As you probably should know, the 2016 Olympic Games are currently taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Around this time four years ago, it was London’s turn to host the Olympics and I have to say that this years Olympics is definitely bringing back lots of nostalgia from London 2012.
I don’t actually remember when it was announced that London were going to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games but I must have been aware of it as I designed my own version of what the Olympic Park should look like (although in hindsight I think it might have been more suited to hamsters than athletes).
I think one of the first things I can actually remember about the London 2012 Olympics is in my first year of secondary school (2011) we did a whole project on the Olympics in geography where we learnt about how the park was being built and the costs and benefits of the UK hosting it. We even got to design our own mascots too (I just went searching through piles of old school books to find mine but it wasn’t anywhere to be seen).
Later on in the year during school charity month, I even got the opportunity to hold the Olympic Torch and have my photo taken with it as a boy from my school who was in the older years was actually carrying the torch in the Olympic Torch relay so he used it to raise money for the charity my school was supporting that year.
Then in the summer holidays of 2011 I remember going to London and seeing the Olympic and Paralympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square and going to the British Museum where they had replicas of the London 2012 Olympic medals. I also remember London’s Paddington Station had a London 2012 shop (which was closed when we got there because we had a late train). But, in traditional British fashion it was grey and gloomy so my photos aren’t that great.
Then later on in 2011 (actually this could have happened before I went to London but I can’t really remember) I went on a Scout camp to Austria – which was one of the best experiences of my life – and on the cross-channel ferry on the way back we looked round the shops and I bought a Wenlock (the Olympic mascot) figurine. It was a really weird experience because EVERYONE was buying Olympic stuff and I think that was when it dawned on me that the Olympics were coming and there wasn’t long to wait!
I can’t remember when exactly, but me and my family put in bids for tickets for various events and were lucky enough to get tickets for two womens football matches and a days worth of rowing.
The football was one or two days before the actual opening ceremony for the Olympics as there were so many football matches that they had to start earlier than the rest of the events. But this didn’t mean we didn’t have the Olympic spirit – when we turned up at our local train station to catch the train to Cardiff there were quite a few other people also dressed in Team GB clothing and carrying Union Flags. I have to say though that train journey was probably the worst I’ve been on – it was ridiculously hot that day and the train only had two carriages so we were all squished up for a couple of hours in unbearable heat.
Once we got there there was a huge queue to get into the Millennium Stadium because everyone had to be security checked which took ages.
When we finally got through the gates though the stadium looked even more impressive. Although it was so huge it was difficult to get a good picture of it.
The inside of the stadium was just as impressive although I didn’t get any photos of when it was full.
The first match we watched was Great Britain vs New Zealand and the final score was 1-0 to GB! It was so good to watch our home team win and when we scored the winning goal everyone in the stadium jumped out of their seats to celebrate (even me despite the fact that we were so high up).
After the first match was over, we went off to buy some food because we weren’t allowed to take any into the stadium. But all the food places had such big queues that when we got there the only thing we could buy were some sandwiches (but at least we still ate). It was quite funny actually because someone I recognised from school was sat with their family a few rows in front of us (at this point I didn’t know them as I’d only just started secondary school) but towards the end of secondary school we became friends which was cool.
The second match we watched was Brazil vs Cameroon. According to wiki, an extra 5,000 people came to watch this match (although I’m not sure how because you could only buy tickets for both matches together, not individually). Brazil won 5-0 and it was a great match to watch – much more fast-paced than GB vs NZ as you can see by the final score.
After the football had finished, we made our way out of the stadium and back to the train station. Ont the way we saw lots of people selling flags and hats (although it was a bit late at this point) and there was a large amount of Brazilian supporters in the streets celebrating their victory. We walked past the Team GB womens coach in on the way out but my family didn’t believe me until it was too late to get a signature. We also passed the London 2012 merchandise stands but I don’t think I bought anything there as, again, the queues were so large and by this time it was around 11pm so we just wanted to get home.
After yet more queues at the train station and two trains later we finally got home in the early hours of the morning and although I wouldn’t class myself to be a huge fan of football, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Then we went to watch the rowing at Eton Dorney, Buckinghamshire around a week later. I was excited to watch this as rowing wasn’t something I’d ever really watched before/knew a lot about.
This time we drove to a park and ride in Buckinghamshire put on especially for the Olympics where we left our car and took a bus to Eton Dorney. I found the buses really exciting because they were all brand new and this was the year that they brought in the new style buses in the UK (I think).
Once we arrived at Eton Dorney I remember there being quite a long walk to get to the entrance of the venue but I’m sure the hoards of people supporting various different countries that were walking along with us kept us occupied. Also the Games Makers were very friendly, helpful and funny and just generally made the whole experience way more exciting. We had to go through airport-style security to enter the venue and I remember there being some incident with a mans watch falling into the tray with my dads bag in whilst it was going through the x-ray machine (not sure if that’s what they are actually called) so that was interesting!
The venue for the rowing was obviously a lot bigger and different than that of the football so the whole experience was slightly different. We didn’t have tickets for the seats at the end of the rowing course but that didn’t matter as we had come prepared with blankets and wellies to sit on the grass verges along with the majority of spectators.
I think we ended up sitting about halfway along the rowing course (I’m not good with technical rowing terms, haha, so correct me if I’m wrong) so we saw the middle of the races but there were plenty of big screens around so we could see the start and finish.
As far as the races go, we saw quite a few as we were there all day.
I think my favourites would have to be the women’s eights race though as it was really exciting seeing so many people racing. We also saw a competitor from Niger, Hamadou Djibo Issaka, who had only been rowing a three months and although he didn’t do that well in his race, the whole crowd was cheering him on.
As well as watching the rowing itself, there was a lot of other stuff to do at Eton Dorney too. There were lots of stalls, including a London 2012 shop where I bought the rowing edition of the London 2012 Olympic 50p coins.
There was also a big marquee with a ‘Get Inspired’ sign on it which was like the theme of the Olympic Games. In there you could have virtual rowing and canoeing races with people using rowing machines and canoeing machines which was fun, even though I was really bad at it!
As we didn’t have specific seats allocated to us, we were free to wander around Eton Dorney so at one point we went down to the start line and watched a few races from there.
We also found the Olympic Rings which everyone was queuing to take pictures by. We approached the rings from the back (which was grey) and we wondered why everyone was queuing around the other side of the rings when you get perfectly good pictures of this side. So us being stupid took loads of family photos with the GREY Olympic Rings in the background, only to discover that the other side of the rings were the COLOURED side…
Whilst we were wandering around, we bumped into Wenlock, the mascot, and took photos with it and we also found a statue of Wenlock too.
We also saw various members of each nations rowing teams (not sure if they were coaches or not) cycling alongside the water during the races which you don’t get to see when you watch rowing on TV.
I can’t really remember much about leaving the rowing, except we got back on the bus then drove back home but overall watching the rowing was a really great experience and I enjoyed it just as much as the football.
Going to watch the Olympics was, of course, the best part of the London 2012 Games for me, but the hype of hosting the games is something I’m never going to forget. I loved our opening and closing ceremonies and really felt proud to be British. I hope I’ll be able to experience another home games in my lifetime because it was truly amazing.
Obviously in the build up to and during the Olympics there was London 2012 and Team GB merchandise in almost every shop so I did manage to collect quite a lot of stuff. I’ve taken some pictures of some of the stuff here but I know there are various other things around the house that I’ll remember later.
I still can’t believe that all of this happened 4 years ago now!?! It feels like it was yesterday!
Did you go to the London 2012 Olympics or Paralympics? Have you been to any Olympic Games? I’d love to know! 🙂