We Were There! Beach Volleyball At The Olympics

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

Advertisements

Faster, Higher, Stronger… We’re Going To The Olympics!!

We said we wouldn’t go. That it was too expensive. That the lottery mechanics for tickets was absolute nonsense. That it was obvious we wouldn’t get anything. But things turned out differently as somehow we got caught in the excitement. So inevitably, on April 26th 2011 at 23h44, we lost it to the curiosity of knowing where our taxes go the marketing pressure (“the event of the century”, “a unique occasion”, “an unforgettable moment” etc) and we applied for tickets. Lots of talks, calendar pages being turned and finally we click on “Send”. Athletics (twice, as we really wanted to see the stadium), Beach Volleyball, Gymnastics, Handball and Swimming. £916 if we get it all… Shame on me as I work in Marketing and really should have seen the trick.

Eventually, after a long silence from the organisers, a fair amount of controversy (all these people who, a bit like us actually, got carried away and might not have enough funds to cover the cost of all the tickets they applied for; the lottery that takes your money and only tells you a month later what you actually got; the stories about cheap tickets being sold in Germany…) and last-minute savings, we got the confirmation: we have tickets for Handball and Beach Volleyball. No Athletics, which is a shame, but with two events out of the six we applied for, we really can’t complain! Especially as the probability of being disappointed was really high, with around 6.6 million tickets available and 20 million tickets applied for!

And finally a few weeks ago, we receive our tickets. Everything’s been such a whirlwind since last Summer that we had pretty much forgotten we were going, and it’s a miracle we haven’t accepted a wedding/dog birthday/bbq/fruit-picking/other invite on those dates! It’s now just a week before our first event, Beach Volleyball. Hmmmm, fit guys in shorts exerting themselves in the sand… Sounds good to me! Well, apart from the other game in that session, with fit ladies wearing the tiniest square-centimeterage of fabric, jumping up and down for Darling Chéri’s enjoyment… Oh, how I hate compromise! And then we’ll have the Men’s Handball quarter finals, I’m hoping to be lucky enough to see the French team (but then, they are the current champions so it’s likely they’ll fold under the pressure and go out at the group stages in the true French style).

Strangely I have to admit that despite all the themed adverts, media reports, torch relay broadcast, Boris messages on the Tube etc, my excitement for the event isn’t quite what I was hoping it’d be at this stage, although I’m pretty sure it will all get into gear tonight with the Opening Ceremony (and a few beers). And on the plus side it means I have resisted buying any of the countless Olympics-branded key rings, mascot plush toys, t-shirts, caps, towels, drawstring bags, wallets, Monopoly games, commemorative coins, jigsaw puzzles, toy London cabs and routemasters, cufflinks, snow globes and the inevitable rubber ducks that have invaded shops recently (actually, the list goes on but I think you get the gist – someone got a bit carried away with the branding plan!).

Oh! Who am I kidding? I am so getting that little rowing duck with its cool shades! And it will sit nicely next to my Wills & Kate biscuit tin and Silver Jubilee mug! (and yes, I still work in Marketing so I should know better.)

How about you? Are you excited / not bothered / annoyed about the Olympics?