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Shiny Happy People

August 17, 2012

It felt like a marathon kind of a day and we most certainly emerged triumphant if a little weary! On Tuesday 7th August, Hope and both her parents went to the Olympics…

Hope set off bright eyed and eager and then slept on the train in her father’s arms all the way while her mother bounced around like an over excited teenager.

The train arrived in Kings Cross to be met by multiple friendly purple people all pointing the way and keen to stroke Hope’s feet and say how lovely she was. We changed her in the glossy new Kings Cross baby changing facilities, which she did not approve of, and then crossed the road to go to the Javelin train at St Pancras. I particularly loved the huge Olympic rings hanging up at the station just in front of the big clock.

Olympic rings herald our arrival at St Pancras

The Javelin sped faster than fast to Stratford International, full of people with Union Jacks on their faces and waving multiple other colours of flag and wearing every kind of rainbow colour and style of outfit … and everyone, just like the purple people, was smiling.

We arrived at Stratford and went up a huge escalator, Hope hanging from my front in her carry pouch grinning at everyone and waving and kicking her legs gleefully as we surged with the crowd. We flowed on through the shopping centre and up to the Olympic games main entrance where we were fleeced (in a touchy feely kind of a way) by a cheery chap from the RAF and then found ourselves walking over the bridge into the Olympic park. Hope was resplendent in her Team GB t-shirt, her father in a red and white shirt over his blue t-shirt and with new red and white crocs on, and I was wearing Hope over my white top and trousers with blue flip flops … so we three looked fairly patriotic!

Team Hope

As mentioned earlier I was stupidly over excited … who’d have thought that the funny little girl who used to watch the Olympics so avidly would one day be walking into the Games carrying her own daughter … my face hurt from grinning.

Our Synchronised Swimming started at 3 so we had a few hours to mill around and people watch and importantly to eat our sandwiches. Hope and I made a base just beside the international garden and watched words made of water fall from under the bridge we’d just come in over … I fed her, she lolled under an umbrella (to shelter her from the watery sun) and Roy wandered around the park.

Then at half past one, all changed and ready Hope was carried into the Aquatic Centre. It was (in part) designed by the husband of a friend of mine so I was even more excited (if that was possible!!) than before. Stunning swooping roof outside somehow like the giant whale that swallowed Jonah, and then inside spectacular (if a little hot!!). We were cheered on by the cheery purple people, and went up and up and up and up to the top of section 401 … no lift so I had to carry Hope, which she enjoyed, but I was almost as red as her t-shirt after going up and round and up and round about 12 layers of stairs. We then had to climb to row 46 which, when I turned round to look down at the pool and the whole spectacle, seemed a very very long way up. I don’t suffer from vertigo but I came close to feeling slightly queasy then!!

out of puff on the way up the stairs!

As we were so high up the heat was even greater, and poor little Hope suddenly woke up and demanded to be fed … I took off most of her clothes and fed her, the lovely Singaporean lady next to us gave me her fan but I think that both Hope and I ended up as red as her t-shirt until we acclimatised and she regained her usual perfect complexion!! Once she’d been fed she sat on my lap in her vest beaming round at everyone and watching the coming and going; the two Spanish girls with their huge red and yellow wigs, the endless stream of people going up and down the end of our row and of course the ‘action’ on the big screen. The ‘compere’ whipped up the crowd and then had everyone singing ‘YMCA’ which was odd, and the noise was so loud I put my hands over Hope’s ears but she didn’t seem to mind at all. She kept looking up over her shoulder at me and pulling faces with her father as the competition progressed.

Then she fell into a peaceful sleep that even the Spanish vuvuzuela didn’t disturb! Now then, watching synchronised swimming from 2 miles up meant that we missed most of the finer nuances of what was going on in the pool, but a huge screen meant we could see the sparkly make up, lovely costumes and slicked back hair (gelatine apparently). We could however listen to the music and join in the cheering and see legs waving far below or tiny splashes as flawlessly completed routines were played out, it may not have had the thrill of the athletics or competitive racing swimming but it was exciting and even from our ivory tower it was obvious that the winners were streets ahead of everyone else. The Russian’s won, the Spanish were second and the Chinese were third… team GB came 9th a massive party atmosphere and a feast of flag waving and good humour.

Our view – through a zoom lens!

We were sitting directly above the medal ceremony which was fun, and good to be near a crowd of cheering exuberant Russians.

Afterwards we waited for the entire venue to empty before we moved, and the purple people let us go down inside down the rows rather than down the twisty turny outside steps we went right down to the press level just above the pool… it was great to stand where the media had stood and see everything so close at the end … including several of the sequined gleaming competitors who themselves were taking in the atmosphere.

The medal ceremony from above

Afterwards we just wandered around mouths open gaping at all the people and taking in the hub up, it got quite cold (which was nice after the heat of the pool) and Hope enjoyed being changed in the drizzly grey evening air and then sitting on my lap as we ate take away vegetable curry in the international garden. We went into the busy Olympic shop (I’ve never queued to go into a shop before) and bought Hope and I matching limited edition ‘venue only’ t-shirts for when she’s a little bigger, and a blue rowing t-shirt for her Uncle. My brother is a keen and very successful rower and has been since his childhood.

Hope chatting to the purple people

Then we wandered past the huge stadium and the twirly red thing that looks like (and sadly isn’t) a helter skelter and up to a high point to look across the whole park. It was wonderful, and still everyone looked so smiley. The police were friendly and cheery, the ‘ushers’ were funny and persuasive and kept the huge crowd in a positive mood as the weather closed in, and the omni present volunteers, the wonderful purple people politely offered to take photos or pointed out changing facilities.As far as I was concerned the only thing marring the day was the gigantic presence of MacDonald’s on the Olympic Park … not really the providers of healthy snacks talked of in the instruction book and in my mind not the right sponsor for such an event, but they were offset by the people selling Innocent smoothies from little cycle trucks covered in grass and daisies. It was about 9pm when we finally left, some 9 hours after walking into the Olympic Park, it was wonderful to see it at twilight; the lights sparkling, the stadium seeming to pulsate with life and lots of wonderful lights around all the marvellous structures.

The journey home was easy, everyone on the train beamed in a rather weary way, and Hope, bless her, beamed back … The purple people were still at Kings Cross ushering the crowd ever onward, I can’t praise the Olympic volunteers highly enough. It wasn’t til we got to almost Cambridge that Hope finally wilted and shouted at people in the carriage… but when we got back to Granby’s house she cheered up and chatted away and ‘told her all about her day’ in a very engaging manner.

I felt more shattered than I’ve ever felt (after having 2 days in London carrying Hope) but felt so so proud, satisfied, awed and thrilled at taking my girl to the Olympics … I slept with visions of me as Olga Korbut flic flacking around my head and woke up in the morning feeling happy and privileged to have been part of such a shiny happy experience … I can’t remember ever having seen a whole ‘day full’ of people smiling before… not like that, it was quite wonderful … I wish every day could offer the same smile quotient.

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