Ever since I saw Olympics on TV when I was growing up, I wanted to see an Olympics in person. When tickets for the London Olympics went up for sale last year, I submitted my bid on the very first day! I was even more thrilled when they allocated tickets to us in the first round of random selection. After waiting for more than one year, I was at the Olympics in London last week. Here is how it went.
We noticed the festive atmosphere as soon as we got out of the Eurostar. There were smiling volunteers everywhere who were ready to help us with any of our questions about the event. Since we wanted to know where the nearest ticket office was, one volunteer went to the extent of using her own cell phone and laptop to hunt this information down. This was the level of enthusiasm from the volunteers everywhere.
On the day of the event, we were told to reach the gates of the event at least 90 minutes prior to the start of the event since there would be airport style screening. We were also told to expect huge delays since the public transport system would be over whelmed. But we found the whole process very smooth and without delays. There were signs everywhere and so one could not get lost.
Even though it was airport style screening, the checkin process did not take more than 10 minutes. They were very efficient about it. The longest lines were for toilets and gift shops once we were inside the venue!
They had also informed us not to bring filled water bottles and to get empty ones. We got filled ones with the expectation to use it before we got into the check in process. We planned to empty them if they asked us to. But they took away our filled water bottles and gave us brand new ones! This was a very pleasant surprise. This was very thoughtful of them (even though not very environmentally friendly). This process was not repeated at our second event. There, they allowed us to take our filled water bottles with us as long as we took a sip in front of them!
First event – Beach Volleyball. Who does not want to watch beach volleyball?! We saw Italy and Russian (ladies prelimnary match) which Italy won. The second one was a men’s match between Spain and Czech Republic. Spain won this game very easily.
The announcer was getting the crowd pumped by saying “Who is for Russian Federation? Who is for Italy? Now who is for Great Britain?!”. Obviously the last one got the maximum noise.
Our next event was ladies’ weightlifting. If you want your child to get over their feelings of “my dad is the strongest in the world”, this is the event to get it done!
We had to make our way across town to the Excel center. The Olympics spectator guide talked about giving extra time to reach our venues and so we left the previous venue before all the events were complete. We noticed that the traffic was very well managed and we reached our destination more than 90 minutes to spare.
When we took our seats, we noticed that we had got some really good seats. We were seated 4-5 rows in and on the left side of the stage which gave us a very good view. This allowed us to be fully immersed in the emotions of the game.
The scheduled event was Women’s 53 kg weightlifting. There were 10 contestants and we were able to get into supporting everyone since we could see the effort they were putting in. Here there were no cheering squads or cheering commentators but the game was a lot more engaging. Was it because we were so close to the action? I think so.
Shu-Ching Hsu from Taiwan demolished the competition by lifting her weights with ease. She was announced as a Shu-Ching from “Chinese Taipei”. I know that Taipei is the capital of Taiwan and have never heard of this country (more on this later). She made it look extremely easy. This was until Zulfiya Chiunshanlo of Kazakhstan came along and broke the world record. She was quite an unlikely candidate for breaking the world record since she looked so small in size.
Then came the award ceremony which was quite a surprise for us. Take a look at the image above. The flag of “Chinese Taipei” has the Olympics rings on it! The citizens of this country must love Olympics a LOT! Actually, there is no country by that name. It is obviously a way for IOC to appease the country that wins the most medals in modern Olympics. You can read more about it and see the real flag of Taiwan here. So if a Taiwenese sportsperson wins the gold, they cannot see their flag being raised and neither will their anthem be played at the Olympics! For all the talk about peace, friendship and sportsmanship advocated by the Olympics, I think this is a big blow to that claim. I am not sure if I have the same warm feelings towards the Olympics anymore. (Update #1: I saw this coverage in Guardian newspaper about this flag controversy. Check out the comments under the article which are very interesting. Update #2: The flag swap has to extend to a commercial establishment in London too. Update #3: Olympic security snatches the official Taiwan flag from one of the spectators at the Taekwondo event)
Check out some more images from the Olympics below: