Thursday 2 August 2012

Olympic gold

After months of gloomy predictions (security shambles, traffic nightmare, public transport will never cope, blah blah) and no shortage of whingeing, it seems London is pulling off the Games rather well ...

(and even managing occasional bursts of sunshine: golden meadow flowers in the Olympic Park)

Travelling across London from the west to the Olympic Park in the east yesterday, we needn't have heeded dire warnings about allowing extra hours for the journey: trains and underground were running on time and apparently coping quite efficiently. 

Crowds arriving at the shiny and bright new Stratford station in East London were being smoothly eased, coaxed and channelled in all the right directions by plentiful volunteers - some seemingly employed to keep discipline and order by bellowing firm instructions, others simply there to provide jollity and humour - leading sing-alongs, shouting messages of good cheer and cracking jokes - along the short route to the Olympic Park.

The pic below gives an idea of the multitudes in the park, yet amazingly not once did we have to stand and wait in a queue, not at the security checkpoints, not for entry to events, for coffee, nor even for the ladies' loos (this last an all-time first experience for me at a public event, let alone one on this scale). If only London were always this well organised ...

Dominated by Anish Kapoor's bold, twisty Orbit, a sculpture cum observation tower, the park is a former industrial area that has been transformed into a vast but people-friendly venue with plenty of space for river walks and flower walks ...

The most striking feature is the mass of greenery and flowers - the result of planting an extraordinary 4,000 trees, 300,000 wetland plants, 150,000 perennials and 60,000 bulbs. The dominant colours are yellow and gold, symbolising Olympic gold, timed to be flowering at their peak by the opening on July 27. There are huge colourful fields of indigenous English meadow flowers, but also large areas of South African and Asian plantings (for more information and much better pictures than mine see here and here). 

National spirit was everywhere ...

... younger daughter and her friends contributing with a mixed bag of allegiances to teams GB, South Africa, Zimbabwe, France and Sweden!

We were headed for the Aquatic Centre, Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid's design, based on the curve of a swimmer's back ...

... excited to be in the place we'd watched some dramatic moments of the men's swimming events the day before on telly ...

... but we were there to watch the men's synchronised diving finals, the panel of judges and film crews getting ready

for the world's best divers to show off their perfectly timed pikes, tucks and twists

And just 45 minutes later, four years of single-minded training was over, with luck and chance also playing a part in the final rankings (China, Russia, USA, with a great performance from Mexico who came achingly close to a medal). 

A fantastic day. Well done, London!


  1. Congratulations on getting tickets for an Olympic event! Looks like a memorable day out. Dry weather and very colourful - and very interesting to see things from an insider's perspective.

    I'm not quite sure what to make of the observation towner-cum-sculpture. Will it stay put after the games I wonder?

  2. Karen, I am so glad that you were able to have entry to the Olympic Park and thank you lots and lots for your usual wonderful photos. What we are able to see on tv over here in NYC really does pale in comparison. The tv coverage seems to focus on anticipated USA winners, without any much coverage of the great outdoors of the Olympic Park, or any true feeling for the uniting focus that we might all wish the 2012 Olympics might bring.

    While I will admit to not being all that much of a sports fan, I am very interesting in seeing how bringing all these superb athletes together, with their supporting fans, might remind all of us that we are part of the same world.

    Hoping this interest does not label me as naive.


  3. Your pictures have such a fresh lively feel to them. I feel like I'm there.
    The other links don't come close - too corporate.
    You really know how to tell a story with photographs Karen.
    I just wish you put captions under the pics instead of on top.
    Maybe it's a US thing..
    BRAVO and lucky you to attend some of the events and share with the rest of us.


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