Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The greatest Paralympics yet?

Hands up who’s enjoying the Paralympics then? Actually, I have a confession. I didn’t volunteer during the Paralympics in Sydney. This was mainly due to funding and having to get on with my travels while I could. And partly a little ignorance maybe. And it’s taken me until now to realise.

Last week, I raised myself from my bed at 12.30am and went down to see the Paralympic torch pass the end of my road. It was a great moment and the lads and ladies running with the torch did us proud. They’d come a long way to participate in this special event and were part of a sports club I understand.

I heard a few people complaining about the long delays as the convoy was running around two hours late. May I direct them to twitter at this point. Or the Queen, who had to stand all day long on her jubilee. Either way, I was really proud of Team GB, their families, Stoke Mandeville, our police force, volunteers and spectators alike. It gives me goosebumps every time it's claimed London 2012 is shaping up to be the best ever Paralympics yet.

I returned to my bed in the small hours of the morning before having to get up an hour later to feed the baby. But it was well worth the ‘hangover’ feeling the next day!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Paralympic Games are coming...

It's been emotional. So emotional, I haven't been able to type. Or think. In fact, there are times when it's hard to believe it ever happened. But the good news is, the road closure signs are up and the Paralympic Torch is on its way. I've been wondering where this torch comes from, seeing as Beckham and co. didn't appear to bring more than one from Greece.

Apparently, four sparks are created by Scouts rubbing flint together at the top of Scarfell Pike, Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Slieve Donard (Northern Ireland). They're then brought together to make the Paralympic flame at the home of the Paralympic movement, Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire. This will then embark on a 24-hour torch relay on Tuesday 28th August to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.

It's passing through my town some time after midnight. I'm hoping to stay awake long enough to see it, but it might be tricky given baby has been so sleepless recently. Having said that, my Olympics void could well be filled by the excitement of this inspiring event. If you fancy getting into the Paralympic mood before then, there's always the Channel 4 advert here. Enjoy.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Athletics 8th August 2012

In the words of that Patrick Swayze film, I’ve quite literally had the time of my life. Because yesterday, I got to go to the Olympic Stadium to watch athletics featuring Mo Farah among others. Actually, I read a smart quote yesterday in the Evening Standard that getting tickets to London 2012 felt like getting a gold medal. I couldn’t agree more. So when I stepped on my podium and started climbing hundreds of steps into the gods carrying a 15lb baby on my chest, I had my Chris Hoy moment. There were tears in my eyes.

Naturally, people were giving me a wide berth. I felt I should explain myself, so I blurted out to a woman who let me pass that I was ‘just so happy to be here’. I must have looked like a mad woman. But childbirth is not an easy thing. Mine resulted in another emergency C-section unfortunately, so to be in the stadium yesterday felt like an absolute achievement on all levels. No wonder there were amateur dramatics.

And once we’d taken our seats, I could not believe my luck. For our seats cost £20 and gave us an incredible view of the stadium. I know how lucky I am. I feel so sorry the ticketing has been such a fiasco for these games, as every Londoner should have had their opportunity to experience this amazing time in our history. But some people did get tickets – I still have no idea how we managed to randomly get these after the three ballots had ended in June.

A Chinese lady next to us had travelled from Beijing. She and her partner left before the end to go on a day trip to Cambridge. I had mixed feelings about this. And for the English looking couple who arrived in the seats in front of us and then promptly left, two minutes later, never to return. Perhaps something happened...

We saw a British record in the women’s hammer by Sophie Hitchon. We saw Mo Farah in one of the fastest set of 1500m heats in Olympics history. It was faster than Mo wanted to run at this stage and he came in third. And we saw the other half of the Saudi Arabia women, Sarah Attar. She was half a lap or so behind the pack in the women’s 800m. I stood to clap her as she passed. What an incredible achievement to even be here. It really is the taking part that counts.

Here are some pics from the rest of the day.

Can I just add, the transport from Kings Cross was amazing and so well organised. As a former commuter of ten years, I was hugely surprised. In addition, I actually felt like a VIP with a pram in tow. Something I’ve never experienced as a parent before. We didn’t have to walk as far as other people, for whenever a shortcut was available, a helpful volunteer or staff member would send us that way. As I’m often up three or four times in the night and running on coffee these days, it was much appreciated. Thank you. And thanks to Lord Coe and his team for making the u-turn on babies. Ours slept soundly throughout the whole thing and without this decision, the day would not have been possible for us at all.

Hello train spotters! These two photos show you both ends of the wonderful Javelin trains, now ferrying passengers from Kings Cross to Stratford. They use the long platforms designed for the Euro Star trains, so sadly they won't be coming to a south-east station any time soon. However, it does highlight that Transport for London and Network Rail seriously need to think about transport for the future. Most trains are running beyond capacity at rush hour times these days. It's not safe and not sustainable. Answers on a postcard to Boris please.

Monday, 6 August 2012

A little bit of history

Bradley Wiggins, we salute you. If anyone missed our gold medalist in the Time Trial, our very first Tour de France winner sat on these golden thrones after an amazing medal ceremony, featuring the most beautiful building in England as the backdrop.

I am biased about this as I used to live very close to Hampton Court Palace. It holds some very special memories for me, so I was delighted to see it featuring so heavily in London 2012. We went back this weekend to see where it all happened earlier in the week.

