So who did actually get any tickets in the Olympic ballot and or subsequent first come, first serve? I can put my hand up and say no, although my modest £500 application (and dare I say London postcode) was not as much as some. But as luck would have it I have actually got to experience three of the venues for next Summer’s festivities already and that isn’t counting the football venues. So what are they going to be like? Read on and see.
Horseguards Parade – International Beach Volleyball – 9th August 2011
Beach Volleyball is like a Chas ‘n’ Dave record. We all publicly decree it just as a joke, watching fit women in little more than bikinis rolling around in the sand, but deep down we want to watch it. This is, according to the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, is one of the fastest growing spectator sports in the world. So when the London Organising Committee announced that they were to hold a “test” event 12 months prior to the actual Olympic competition it was too good an opportunity to miss.
In complete contrast to the Olympic ticketing process, seats for the invitational event were secured at ridiculously low prices (£40 for the Fuller Family) and with ease. All we now needed was for some decent weather.
Cometh the hour, cometh the sunshine. On a day when the corridors around Whitehall overlooking the court were full of panicking politicians, worried that England was on the verge of civil war, a fantastically well organised event took place. A 5,000 seater temporary stadium had been built, which will grow next year to 12,000. The builders will have just 36 days to complete the job after the Trooping the Colour which will be quite ambitious. But the views were excellent, the big screens relayed all the “action” and the commentator kept us all informed. Need to understand the rules? Well the FREE substantial programme had all the details.
And what about the athletes themselves? Make no mistake they are bloody fit, and I mean that with a small “f” and not a big one! Legside Lizzy joined us for a while and will testify to their athletic abilities. The first match, an absolute humdinger between the Mexican and Brazilian pairs went to a third set tie breaker with just two points separating them in the opening two sets. The legendary Australians wiped the floor with the oh-so-lovely Spanish girls and the Chinese were simply blooming tall.
Come next summer when the sun WILL shine this will be a cracking event to be at, in a location that sums us London better than anywhere else. If you have a ticket for this event then you are in for a treat. The proximity to public transport will make it a doddle to get in and out of, and the closeness of the West End will mean the parties will continue long into the night afterwards. The Fuller girls gave this a big thumbs up. For me, well I will just keep this cushion on my lap for a few seconds longer!
The Olympic Basketball Arena – Olympic Park – International Invitation tournament – 16th August 2011
We couldn’t miss this. The first venue actually on the Olympic Park that was “open” for an event. Six of the world’s best Basketball nations, and of course an opportunity and the bragging rights to say “I have been there” which of course can go with my wristband to the Playboy Mansion (have I told you I have been to the Playboy Mansion before?).
China (Ranked 10), Croatia (19), Serbia (8), Australia (9), France (14) and Great Britain (not ranked as they haven’t played in the Olympics since 1948) all descended on the Olympic Park to play in one of the biggest temporary venues built for the modern games. The venue will also be used for the Handball competition next Summer and can seat 12,000, with every seat offering a great view of the action. Only the concrete base of the 10 story building will remain after the event and inside it is big enough to hold 42 tennis courts…so you get the picture it is big.
Access to the arena at this stage isn’t the most fluid. Train to Stratford, then a 20 minute walk around the Westfield Shopping Centre construction site before you pass through security and onto a bus, which negotiates the ongoing building work. Pretty it isn’t but it is Britain’s largest every construction project and an ongoing work of art.
Day one saw Australia easily beat the Chinese 71 v 43 with no one really stamping their authority on the game. Match two paired the bitter rivals Serbia against Croatia in a tense affair (Croatia winning 83-71) before proceedings were rounded off by France versus Team GB featuring NBA stars Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls) and Ben Gordon (Detroit Pistons) who were born in Britain, although both moved to the States early in their life (Still more qualified than most of the Republic of Ireland football team under Jack Charlton).
The wow factor for this event is definitely in the outside of the building, located close by “the Pringle” (the Velodrome) and just a short way from the Olympic Stadium. Inside it is rather a standard “arena” feel but it is functional and will do the job without any problems come next Summer.
More photos from the event can be found here.
Lee Valley White Water Park – Lee Valley – White Water Rafting – Sunday 21st August 2011
Every year I try and arrange a day out for The Current Mrs Fuller. A day to say “I love you” and to thank her for putting up with my antics. With the Little Fuller’s visiting their northern roots Sunday 21st August was chosen to be that day. First up was a little matter of West Ham United v Leeds United, then it was a hop, skip and a jump up the A10 to Lee Valley, where the first Olympic Venue to be built AND be open to the public to try is wowing the crowds.
The 300metre course next Summer will host the rafting, canoeing and kayaking events but today you can get a feel of what it is like to go down the rapids in a raft. Top stuff and I am sure she was going to enjoy it? After watching West Ham v Leeds it wasn’t going to be hard after all!
First thing first. This is no walk in the park. It is bloody hard work, and you get wet. Very very wet. There is no avoiding either. You are dunked in the water early on in the safety briefing and undoubtably on one of the three runs down the 300metre course either you will fall out, or worse still as we found out, your raft will hit a rip current and you will flip over.
Safety is the prime concern and you go through a full hour of briefing, exercises and then practicals before your first run down the course. Sitting in a raft with eight others plus your instructor it is 100% action. For the same price as my seat at Upton Park there really is no comparison.
To have a go yourself then click here to book up for all the fun!
So there we have it. Two weeks of Olympic fun. It is almost close enough to touch.