The Best £25 I’ve Ever Spent
A couple of weeks ago I returned home from a pretty crappy day at work. It was my 30th Birthday and I was feeling pretty depressed about it. Whilst sitting at my computer I decided to check the London 2012 website to see if I could get any Paralympic tickets. I was pretty keen to try and see something after the incredible Olymipic Games Team GB just had and if anything the Paralypians are achieving something far greater.
After an hour or so on the website I had secured myself two tickets. One for the mornings Athletics session on Saturday the 1st in the Olympic Stadium and one for the Men’s Wheelchair Basketball that evening at the North Greenwich Arena. A total cost of £25 for the two tickets. I was pretty pleased with this and was really looking forward to seeing both and cheering on the Paralympic GB team.
The day came and I had arrived at the Olympic park just before the gates opened. It was advised to get there about two and a half hours before the event you were going to see due to the security checks and allow for delays. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long and the queues weren’t big at 7.30 in the morning. It didn’t take long to get through the security and I was soon in the park. It was pretty impressive. The Stadium looked fantastic, people were smiling, happy and excitited in anticipation. Including myself.
The Athletics wasn’t due to start until 10am so I had some time to kill. I wandered around a bit and went and looked around the megastore. At 9 o’clock I headed to the Stadium. I wasn’t sure how good my seat would be and what the view would be like as it had only cost me a tenner. I was pleasantly surprised. The View was good. I wasn’t right at the back and I was about two thirds of the way round the final bend. I could see everything which was just as well as there was shot put, discus, club throw and long jump to watch as well a range of Track events.
It was soon time for the action to start and the stadium had slowly been filling but was now full and the atmosphere was electric. I didn’t take my Camera with me but had taken a pocket compact camera to travel light and just get a few snaps. I wanted to take in the event rather than keep trying to get good photos. With all the field events taking place and the track events starting time seemed to pass pretty fast and I was really enjoying it. The crowd really got behind the athletes and like me, must have been pretty impressed with what these people could do and what they were achieving.
One of the main events of the Morning was the Men’s 200m T42 final. This feature Great Britain’s Richard Whitehead, a double leg amputee. He received a great reception from the crowd before the start and was tipped to do well. The gun went and the race was off, these guys were quick considering the severity of their disabilities. At the end of the first 100m Whitehead was at the back, as the crowd roared him on. What I witnessed over the last 100m was just incredible. All of a sudden Whitehead seemed to switch on the afterburners. He passed everyone and crossed the line in first place setting a new world record in the process. The Stadium erupted! He’d done it. A Gold for Great Britain. I’m sure it was impressive seeing Usain Bolt win his 100m & 200m gold medals, but you know what, that is nothing when you consider Richard Whitehead has no legs!
Other highlights during the session were three bronze medals for Great Britain. Gemma Prescott in the Women’s Club Throw, Robin Womack in the Shot Put and Claire Williams in the Discus. All receiving rapturous applause from the crowd. As the session drew to the and end there was still the Men’s 1500m T46 heats. The first of which was to provide a truly magical moment that summed up the whole spirit of the games.
As the first heat got under way it was clear there was one runner who wasn’t going to be challenging for a win. In fact Houssein Omar Hassan from Djibouti was lapped by the field before he had even completed 400m. He was to be lapped again before the rest of the field had finished, but he carried on. This determination didn’t go unnoticed. Every time Hassan came past, the crown stood up and gave him a standing ovation along with cheers and shouts of encouragement. It was heart warming to see the support he was getting and no doubt spurring him on. Seven and a half minutes after the winner had crossed the line, Hassan made the finish and the Stadium erupted and the noise was deafening. Cheering and applauding the fighter who stuck at it to complete the race. It really was a magical moment.
As the session closed, I headed off to get something to eat and look around the park a bit. I had some time to kill before heading to the North Greenwich area for the Basketball. Wandering around the park I came across two of the men’s sitting volleyball team from Rwanda. People had approached them asking for Autographs, me included. They seemed pretty overcome and confused as to why people were asking for Autographs and photos but were happy to oblige. Like all the Athletes in the Paralympics, there were amazing people and it was nice to see them being treated like the sports stars they should be. I went and took up a place in front of the big screen to watch some action from the Veledrome and see Sarah Storey claim another gold in the 500m time trial. Everyone was happy and friendly, even the volunteers and stewards.
I arrived at the North Greenwich arena soon after 5pm and the doors opened at 5.30pm. Getting there early meant I managed to get a good seat to view the impending action. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive basketball fan but I had seen some of the wheelchair basketball on the TV and was Impressed. However I was unprepared for what was ahead.
I crowed filled in gradually filling the area as the teams warmed up. I was impressed to see them casually throwing the ball through the hoop with ease. It’s pretty hard to do standing up, but these guys were sitting down! The first game was Great Britain versus Columbia. Naturally the GB team received great support from the expectant crowd.
As the game started I was just in awe. The way the players moved around the court at speed, changing direction, blocking and finding space was just incredible. Some of the blocking was quite aggressive and often players would tip over in their wheel chairs, but the majority were able to flip themselves back upright and carry on. Those who couldn’t often got help from not only their own team, but also the opposition showing great sportsmanship. But when it came to scoring, what can I say? It was just incredible. Players found space in crowded areas and often scored with what looked like consummate ease. Even three pointers were going in more often than not. This was truly amazing and GB put on a great show beating Colombia 81 points to 41.
The second game was Canada v Poland and was a bit closer than the first game. It was hugely exciting and I was hooked. I loved every minute of it whilst in full appreciation of what these incredible athletes could and were doing. Canada were victorious 83 to 65. Sadly the time flew by and I was disappointed the day was over. As I headed home I had time to reflect on what I had experienced.
I like many others had become a bit pessimistic about the whole Olympics in the run up to the event, but again like many had got hooked after Team GB’s achievements a few weeks ago. I was desperate to go and see the Paralympics and was thrilled to have been able to experience it. These Athletes achievements are more incredible than those a few weeks earlier overcoming various disadvantages to compete at a high level. All really happy to be there, without complaints or moans and smiling throughout. Professional sports stars who get paid thousands of pounds a week could learn a lot from these incredible people. But it wasn’t just the Athletes that made the games great. All of the Volunteers and organisers had done an amazing job. All of them were happy and friendly, helpful and talkative. Even those with the megaphones had a great sense of humour and entertained the crowds. The whole organisation was fantastic. I never came across and problems and it helped make the whole experience even better. It was a day I will never forget and proud to have been there to witness some of the great sporting moments I did.
It really was the best £25 I had ever spent.