at the games was hard work, it had been an amazing experience and the atmosphere among fellow volunteers, paid staff and the armed forces doing security work was fantastic.
What is also good to see is that while it is the London Olympics, events have been staged across the UK, meaning the whole country can get behind the celebrations. Well done to all involved – it is truly something to be proud of.
* I would like to make it clear that I bought all my Olympics tickets myself through the normal channels and did not get any special privileges (I even bought the dressage tickets long before became an MEP)