We were there!
Talk about lucky, we got tickets for Saturday evening's athletics in the first round of the ballot/draw thingy.
On Friday morning we left DC in the more-than-capable hands of Grandma and Grandad and drove up to Reading (by way of Stonehenge - but I'll save that for another post.) When our Olympic tickets first arrived hubby called some hotels in London to get an idea of how much it might cost to stay in the Big Smoke for the weekend. Let's just say their prices and policies (seven-night minimum stay?!?) were beyond unreasonable, so we decided to stay in Reading and get the train in to London instead. A much better idea - we got a perfectly good, clean hotel right in the centre of town, 2 minutes from the train station, for £48 a night. We got to meet up with friends who live and around the area, and I got to go to my hairdressers - what's not to like?! Our return train tickets to London Paddington cost £16.40 each and the tube tickets came free with our Olympic tickets - all in all a much better deal than staying in London itself. From all accounts, away from the Olympics London is a pretty quiet place at the moment, so I expect all those hotels are regretting trying to overcharge people who wanted to stay for a couple of nights this fortnight.
On Saturday morning we caught the 9am train into London and made our way to Marylebone High Street for a little bit of shopping, a coffee or two and a spot of lunch (again, I'll save this for another post.) Then at around 2pm we hopped on a Central Line tube at Bond Street and stayed on all the way to Stratford. We had absolutely no trouble getting through the ticket and security checks - in fact there was no one at all in front of us and we simply walked straight through, no queues, no bother, no problems at all.
This was our first view of the stadium as we entered the Olympic Park over the bridge from the entrance.
Our first port of call was a park bench so we could have a quick bite to eat of our picnic and get our bearings.
This is the Water Polo Arena. The grasses planted in front of it were very impressive; I forget the name of them, but the label told us they were from Asia.
They were watching the Olympic action on the big screens on either side of this structure in the middle of the water.
We didn't head down there as the queue was quite long. I think this would be my one complaint about the Olympic Park - once you were in there wasn't much information about what was going on in all of the various venues, whether within the Park itself or elsewhere. So, unless you were watching on one of these big screens, you were pretty much in the dark. I think they could have done with erecting more, smaller screens around the entire Park and also perhaps having some announcements over the loud speakers about what was happening and where. Aside from that, I have nothing else negative to say (which makes a pleasant change!)
Imagine our delight when we started climbing the stairs to our seats to find that we had a great view of the cauldron.
And here's the view from my seat - not bad, eh? Great view of the discus throwing, the starting blocks for the 400-metre races and the cauldron. You can even just about make out the sand pit (technical name) for the long jump just off to the top right of the track.
Here's a bit of women's discus action going on. You can see them warming up by the benches behind the Union Flag - I like this photo because of the way the two flags are billowing out.
And can you see the little remote control cars in this shot? They're a bit hard to make out but there is one just behind the red scoreboard in the centre of the photo and one diagonally to the right below the scoreboard (does that make sense?) Anyway, these remote control cars would zoom off when a discus had been thrown, the stewards then put the discus on the car roof and it was zoomed back to the start point. Very sweet!
Here are the hurdles being laid out in preparation for the men's 400-metre hurdles semi-final. It was like a military operation as the 'Games Makers' came out in a line (you can see them in this shot), walked to the spots where the hurdles had to be placed, put the hurdles down simultaneously, then turned and walked to the next spot in pairs.
And here's the race being run. The chap from Team GB fell over his hurdle just as I took this photo, in fact you can see it happening (he's in white, third lane in from the left); he was not at all pleased - there was some foot stomping and hurdle-throwing going on.
Here's a great shot of the sun shining on the top tier of the stadium while down below the long jump final (which Team GB won!) is underway
And here are the hurdles being put away, again in military precision stlye.
Random shot of stadium lights and clouds - we were so lucky with the weather, just a couple of light showers during the afternoon, and then warm but not hot for the rest of the day and evening.
At the end of the evening we got to see Jessica Ennis being presented with her gold medal. The funny thing was that just prior to this the screen had shown that there was to be a medal ceremony and the crowd let out a MASSIVE cheer, thinking it was going to be for Jessica, but then the announcer said "And now, the medal ceremony for the women's discus" and there was a VERY audible and disappointed "oh" from the crowd. Made me laugh, but I also felt sorry for the discus medallists.
And, finally, it was time to leave the stadium. By way of a cauldron photo opportunity pit-stop.
One last glimpse of the outside of the stadium all lit up.