On the first sporting day of the Olympics I was up early and watched as much sport as possible from the offset. We were hot favourites in the road race, the shooting was on, as was archery and the first swimming heats. Suddenly an abundance of sport, everywhere, non-stop, for two weeks. All day on BBC One, BBC Three, BBC HD and dedicated olympic channels. All sports streamed live on the BBC website.
At Heather’s (Sam’s mum), after a BBQ, we watched more sporting events. I winced as we missed out gold in the road race, and was surprised to see strong swimmer Phelps not doing his best, not even medalling in one event. And we watched Australia’s women’s Basketball team beat Team GB.
It was more of the same at Stuart’s (Sam’s dad), after lunch we watched the women’s road race, and cheered as Lizzie Armistead came second, our first medal of the games. The sailing was underway, but Ainslie had got off to a bad start. The archery was on at Lord’s. And in the evening, with what would soon become a daily ritual, we screamed at the TV as the swimmers raced for the finish line.
My first event was men’s hockey, on the first Wednesday of the games. I went with Marek from Last.fm and after work we took the javelin train from King’s Cross to Stratford, smooth, effortless travel to the Olympic Park. Through Westfield shopping centre and then security with their airport scanners and ticket inspectors, all very friendly and jovial, we entered the park.
With an ear-to-ear grin I walked through the brand new park, firstly past the swooping aquatic centre and beneath the huge welcome signs, then past the beautiful stadium, the odd twisted orbit sculpture, the TV studios, the London 2012 megastore, the handball arena, the Coke beat-box, and the park live big screen, to the back, to the blue and pink hockey stadium, the Riverbank Arena.
We climbed to our seats and settled down for the first of two games. Our view looked out across the park and London’s skyline. Canary wharf, the stadium, the orbit, the cable cars, the dome. A fabulous backdrop for this sporting event.
Argentina vs Pakistan was the first match, with Pakistan beating Argentina 2-0, in a sloppy opening game. Second up came Germany vs South Korea. We watched with Heineken and Pain au chocolat in hand, and at first cheered the Germans, Marek is after all German. But soon they were 1-0 up, and the Koreans were playing impressively. Breaking forward with excellent passing and individual skill. The arena roared, “KO-RE-A, KO-RE-A”, and they kept pushing. A penalty corner, but no conversion, a deflection, but no goal. 10-9-8, the seconds counted down, it was over, and Germany had won 1-0. Fabulous excitement.
On our exit, famous folk bid us farewell from large screens. Simon Pegg warned us to mind the gap, Charlize Theron waved goodbye. The smiling, enthusiastic volunteers waved us goodbye, and politely, kindly, ushered us all to the exit.
Back out through Westfield, where volunteers pressed music to their megaphones and spontaneously danced, down to the underground, where another volunteer urged us to the end of the platform with promises of cake and a VIP party. These volunteers were incredible, so friendly, so helpful, and what an atmosphere they cultivated. Where there would be queues, congestion and frustration there was movement, laughter and joy. Fantastic.