June 20 2013 Latest news:
by Kate Scotter, Olympics correspondent
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
With the Olympic Games now in full swing, Olympics correspondent Kate Scotter headed down to the Olympic park.
Olympic fever has gripped the nation – and a day out to the heart of the action provides a fun-filled trip for all the family which does not disappoint.
Heading down to the Olympic Park, the buzz and excitement can be felt almost immediately as the train from Norwich approaches Stratford station with face-painted youngsters, families wearing GB tops and Games-goers double checking their plans for the day.
On leaving the station, an army of enthusiastic Games Makers, people who have given up their own time to help make the Games happen, are ready to direct the hordes as they make their way from the station to the Olympic Park.
Security into the park is like a military operation, with scores of entrance points, making it as smooth as possible to get into the 2.5 sq km site. Walking in, one woman exclaimed just how impressive the set-up was.
Again, the volunteers and the drafted-in troops help get your memorable day off to a good start with their warm welcome.
And as the crowds walk into the Olympic Park, the stadium makes for an impressive backdrop.
A ripple of excitement runs right across the park as the masses head towards their destination.
The friendly and informed Games Makers, dressed in their immediately- recognisable purple, orange and beige uniforms, are on hand every step of the way to help make sure people know where they are going.
And the sheer number of people is incredible as they busily get on with their business in an almost ant-like fashion.
Having seen the number of empty seats on the television, many people were heading to the ticket kiosks in the hope of buying more tickets. They were told tickets could only be bought online – although some tickets are resold after people leave a venue.
Meanwhile, the Orbit may have been controversial in its style but the rollercoaster-esque structure has proven popular, with tickets to go up the 114-metre spiralling sculpture, designed by Anish Kapoor, sold out yesterday.
Talking of rollercoasters, the excitement felt within the park is akin to a theme park – only instead of thrilling rides, the main attraction is some of the best sporting action in the world, providing its own nail-biting and heart-stopping entertainment.
And instead of the sound of screams, walking past the venues, you can hear an audible cheer as the crowds get behind their national teams.
Crowds flocked near to the entrances of venues including the velodrome to catch glimpses of the athletes. Belgian, French, Russian and New Zealand fans could yesterday be spotted going in and out of the Pringle-shaped velodrome and even a mechanic or two could be seen working under a walkway.
It is these experiences which you just wouldn’t get anywhere else and what you cannot get by watching the events on the television.
Walking around the park, it is difficult not to have a smile on your face as you spot Olympic athletes from around the world, marvel at the different fancy dress costumes – there was a Tweety Pie, a man dressed in full stars and stripes from the USA and another dressed head-to-toe in Union Flags, to name but a few – and to see visitors wearing their national colours with pride.
People were having photos taken with Australian swimmers, TV crews were interviewing those who stood out amongst the crowd and everyone seemed to be having a genuinely good time.
The number of Brits seemed to outweigh any other nationality and it was fantastic to see just how many people were carrying union flags, sporting GB tops and getting into the Olympic spirit.
It isn’t just young people either, people of all ages have made the effort to be there to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the London Games.
Away from the actual sporting venues – which look just fantastic – there’s entertainment to amuse the crowds. A group of Coca Cola entertainers sing, dance and perform around the park, people can have a go at hockey near the Riverbank Arena, there’s a bandstand and a little running track has been painted onto a section of grass where youngsters can be seen taking part in fun challenges including the classic wheelbarrow race. The wildflowers, green spaces and the river running through the site add to the beauty of the park.
And an impressive number of people could be seen picnicking, chilling out and soaking up the sun’s rays as they caught up with some of the live action on big screens either between events or as part of their day visit to the site.
The lack of branding seems bizarre as people tuck into sandwiches bought from the simply-named Deli. And McDonalds has a strong presence with two restaurants – one which is said to be the biggest in the world –within 10 minutes of each other. The fact that people can only pay by cash or Visa didn’t appear to be causing too many issues and the monster queue to get into the London 2012 megastore showed just how keen people were to get their hands on some official merchandise as a keepsake from their unforgettable day.
As people exited the park, there were smiles aplenty as Games-goers excitedly retold tales of the events they had seen, spoke to loved ones on the phone about their day and stopped and took final photos of the Olympic Park.
It is an incredible place where athletes’ dreams will either be fulfilled or crushed – and for the hordes of people flocking there during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, everlasting memories will be made.
See today’s newspaper for an eight-page Olympics supplement