And then came Cyril....
One of the first questions I asked the nurse when they said I could be freed from hospital was did they think I'd be fit and able enough in two weeks time to go see the Olympics?... I think they just thought I was stupid... but you know.. I am an "Ironman" (*) ... so yeah I am stupid and can be somewhat determined when it comes to doing things!!
Once I got home I set about getting walking fit - starting with laps of the living/ dining room (about 14') and had my own "olympic test event" the few days before we were due to go; shuffling to the Cafe (about 300m from my house) and sitting down to eat a sandwich.... now all this did tire me out somewhat but I was feeling hopefull.
My biggest concerns were (a) ability to walk to venue and (b) ability to sit down for periods of time and (c) getting out and back to the hotel. We had tickets to see Volleyball (taking place in Earl's Court) and Hockey (taking place at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic park) with our hotel luckily very well placed right near Bayswater (district line) and Queesway (central line), both about 200-300m away. Now as luck would have it, one of my good friends, Katharine, was "working" as a games maker at the Hockey... she did some scouting about and fact finding and said there were wheelchairs which we could use - this was a surprise to me... at no fee, no Dr's note required. But wheelchairs available on first come first serve basis, and failing that there was also an extended golfcart thing which transferred less able people around the Olympic park.
So having succesfully carried out my final test event on the Friday we decided to give it a go!! The Pope instructed me to pack light (as I couldn't carry anything and she would have to have it all)... so the bare essentials went into the baackpack; 3 pairs of pants, two clean t-shirts and a light rain jacket. That was it.
OLYMPIC DREAMS: DAY 1
The journey up was pretty uneventful, and we realised when we were midway through that there was an easier route to go... I was kind of ok until we got to the underground in Paddington. Waiting for the tube to come I felt really rather faint and not at all good. Was slightly worried we had made the wrong decision for a moment... but told myself that really the end of the ironman (*) was surely worse then this... it was the end of the journey and only one tube stop. Somehow managed it and was somewhat pleased to get to the hotel room for a few hours rest.
Next stop Earl's Court. It was here we got our first glimpse of the mobility transfer offered at every venue. A minibus which could take less able people direct from the station to the entrance. As we just missed one I decided that standing waiting 10-15mins would be as uncomfortable as walking and so we left at a snails pace with the Pope protecting me and my shuffle from the less aware pavement walker (it is seriously amazing how little people are aware of their surrondings). We got to Earl's Court and were quickly spotted by a gamesmaker and asked if we needed assistance. It turned out they had wheelchairs for use here too! .. We later discovered that one of the factors which played a part in London's bid winning was the accessability and mobility offerings they made - this was the first Olympics where this type of assistance was being offered! Anyway - somewhat amazed - a wheelchair was produced for me, we got through security and a gamesmaker whizzed us over to ticketing where they annoted our tickets and basically swapped out seats for wheelchair access ones.... I hadn't thought about the effort required of actually getting up flights of steep steps to our seat until this point. So another reason to be grateful!
|Just holding The Pope's beer... My taste buds were still out of action!|
|The Pope not quite believing how close to the action we were|
The Brazil Serbia game was a complete thriller... and at 00:30 (yes a.m!)... with Brazil coming back looking like they were going to take the 4th set and moving the game towards a 5th set decider we decided that we were completely and utterly pooped and needed to head home... and actually doing this ahead of the max exodus was also wise given my condition. We left, saying goodbye to the awesome games makers - who had been stewarding for over 12 hours by this stage..... and quickly entered the rear entrance of Earl's Court tube, a quick ride home and back to the hotel for much needed sleep! Tomorrow was Olympic Park day after all!
OLYMPIC DREAMS: DAY 2
Despite a lot of publicity asking people to go via one of the other tube stations/ entrances we headed to Stratford station direct down the Central Line. Someone kindly gave up their seat for me and away we went. We missed the sign for mobility transfer from the station to the park but actually it wasn't too far a walk (in the pouring rain!) ... You couldn't miss the way up to the park with cheery games makers every 10metres; pointing, shouting and encouraging you in the direction!... .... Getting across the traffic of people we made it to the mobility centre.. Now this centre was really rather big and all sorts of offerings; from electric mobility scooter things, electric wheelchairs and push wheelchairs (like the one we had in Earls Court)... Now there wasn't just a dozen of each of these but 10's of each variety. An incredible amount in fact. As we were quite early in the scheme of the day we were asked what we would like; I quickly dismissed that idea of a mobility scooter thing - firstly I don't think I would have comfortably reached the controls, secondly I would probably be a danger to other walkway users and thirdly The Pope was a good pusher and we figured there could be less abled people who didn't have someone who could push them. So having signed for the wheelchair off we scooted and into the queue for security. Once again the Army did a quick and efficient job and we were there - walking across the bridge and into the Olympic park. Talk about AMAZING!!! Lots of people were stopping to take a photo of themselves with the Olympic stadium in the background and I can't blame them - but we decided to do the walk in a oner and just soak in at atmosphere... it was BRILLIANT! I quickly realised why the tickets just to get into the park had sold out! With the beautiful landscaped gardens, an electric atmosphere, with big screens to watch events unfold whilst lazing on the banks of a river - why would you not want to come here!
|Made it to the Olympic Park!|
|The Olympic rings - the things of dreams!|
If I am honest though, and given I used to be a hockey player I do find this surprising to say - I did find the atmosphere and excitement of the volleyball encounters a ratchet or several up from the hockey. Not sure why - possible as a result of an intense and enclosed stadium for the Volleyball. Or maybe those that got tickets for the hockey was less partisan to one team over another (the Volleyball most certainly had a lot of Country specific supporters!!!).... Stilll I am not complaining - just observing really.
We originally planned then to try and meet up Kirsty (another friend who had been watching handball that day) and Katharine again... but the park was heaving and being in a wheelchair made manoevring me about a little bit more challenging - mainly because people were walking around in awe (or using their mobile phone) and not paying any attention at all as to where they were going (or whom they were about to walk in front off).... being at the height of a small child and not being able to maneourve myself certainly gave me a different perspective.
We dropped the wheelchair back off and got the mobility transport back to Stratfford station (literally through the back door and security to pretty much on to the train line).... the Station was not as busy as we feared it may be and a tube quickly pullled up for the journey back to Hyder Park and where our hotel was.
An utterly fantastic, amazing, and awesome day. What a weekend. What a spectacle.
I felt and still feel so blessed that we were able to go, and to be able to get around (with heaps of thanks to the Pope for pushing and the 2012 Bid team to have had the vision of access for all).
PHOTOS FROM THE RIVERBANK ARENA!
|The Pope happy to stop pushing and enjoy pitch side seats!|
|Germany vs Holland|
|Action Photo - spot the ball!|
|Germans coming out of defence|
|Holland on the ball...|