Wow, what a week! The London Olympics have been sensational so far. We arrived in town with only a couple of tickets but have been able to pick up others and get really involved. After Sydney we thought London would be great, but it has been incredible.
The day before the Opening Ceremony we strolled down to Buckingham Palace to see the arrival of the Olympic Torch. We were front row on the rails outside the gates and only two metres away. As soon as it passed through we rushed over to the fence and there were Prince Harry, Will and Kate, not up on the balcony as everyone expected, but less than 20 metres away!
For the start of the Men’s Cycling Road Race, we again had front row on the rail near Buckingham Palace. We watched the start and then returned to our hotel to watch the race develop. The Brits thought they were unbeatable for gold and this was their mistake. Everybody else was against them! It was amazing to see all the ‘Team GB’ gear, face masks and even trademark Wiggo fake side-burns.
We returned for the finish with Carol and David Morgan, Rower Chris’s parents. By this stage the crowd had built to an estimated one million people, perhaps the biggest crowd ever to watch an Olympic event! Stewie O’Grady was a creditable 6th and no medals for the Brits.
The next day, Jenny’s birthday, we had tickets to the Beach Volleyball. We watched the start of the Women’s Cycling Road Race on the way there.
While Jenny was in the loo I told an official that it was Jenny’s birthday and gave him our seat numbers. Just before the start of the 4 matches (2 men’s, 2 women’s) we were personally escorted to the front row of the VIP section!! Unfortunately the Aussie girls lost narrowly but it was a great atmosphere.
We had been hoping to go to the rowing to see Bryn Coudraye in the Eights and Jenny’s former student Chris Morgan in the Quad Skulls. But everything was sold out and tickets were just not obtainable. Imagine our delight when Roger and Liz Coudraye contacted us - we got the message at 11pm the night before - with 2 spare tickets! We enjoyed a fantastic morning out at Eton Dorney and saw lots of the Aussie crews qualify for the semis and finals. But the best part was sitting in the stand allocated to family and friends of all the crews, near the finish line on the ‘other’ side of the river.
There were absolutely NO tickets available for the finals, the following day, via any source, even through the Aussie support team organiser. We decided we would go out to the course the next day anyway, and try our luck! With no tickets returned and no ‘no shows’ we held up a small sign with ‘WANTED: 2 tickets.’ Thousands of people filed past us until finally we were approached by two guys who had won their tickets in a Marks and Spencer employees competition. We paid them two thirds face value and were amazed to find ourselves in the 8th row, right on the finish line! We even had better seats than Princes Will and Harry, who arrived some minutes later! Unbelievable.
We sat amongst Marks and Spencer employees and a crowd of 35 000 and saw history being made. Britain’s first gold medal of the games!! After a 5 day gold drought, the crowd went crazy.
Chris’s team qualified for their final, the Aussie girls grabbed silver and Bryn’s 8 was involved, people said, in the closest 8′s final in Olympic history. In finishing 6th they were 0.7 off bronze and only 3 seconds off gold. An incredible race!
James McRae, ex Murray Bridge, was also in Chris’s boat and was formerly coached by our neighbour Ron Mobbs. We caught up with Di Mobbs and James’s mum Chris the first day.
We met up with Roger, Liz and Bryn and headed off to the Royal Oak in the nearby town of Windsor for the celebrations. It was just an amazing party. The 8 crew, families, supporters, rowing legends including James Tomkins (triple gold medallist, Beijing flag-bearer and Goulburn Valley fruit lover) spent the next few hours enjoying themselves. The food and drinks flowed.
The locals got involved too! They were clearly thrilled to have Olympians amongst them and everyone was soaking it up. The Brits made the mistake of putting up a Union Jack. The Aussies responded by pulling out heaps of Australian flags, green and gold, banners and balloons. We decorated the entire beer garden! Then the songs started! All the old favourites: Waltzing Matilda, We Are Australian, etc. The Brits responded with Chariots of Fire but then we trumped them with God Save The Queen… she’s our Queen too. Such a brilliant time.
And so ended Week 1.