So finally, our first event was here. It was a bit of an early start for us on a Saturday as we had to be at Horse Guard Parade for 10.30am – we’re normally just about opening our eyes at that time! Anyway, the lead up to Saturday was a bit unusual: while checking the schedule on the official website Darling-Chéri found out that things had been changed and we were actually going to see two mens’ games rather that one mens’ and one ladies’. As you’d expect, he was not impressed (yes, I pointed and laughed). Luckily for him (and probably for me, as a consequence), the schedule got changed again and on Friday a colleague who had the same issue told me that we were back to the original programme. Good news. My colleague did encourage me to wind Darling-Chéri up until the last minute but he’d had a pretty poor week so I told him as soon as I had him on the phone and I can tell it really cheered him up!
I also boasted in a recent post that I hadn’t bought any Olympics merchandise, well, that jinxed it all and by Friday we had a Team GB cap, a France cap, some Team GB sweatbands and a couple of hand flags each, just in case we got to see either team play. And I really restrained myself on the official website! Which made me think I shouldn’t take my payment card when we go, or I might just come back with the whole shop! I mean, I really like the little rowing rubber duck!
They advise you to be at Horse Guard Parade about 90 minutes before the event. We were there a bit earlier than that, so got right at the front of the queue and we were in the waiting area within minutes of the gates opening. It was aperitif time so we headed straight for the bar and chilled out with a couple of beers while the Queen’s Guards Marching Band was opening the day: YMCA, the A-Team, We Are The Champions and the inevitable Chariots Of Fire (somebody is making a mint on the rights of this theme tune right now!). I have to credit the staff for doing a great job here. For a temporary venue, I found all the facilities to be of rather high quality and the staff were great at moving people through the different parts of the park and into the stadium in a smooth and friendly manner. The gold medal totally goes to the girl on the life-guard chair right by the stadium who greeted us with a deadpan: “Ladies and gentlemen I would like to introduce you to the rain, our main sponsor today.” In the megaphone when the rain started. Actually I think it might have been this girl: YouTube video of the “happiest” London 2012 member of staff.
Finally, we got to our seats and watched the two games. For the ladies, it was Spain v. Italy, and for the guys it was the Netherlands v. Switzerland. Like most people in the crowd, we had no real interest in the teams playing, but the atmosphere was great nonetheless, with lots of cheering and clapping at each point, Mexican waves going around etc. This was probably helped by Peter Dickson (you will know him for being the OTT voice of the X-Factor, BGT, E4 etc) who was managing the commentary and clearly in good form. Getting the crowd enthused about fit athletes jumping up and down or semi-naked dancers doing an animation at the break is one thing, but getting 15,000 spectators to cheer the volunteers raking the pitch (“You know you love it, it’s rakey-rakey time!”) is talent!
At the end of the day, we really enjoyed the whole experience and it’s really made us even more excited about going to the Olympic Park on Wednesday for the Handball!