Thursday, September 20, 2012
skinny latte goes to the paralympics!
I'm playing catch-up at the moment...I've got about ten posts on the go....but I really wanted to tell you about going to the Paralympics because it was amazing. I am really missing all the action of the Games that we enjoyed here for the last little while. It was a really inspiring time and I loved how much community spirit, national pride and true sportsmanship was on display!
I was very lucky to get tickets to the swimming at the Paralympics thanks to British Airways. We went along on the Friday afternoon to soak up the atmosphere and have a look around Olympic Park before the swimming finals began in the early evening. After seeing it on TV constantly for a couple of weeks I was stoked to be there myself and see it all with my own eyes, it was kind of surreal!
Getting there was easy - we took the tube in and changed at Finchley Road for a Stratford train. The station itself was very busy as we expected but they were well staffed and there were no congestion problems at all. There were volunteers greeting everyone, it was such a happy and welcoming atmosphere. Westfield shopping centre was heaving! We had a look around for a while and eventually decided to hit up M&S for some healthy picnic items and camp out at the British Airways ParkLive, which was a huge expanse of parkland with big screens.
We got a good spot and soaked up the sun and atmos while we had lunch. I was convinced John Torrode from Masterchef was sitting down the bank from us - if it wasn't him it was an impersonator! The cycling was on while we were in the park and when a British cyclist won gold the park exploded in a roar, it was incredible.
Then we had a wander around the Park for a while. I had to keep pinching myself that I was there!
Finally it was time to hit up the Aquatic Centre for the swimming finals!
The first race was probably the most anticipated - the men's 400m freestyle (S8). This race had three Britons in it - Oliver Hynd, Sam Hynd and Thomas Young - and the crowds were going wild for them! It was the last lap of the race where it looked like Oliver Hynd was going to win the gold medal that the noise in the aquatic centre just grew and grew and grew....I thought the roof was going to come off! We were actually behind the Hynd boys' supporters too. It was just electrifying being there. I'd never been to an event like this in my life and I've got say that being there is a thousand times more exciting than watching it on TV :) The Hynd boys got second and third, by the way!
The races were interspersed with medal ceremonies, which was great fun. Australia won a few golds which was wonderful and I sang along (quietly) to the national anthem, which made me a bit emotional. I was pleased I'd had the foresight to wear waterproof mascara! And there was a large contingent of Aussies who called out "oi oi oi" at every opportunity!
It was really interesting to learn about the classification of the competition at the Paralympics too. It's a system designed to ensure the athletes are competing with others of similar ability. Swimmers are classified according to how their impairment affects their stroke. S1-10 is applied to athletes with physical impairments, 1 being the class where the stroke is most affected due to the impairment and 10 being the least affected. There's another classification for the visually impaired, which were really fascinating races to watch. The athletes were tapped with a pole as they were approaching the end of the pool so they knew when to turn around. For someone who is not much of a swimmer I was utterly spellbound! And it was great seeing Tom, who isn't normally much of a sports fan, get caught up in the spirit!
We stayed right to the end, cheering everyone on until the last! Olympic Park was quite magnificent at night:
To avoid the crowds at Stratford we walked to West Ham and there were heaps of volunteers lining the way to direct us and wishing us a safe journey home. I cannot praise the volunteers enough - they were unfailingly helpful and friendly and were all obviously very proud to be there. I felt proud to be there too. When I thought about what happened in London just one year earlier, with the riots and all the nastiness, sadness and fear they incited, the city absolutely glowed during the Games. It was a really happy place to be.
And I've got say, seeing these incredible athletes achieve what they did, it gives all my excuses for why I can't do certain things no gravity whatsoever! Being there reminded me that with discipline and hard work you can achieve pretty much anything you set your mind to.
I love the Games! What an awesome summer it was. All the bunting is slowly coming down and the streets are now decorated with autumn leaves. But I'll remember our visit to the Paralympics for a long, long time.
Did you enjoy the Olympics and Paralympics? If you're in the UK, did you go along to any events?