After such an incredible time during the first week of action, we were expecting a more sedate second week. Because of the overwhelming success of Team GB, and the closeness of Europe, tickets to anything were almost impossible to get. Even ‘ground passes’ to the Olympic Park were not available. Luckily we don’t give up easily, and tickets again ‘came our way!’
Our first opportunity to see Olympic Park was on Super Saturday, August 4th, because we had tickets to the Men’s Basketball.
Before training out to Stratford we strolled down to Buckingham Palace again for the start of the Women’s Triathlon. There were 3 Aussies in the race and we saw them all zoom past on the first Cycling loop, after they had completed their 1.5km swim. All 3 cycled past us near the lead, but strangely only 2 came back. We soon got word that Emma Moffatt had crashed heavily and withdrawn from the race. We still got the bronze however.
The Olympic Park was absolutely stunning! It was packed with people and brought back memories of Sydney. The live sites were overflowing but the screens were incredible and the atmosphere was friendly and upbeat. The British were all beaming with pride and almost all of them were sporting Team GB gear in red, white and blue. The group that stood out more than any other was the Dutch, in their distinctive orange. There were even groups in immaculate orange suits.
Our basketball ticket was originally for the afternoon session, featuring the American Dream Team, but we swapped our tickets with an Italian guy for the night session, featuring Australia v Great Britain. And we were glad we did! It was a great match. The Brits were giants, many close to 7 feet. When they cruised out to a 14 point lead, we thought we were in trouble. But in the 2nd half, the Aussies came back! Led by Patrick Mills, who plays for San Antonio, who scored a stunning 39 points, they were awesome! They went on to win by heaps. Our 2nd game was Argentina v Nigeria, which Argentina dominated.
It was back to Buckingham Palace the next day for the Womens Marathon. The weather was a little miserable for this one, but it was great fun mixing in with all the Brits and international visitors. We again scored front row on the rail, on a corner, so we had great views as they approached and then ran away from us. Well into the race we zipped home to watch an exciting finish on TV, with the Aussies unfortunately well back.
One fantastic feature of the London games has been the range of newspapers available. Every morning there is a free ‘Metro’ paper and every afternoon there is a free ‘Evening Standard.’ In order to compete, the other newspapers offer massive Olympic supplements or free giveaways. London’s theatres have been struggling a little too with almost everybody focused on the Olympics. So Jenny and I cashed in with all the offerings at the Criterion Theatre! Stephen Fry has taken over as ‘Chairman’ from Sir Richard Attenborough.
First I spotted that they were doing half price tickets (10 pounds) for an audience with Haile Gebrselassie. So we fronted up to the theatre to buy our tickets and were amazed to find all sorts of other offerings on sale. So over the course of the next four days we saw two fantastic Olympic themed plays (‘Taking Part’ and ‘After the Games’) and had audiences with some very entertaining celebrities. Stephen Fry interviewed Chris Holmes, Britain’s greatest Paralympian. Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry interviewed Haile Gebrselassie and actor Clive Owen interviewed former child soldier/ Rwanda genocide survivor and Rwandan flag-bearer Adrien Niyonshuti. All of these shows were brilliant and it was great to see how the theatre embraced the games.
Our week ended with another basketball session, this time the Men’s Quarter Final game, Australia v the USA Dream Team. We had tried desperately to get tickets via all kinds of sources, without success. At the last hour, Basketball Australia found us 2 tickets, after a pleading email. The game was very entertaining and Australia took it right up to the Americans for the first three quarters. It was a great atmosphere and it was good to see the Aussies, especially Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, mixing it with their higher paid rivals. Probably half the Australian Olympic team were there to watch, including a massive boxing kangaroo accompanied by Laurie Lawrence. Post match we saw Dikembe Mutombo, the 7’2″ NBA legend, along with family and friends of the Aussie team. Excellent night!