Saturday, 31 March 2012

First glimpse inside the new Olympic Stadium

Well, we may have failed to get tickets to the Olympics (other than for the football at Old Trafford), but today I got the chance to cheer Tris across the finishing line in the new Olympic stadium after he completed The Olympic Park 5 mile Run.

Just 5,000 runners were selected for the race (each runner was allowed two guests) - the first competitive event to be run in the Olympic Park, and a first glimpse for the public of the new Olympic London landmarks that we will become so familiar with over the summer.

Directions to the Olympic Park were provided by a series of 'pointing people' in pink. "Can I have a finger?" asked one girl to a Olympic Guide - but he declined her request.

We were channelled through a shopping centre - if you'd forgotten your Speedo's or athletics kit then you could relax. All your sporting needs were catered for (and you could pick up a Mulberry handbag and a little something from Prada!)

"I - I want to thank you, for giving me the best day of my li-ey-ife" sang Dido encouragingly from the large outdoor speakers.

Security was slick as we entered the Olympic Park. We had to queue, but it didn't take long. Once we were through, a bizarre phenomenon took hold. Everywhere people could be seen posing for photos like Usain Bolt!

The stadium is almost ready - there is still a bit of work to be done to finish installing the seating, but it is practically there. It's not as impressive as I imagine Bejing's 'Birdsnest' stadium to have been, but it was pretty good.

There is a strange red roller coaster arrangement just next to the athletics stadium, which I assume will be topped by the Olympic flame. The jury is still out on that. I can't decide whether it's OK, or whether I hate it. As we queued up, it did feel a bit like we were about to visit a theme park. But when the park is finally finished and the covers have come off, I'm sure the atmosphere will be electric.

Entertainment, prior to the start of the race was a Queen tribute act, the UK cheerleading champions and 'Britain's Got Talent' acts 'Flawless' (street dance) and electronic string quartet eScala. I missed the latter because I'd gone to watch Tris start in the first wave of runners. And while I was waiting - I got a proper treat. Not only did I spot my second royal in as many weeks (The Queen in Manchester 10 days ago, and her granddaughter, Princess Beatrice who started the race today), I also got a close up view of 'cleavage of the year' Holly Willoughby.

As she jumped from her golf buggy and dashed towards the starting podium, the wind in her hair and a bounce in her step - she seemed to move in slow motion - just like Garth's "Dream Weaver" woman in the film Wayne's World. It took all my self restraint not to break into a rendition of "Foxy Lady!"

A Roger Black and Steve Batley later and they were off.

I made it back to the stadium just in time to see the first wave finish. It must have been amazing to run into the Olympic stadium at the end of the race - as they entered the stadium through the tunnel, the theme tune to 'Chariots of Fire' spurred them on. Many ran with cameras to photograph the crowds and the occasion, others ran draped in Union Jacks. Some even adopted the starting position at the 100m mark and then sprinted the final stretch.

And then, amongst a sea of red was Tris - very helpfully bucking the trend in orange. Rounding the final bend like Mo Farah he crossed the finish line like a champion, in an amazing joint 341st position (out of 5,000 runners).

It was a real privilege to be part of such a fantastic day. I'm thoroughly in the mood now for the real thing. Roll on 27th July!


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