Sunday, 16 September 2012
What's Happening, Hot Stuff?? Paralympics London 2012!!
It's been a few days since our last post, but we didn't want to finish this week without updating the blog with our Paralympics experience - and what better place to do it than 'What's Happening Hot Stuff'?!
We were lucky enough to get tickets to the Friday evening Paralymic Athletics session at the Olympic Park. We had tried so hard and entered every ballot to get tickets for the Olympics that the Paralymics ticket process seemed relatively straightforward. Before we set off to Thailand we checked the website and had a look at available sessions and there were £20 tickets for the Athletics sessions. Little did we know that on our return from Thailand, tickets would be almost sold out and we would be going to a sold out session, and the first Paralymics to sell out!
Friday afternoon flew by and before we knew it we were meeting at Green Park station to start our journey together to the Olmpic Park. Throughout the Olympics there were people wearing Pink jackets dotted around at the major tube stations with maps and advice on the best way to get to each venue. They were known as 'Games Makers' and we saw so many on our journey that we understood why they 'made the games'. At every station they were directing the crowds and making sure everything ran smoothly.
Our journey was simple, get on the Jubilee line, that took us straight to the Olympic Park. On arrival at the Olympic Park it was obvious the whole area had been 'Olympified', every building had posters and every space had some reference to the games. As we approached the stadium we were guided along walkways with the Water-polo arena on one side and the Swimming pool on the other. We were lucky it was a beautiful sunny London evening and we could really admire the park area.
As we had arrived straight from work, our first priority was to find somewhere to eat - we weren't short of options, but when there was the biggest McDonald's in the world as an option it would have been rude not to :) We tucked in sat on bench sets in the shadow of the arena and we could hear the party starting inside.
Before we entered the stadium we had one final stop - the shop! What was meant to be a 'quick look around' ended up being more of a 'supermarket dash', we knew we wanted to get a memento but we just couldn't pick! We ended up with t-shirts and then at the till told than because we had 2 we could get a 3rd free! Normally that would be good news.....in this situation it meant the two of us racing round the store shouting 'what about this one' or 'this one' or 'just pick something' to each other across the store. We were in our own Olympic race :)
Shopping bag in hand we headed to the stadium. Sarah was like a kid at Christmas, bouncing around, getting teary and generally getting more than a little excited. Laura was taking photos of EVERYTHING - the side of the stadium, the flame sculpture, the grounds and of course us!
Once we were inside we were shown to our seats, this stadium was steep! We kept our heads down as we powered up the stairs and as we turned around the view was incredible. To get to our seat we had to shuffle to the middle of the row and there is not much space between rows so EVERYONE had to stand up for us. Once we were seated we discovered that we had an American in front us, an American to the left us and then with Laura - Sarah was surrounded!
In terms of action the first thing we saw was a medal ceremony with a British singer so no sooner had we got comfortable we were on our feet singing the national anthem loud and proud. Looking towards the centre of the stadium there was so much going on. In one corner there was someone throwing shotput, in another discus, we had someone doing long jump and then every couple of minutes there was track action. We saw wheelchair racing, blind running and various levels of disability running. It was incredible. As if that wasn't enough we saw numerous medal ceremonies and had the great experience of seeing USA and Australian competitors get medals so Laura could sing along with anthems from each country she has a passports for!!!
To help, the screens in the stadium played highlights and each time a medal was awarded the receiver was shown on the screen. It really helped us keep up with the action.
The atmosphere was electric from start to finish and it made us, but especially Sarah, very proud to be British. Every athlete was applauded but when a GBR competitor was introducing the crowd was SO loud, except in our case the USA competitors also got screams!
At the end of the session we were sad to leave. The closeness of the seats made for an intimate atmosphere and it felt as if you had made friends. People were offering to take each others photos in the rows and we saw people posing with flags from so many countries. There are not many places you can ever enjoy a night like that.
To top off the wonderful evening we came across Angela Madsen, of Team USA - she had won a bronze medal for shotput and was happy to meet us and let us take a picture with her medal. That's right we HELD a REAL Paralympic bronze medal!!! Reading her story on the way home we found out she was paralysed after a botched back operation but since being paralysed she had rowed from Hawaii to California- impressive!!!
Our journey home was filled with lots of 'OMG what an evening', 'OMG what an experience' and 'how lucky are we'. We knew we couldn't let the Olympics happen in our backyard and not be a part of it so we were so glad we got tickets and it was worth all the hours spent on the website - London 2012 was incredible and certainly unforgettable! We are sad its over and since then, London seems to be missing something......
However, we have so much coming up for the rest of the month we certainly aren't settling into our Autumn hibernation just yet.
On Tuesday we welcome Laura's old school friend Alison who will be starting at London's School of Tropical Diseases in the coming weeks and we can't wait to see her! She will be staying with us for a week or so while she finds a flat.