After 29 days of sporting entertainment, it has all come to an end. The Olympic and the Paralympics are over and the preparations for Rio 2016 are officially underway.
It doesn’t seem seven years since the nation watched in silence as they waited for IOC President Jacques Rogge to state that the ‘2012 Olympic Games would be awarded to the city of London’. It was a truly momentous day and despite huge celebrations at the time, I doubt whether anyone could have envisaged what an incredible four weeks it has been for the city and for the country.
Cast your mind back to just over a year ago when Great Britain was in turmoil. Mindless rioting was spreading across many cities and all that seemed to be waiting outside our front doors was a pessimistic feeling of worry and despair. Just 13 months later and the nation is united, oozing with passion.
Since that historic announcement, Lord Coe’s LOCOG team have delivered success after success. An incredible building operation took place in the East End of London (and within budget!), London’s transport system was faultless and the employment of the ‘Games Makers’ was an inspired idea and their contribution should never be forgotten.
An unbelievable Opening Ceremony got things underway and once the sporting events begun, Team GB took up the mantel with the theme of success firmly imprinted on their minds. As soon as Lizzie Armistead took silver in the Women Road Race on Day three, the medal haul began and the country watched with pride, but more importantly, in awe of these incredible sporting figures.
Few will forget ‘super Saturday’ as Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all took gold in an unbelievable 40 minutes while Bradley Wiggins should not be surprised when news of his knighthood filters through as he became Olympic champion, adding to his Tour de France title that he’d won earlier in the year. There were plenty of medals for Wiggins’ teammates in the velodrome while the GB rowing team also chipped in with their fair share. There was a GB winner at Wimbledon as well as Andy Murray took gold.
Just as the nation had calmed down from it all, the Paralympics began and didn’t disappoint. Ellie Simmonds showed her dominance in the pool as she became a double Paralympic Champion while David ‘the Weirwolf’ Weir became an icon on the track alongside fellow success story, Jonnie Peacock. Sarah Storey made history as she became the most successful female paralympian of all time alongside Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Lee Pearson moved into double figures in medals for his efforts in the equestrian.
The list simply goes on and on and as a British citizen, it is an absolute pleasure to look at.
So all in all, the plan was perfect and London succeeded.
There will only ever be one negative that will be associated with London 2012; the inability to buy tickets. When the first tickets were released, nobody could have expected the demand that the British public gave. I was one of many that applied, requesting £500 worth of tickets. I was lucky enough to be successful and get the chance to go to four football matches, but nothing else. Some, as it was well documented, didn’t get a single thing.
Following the ballot, news filtered out that if applicants had requested just one category higher than the lowest price, they would have been 90% more successful. The problem was, the money wasn’t there. The country was, (and still is), in a dreadful economic state and the general public simply didn’t have the funds available.
But as the Olympics got closer and even when the games had begun, it became apparent how amazing it must be to be a part of it. Criticisms were made regarding the empty seats at events and LOCOG coincidently decided to make more seats available. It’s a sad state of affairs when commercial businesses and sponsorships receive tickets ahead of an enthusiastic and excited home crowd. It was made even worse when the recipients didn’t even turn up.
It was only after I’d been to Wembley for the first trip that I caught the ‘Olympic bug’. Despite not being in Olympic Park, the hype and the atmosphere was one I’d never experienced. It was hugely addictive. It appeared many had the same idea, spending hours on end refreshing the LOCOG ticketing website, only to find the site had crashed under the demand or that the user had timed out. Either way, it created a negative storyline that threatened to take the shine off a brilliant occasion. Some people decided enough was enough and gave up. Some people refused to pay that extra bit of money. Some people refused to be denied.
On a personal level, I went to extreme lengths. I joined every ticketing alert system on the internet and linked them up to my phone. While it seems a good idea at the time, it isn’t the most pleasing experience to be woken at 3am by an alert to be told that some tickets for ‘sitting volleyball’ had been released.
When tickets were available, it became survival of the fittest. Who’s computer is faster? Who can log in quickest? Who has the nerve to be able to cope with the pressure of typing in your card details before the clock runs out? Surely, it shouldn’t have been this stressful to see an event at your home Olympics? Has it been the same for every home nation? I somehow doubt it and so did many others.
But that moment when the screen said that you had successfully brought tickets for the Games was a feeling like no other. All those late nights were worth it and now the only thing you had to worry about was your bank balance. So pleased that you had managed to ‘beat the system’, you forget to check the cost.
The last event I went to was the perfect example of this. I managed to get tickets to the Olympic Stadium for an evening session in early September. So pleased that this opportunity had finally presented itself, I ploughed on with the payment. It was only when my bank notified me that I did not have funds to pay my rent that I realised; I should probably have thought this through.
But to walk into that vibrant stadium, with a home crowd cheering and the opportunity to see these world class athletes, was a memory I will never forget and the price simply didn’t matter. While I appreciate that many will be in much tougher economic situations that I am, I would struggle to find anyone that says the experience wasn’t worth every single penny.
And it needs to be the latter of that sentence that is remembered. London 2012 was a huge success and one that will live long in the memory of all those that were part of it, from the athletes, the volunteers, the crowd to the audience at home. It really was a special four weeks.
As for the dodgy ticketing website, well, nothing’s perfect is it?