We took a boat from Hampton Court to Kingston and back again. It was a great reminder that our country has some amazing heritage that we're not always proud enough of. Dare I go so far as to say this Olympics is teaching us to re-adjust our sense of national identity?

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Sisters are doing it!

Every Olympic Games has its legacy. And it’s already becoming clear what part London 2012 will play in history, if it wasn’t before now. For this year, for the first time, every country has had to field a team of male and female athletes.

The IOC has worked hard to make this happen, in particular, to bring female competitors from Bahrain and Qatar, as well as Saudi Arabia, where girls aren’t even allowed to do PE at school. And when sixteen-year-old Wojdan Shaherkani stepped out onto a judo mat yesterday, she was making history as a fighter in both senses of the word. I take my hat off to her. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of her Olympic career.

Women played an important part of the Opening Ceremony too. From the storytelling charms of JK Rowling which resulted in a flurry of dancing nurses and Mary Poppins characters falling from the sky, through to the actual relatives of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst marching through our green and pleasant land – sisters were doing it big time.

And this week, Team GB's gold medal haul was kicked off by two female rowers – one of whom only started rowing four years ago after she responded to an ad by Sir Steve Redgrave looking for tall ladies, following our success in Beijing. And then there were more medals and more women on the podium. From judo to swimming, equestrian* to cycling, our girls have been on top.

And tonight, Jess Ennis has won gold in the heptathlon. UN-BE-LIEVE-ABLE. Only earlier this year we saying how much girls are put off PE at school. Well it’s a nonsense now. If we haven’t inspired a generation with these games, then we may as well pull down the bunting and pack up shop. It's no wonder the Spice Girls are rumoured to be performing at the Closing Ceremony. Go on ladies, let’s see what else we can do this week.

*minus one fella.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Beach Volleyball 28 July 2012

So far so AMAZING. With London 2012 getting off to a more than spectacular start – thanks to Danny Boyle and the hundreds of volunteers, performers and The Queen herself (!) – I can safely say that I’m in Olympic heaven. Danny is due to get his knighthood, as predicted, Sir Chris Hoy carried the flag for Team GB and Sir Steve Redgrave had his moment with the flame. We were right about youngsters lighting the cauldron, although who could have predicted it would be a group of them? Even the bookmakers William Hill has had to give punters their money back on that bet.

So after staying up waaaaay later than someone with a newborn baby and toddler should ever dare contemplate, we roused ourselves early the next day and headed into town to watch Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. The location was amazing – totally blew Bondi Beach out of the water, sorry Australia – I could see the London Eye, Whitehall buildings above Winston Churchill’s bunker, the Shard and Big Ben. Buckingham Palace was just behind us and The Mall looked absolutely stunning dressed in Olympic ring flags and Union Jacks.

Benny Hill music blared during intervals of raking, dancers wiggled their beautiful backsides and a couple of funnymen chased each other around the arena for our entertainment. ‘I wanna see you dance!’ shouted the compere. I was up in a flash. Our Olympic baby took it all in his stride and didn’t peep once. (So Katie Hopkins can stick that in her anti-women pipe). At this point, I’d like to thank Lord Coe for his u-turn on babes in arms.

Meanwhile, the city looked wonderful and eerily quiet with hardly any cars flying around the edge of Trafalgar Square. We had a marvelous lunch in a fairly peaceful Soho, and Oxford Street was empty compared with a regular Saturday

John Lewis will be having fun though. The Official London 2012 shop on their flagship store’s 5th floor was heaving with accredited Olympics visitors. They seemed to be spending nicely with baskets of Olympics merchandise filled to bursting. Let’s hope they keep it up!

Now we just have to hope Team GB begin to pull in some medals. So far it’s been our lovely ladies in the cycling and swimming who have come up trumps. That and filling up the seats that the greedy corporates have shamefully wasted. Once that’s happening, we won’t know ourselves as we’ll have nothing to complain about… surely not?!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London's got its swag on

We’re a heartbeat away from the greatest show on earth. So what’s it like to be in London right now? I sent my roving reporter to investigate. The banners are up, a buzz is in the air, and the countries of the world have started to arrive.

John Lewis’s advertising agency has done it again with a fantastic building wrap on its flagship store on Oxford Street.

Check these banners out… glorious Regents Street has been kitted out with flags from all over the world.

What else? Well, there’s the dulcet sounds of Boris Johnson’s voice which have, until now, been pumped around the underground, advising commuters to ‘be prepared!’ But as roving reporter says, ‘We haven’t had an event in London like this ever before, so even Boris can’t know what town is going to be like. It’s a case of think the worst and hope for the best’. To date, in true Brit style, the glass half empty approach has been prevalent. But this isn’t unique to London 2012.

It’s almost laughable now, but Sydneysiders were adamant their transport system would fail in the run up to Sydney 2000. It didn’t, and their games were heralded as possibly the most successful of all time. Barcelona was the same, Athens was apparently doomed, and who can forget the baggage Beijing came with (human rights, smog, etc)?

So it’s with a surge of pride that I’m delighted the media is reporting record crowds turning out in London today to see the penultimate day of the torch relay. A BBC programme last night called Britain’s Olympic Torch Story told the tales of courage and dedication from ordinary people around the country. (I may have shed a tear or two!) A plethora of similar programmes have started to be shown this week, at last.

It seems the temperature is rising, literally and generally in the city. So I’ve got a good feeling that we might be able to improve upon Sydney 2000. Just a bit.