London 2012: Travel guide to day one of the athletics
West Ham correspondent Dave Evans visits the Olympic stadium with just 79,999 others to see the first morning of athletics
A day at the Games really should be an Olympic event. But if it was, like so many gallant Brits that I saw in the Olympic Stadium this morning, not only would I not have won a medal, I would not even have qualified for the next round.
Armed with my Olympic train travel card I negotiated the short trip from the office in Seven Kings to Stratford without any problems at all, but already there was trouble brewing.
My brother, who had somehow gleaned the tickets for the first morning of the athletics from the website of the Mauritania Olympic Association, was caught in problems on the Central Line and could only get to the stadium via West Ham.
The problem is that he was on one side of the Olympic Park with the tickets and I was on the other without any way to get through the security.
A simple situation? Well, no actually. The only solution apparently was for me to go back to Stratford Station, get a train to West Ham and then walk the 25 minutes to meet him at the other entrance.
Never mind, these things happen and from then on things ran much more smoothly, with the welcoming hellos of a Games Helper ever 20 or so yards helping us on our way.
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The dreaded security was a doddle. My metal packet of pills set off the x-ray machine just to show how sensitive they are, but we were through and outside the stadium itself within five mintutes.
And what a stadium. As you go through the entrance, the scene is a cacophany of glorious colour and noise. The groans and cheers of a hundred nationalities blend into a wall of sound that is so different from the racuous din of the football crowds I am usually ensconced with.
My ticket cost �120. So what did I get for that sort of money?
Well, as I am getting on a bit in age, that is a lot of money in my book, for �120 I would expect to be taking part in the Olympics, but as the hammer and the shot put qualification seemed to already be full with competitors, I had to settle on watching the events unfold.
It was a little disconcerting to see that the second half of the final straight, including the winning line, seemed to be in front of the watching press with hardly a punter in sight.
Of course, the media have to see, I am one of them usually, but so big an expanse? Quite so much of the glory metres where gold and silver are decided? I’m not sure.
What I did see right in front of me was the water jump for the steeplechase, which I suppose is not a bad thing to witnes, especially when one of the athletes in the heat clipped the barrier and fell into the water with the ungainly presence of a penguin down at London Zoo.
This was my first time at an athletics event and they don’t come much bigger than this one, but I have to say that I was left a little disappointed.
The highlight of the day was clearly the efforts of Jessica Ennis in the first two disciplines of the heptathlon. Her efforts and those of her team-mate the brilliantly named Katarina Johnson-Thompson were cheered to the rafters.
Christine Ohuruoghu sleeked round the 400m track to qualify with the grace and the ease of a panther, while Dai Greene lit up the stadium with a magnificent performance in the 400m hurdles.
As to the rest, your guess is as good as mine. The triple jump, where our British girl qualified superbly, may well have been held in the Velodrome for all we saw of it.
It was on the far side of the stadium and rarely did we get to see it on the big screen, while the commentary over the loud speakers on that event was strangely scace.
Similarly the shot putt and hammer qualifying barely got a mention and though you could see it happening, it seemed just an event that was being played out while we were supposed to be watching other things.
The heavens opened at one point to show how open the stadium is as most of us got a good soaking, but with the event starting at 10am and not finishing until after two, most people would have felt they got their moneys worth.
One moment showed the real difference between an Olympics crowd and a football crowd.
One labouring athlete in the steeplechase clattered into the penultimate obstacle and crashed to the floor clutching his leg.
Now, a football crowd would have roared with laughter and would have chanted a no doubt ‘witty’ song at his mishap. From this crowd there was an exclamation of shock, a general rally call for him to get up and finish the course and then a round of applause as he was finally led away in a wheelchair.
They have a better class of spectator at the Olympics.
The day’s activities over it was outside to sample some lunch and there was certainly plenty of choice. Indian, Asian, Thai, Mexican, Salt Beef, Caribbean, Fish and chips and pie and mash to name but a few.
We opted for the thai green curry which came with a drink and was priced at a fairly reasonable �10.80. I was expecting more and it certainly tasted excellent.
Souvenir programmes are a tenner, with a daily programme priced at a fiver, while two megastores for Olympic souvenirs had punters queuing out of the doors and round the corner.
We waited in line and finally got in after about 15 minutes, while the service tills inside were all swift and well manned.
If you are a West Ham fan, I don’t think there is much to worry about in moving to the Olympic Stadium. I was nine rows back and would have been behind the goal and if the playing surface was moved to just in front of the steeplechase water jump, that seems a lot nearer than being behind the goal at the New Wembley.
That is in the future, now the real business of the athletics starts and under lights and with the finals to come, there are probably few better places to watch the Games.
Entertainment Value: 8