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1:40pm on Friday, 10th August, 2012:

Olympic Vignette


OK, well now I've had time to organise my photos of the Olympics, I can bore you with them properly.

Here's the mouth of a random woman at Colchester railway station:

I think she was probably going to the Olympics too, but I didn't ask.

It was easy to get to the site because at no point was there not a sign in pink telling you to go this way:

I find that particular shade of pink shocking.

Here's where you could get a mobility scooter to wander around:

I wish I'd known my wife intended to make me explore the entire Olympic site later in the afternoon; had I done so, I might have got one of these and saved my legs.

Security was a breeze — so much easier than at airports. No-one with either an inflated view of their own powers or an immense pride in their ability to follow orders to the letter told me to take off my shoes or my belt. It was all done by soldiers:

Clearly, spending £200,000 on each and every one of them so as to train them for every eventuality pays dividends in the long term.


On the basis that with the best British food, if you can tell what it is then it's no good, this ranked among the best British food. "Aww, you didn't have to open a fresh tin just for me!"

Here's a picture of the Orbit from where we had breakfast:

It's in 3D if you want to do that cross-your-eyes-and-decouple-your-focus thing.

The meadows around the park were delightful. Here's an example near the stadium:

As you can see from the channel there, some people couldn't resist walking into the middle of the meadows and having their photograph taken with the stadium behind them. The sign, by the way, reads "Please enjoy the beauty of these gardens and respect them for future visitors". Obviously, it didn't say so in enough languages...

This is what the men's toilets near our seating block looked like at 8:30am:

At 12:30, it was so full that there was a queue to get in.

Here's me holding the Olympic flame:

Confession: it's a camera trick. I wasn't really holding the Olympic flame. I would have hurt my hand.

These are the little LED panels that we had between every seat:

At no point were we called upon to use them. They probably thought that the music that was played throughout the entire period we were there was enough to keep us entertained. Given that most of it was on my iPad, it wasn't quite as off-putting as it might have been, but still, I'd have liked to have seen the LEDs in action.

These were surprisingly tasty:

Just as well, as they comprised lunch. The concession stands around the stadium were adequate to satisfy the food needs of a stadium with a capacity of 20,000; sadly, the stadium's capacity is 80,000 and the queues were so long that we decided to starve rather than join them.

There was a lot of talk of empty seats this Olympics, which is good because if there hadn't been talk of that there would have been talk of how expensive the seats were instead. We Brits love to complain about something, so we'll always find something about which to complain. That said, this is what the scene was next to me an hour into the events at 10am:

Eventually, two old blokes showed up and occupied the end two seats and a man the same age as me came along and sat two seats away, but the others were never used. I had an empty seat next to me the whole time.

Much of the complaints about the seating has come from the media. These are the people who have the best seats in the house, right next to the finishing line. There are two tiers of seats for them. Here's the upper one:

I've circled the seats that are actually in use. I'm think pots, kettles and blackness here. At least they stood up when the Mexican wave went past, anyway.

Close to the area where the discus was being thrown during the decathlon, some seats were reserved for the coaches. Occasionally, decathletes would come over and talk to their coaches. We were in row 9, so got a good view of them when they did this. Here's the eventual winner, Ashton Eaton, holding the shoe he had been using to practise his technique:

If he'd been as good with the discus as he was with the shoe, he might have tried to try break his world record (unlike the French competitor, who merely broke his discus by throwing it so hard that when it hit the net frame it split in two).

Here's the start of the 4x400m heat with the British team running:

This is where the vocal support was so strong that it felt like it was a substance. As I said yesterday, it was absolutely incredible. I down't know what the non-British supporters would have thought, but it would have scared the willies out of me to be in a crowd that partisan for a country of which I wasn't a citizen.

Speaking of which, I think this guy was the coach of the Dutch decathlete:

He just has that Dutch look about him.

After the morning session ended, the crowd thinned out a bit because all there was from about 11:55 until 4:05 was the not exactly riveting pole vault section of the decathlon (at which the Dutch athlete excelled, which is just as well because he sucked so badly at the discus he fouled on all three of his throws). A lot of people were in queues for food, of course, and several hundred left their seats at our end to go round to the end where the action was taking place (although they weren't allowed to sit in the empty seats there, which was a shame). The aware of most vocal supporter had to go to this young woman, though:

Every time the Canadian competitor, Damian Warner, got ready for his vault, she screamed at the top of her voice. Half the stadium could hear her. She was doing very well at getting the non-Canadian people to join in around her, too, until Warner crashed out. He's only 22, though, and came fifth; he should be able to do better at the next games in Rio. I hope this supporter makes it there, too, because she was great! Such a shame that Warner was 120m away at the other end of the stadium.


What is there anything to be proud about here?

These were popular people:

I wish someone had come round selling suntan lotion, though...

There were lots of crowds after the events finished, as people arrived ready for the later sessions:

Seconds after I took this, a mini-tornado whipped up. I thought it was some kind of fountain at first, until it moved across the road and through the crowds, pursued by an official camerman with a steadycam who happened to be nearby, but not quite nearby enough...

My wife wanted to go to the Olympic shop, but there was a queue to get into it:

All in all, they didn't really plan the retail experience on the park very well. The food stalls outside the main stadium were closed by the time we left, for example.

This one didn't close, however:

It's the world's biggest McDonald's, until the park closes and they take it down to make into boats or something.

These are the BBC studios, made out of freight containers:

There could have been someone famous up there for all we knew. Don't make the glass so smoky, BBC! We want to look at your presenters as if they were zoo animals.

These are braver men than I am:

It's all well and good until you want to visit the lavatory...

I saw some women dressed the same way:

The picture isn't so good because I had to be sneaky when I took it so that neither they nor my wife clobbered me.

My wife took this photo:

I don't suppose he gets to wear that suit very often, so has to make the best of it when he can.

See if you can spot me in this giant mirror:

Clue: I'm the one hiding his sun-ravaged face behind a camera.

Well this is one way to stop people from walking on the grass:

Is there an apostrophe missing there?

The countries in the Olympic village hang flags outside their rooms:

This block is the British one. You can tell because those other things they hang out say "TEAM GB".

Finally, here's The Queen's barge parked on the local river or canal or whatever it is:

I hope she has better luck getting home than we did. Our train was cancelled and the next one was 20 minutes later and full of commuters. I had to stand all the way to Chelmsford.

So that was the Olympics. I went, so you didn't have to.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).