Last week I achieved a lifetime dream – I went to the Olympic Games.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Olympics. From an early age I would keep a scrapbook – cutting pictures of the leading athletes from Radio Times and following the British medal winners avidly. I’m old enough to remember Mary Peters, Olga Korbutt, Mark Spitz, Coe & Ovett and a host of other great competitors.
Of course, there was never any question of competing in the olympics. I can’t run, have hopeless hand-eye coordination and am probably one of the least sporting people you’re likely to meet. School games was a miserable mix of hockey and netball with maybe a couple of athletics sessions thrown in a year. The one event at which I wasn’t useless was high jump, but at 5’4″ I was never going to get very far. Cricket was my real love, but try playing that as a girl in Glasgow in the 1970’s! The nearest I got was an offer to come and help with the teas.
But that’s never stopped me watching sport and loving the big occasion. A vague plan to go to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was shelved when we decided to move back to Britain from France. Starting my own business two years later meant that neither time nor funds were available to go to Athens or Beijing. So I was thrilled when the announcement was made that London had won the bid for 2012.
Some good fortune in the ballot gave us track cycling and athletics tickets so off to London we headed.
First up was the cycling Individual Time Trial around the roads of Surrey. Going to this (it wasn’t a ticketed event) was a last minute decision but we had a brilliant time. Basically you stand by the road and every couple of minutes or so a motorbike goes past followed by a cyclist pedalling furiously and then a support car. You have no idea what’s actually happening in the race. And taking photos is a bit hit and (mostly) miss.
Luckily, the place we chose to watch (purely by chance) had a screen so once the last competitor had gone past everyone crowded onto the village green to find out who was winning. And even though I couldn’t see a thing (being 5’4″) it didn’t stop me cheering Bradley Wiggins home (no, I didn’t wear fake sideburns).
There was more cycling next day as we headed into Olympic Park and a date at the Velodrome. We saw Chris Hoy win the first of his Gold medals and cheered the team pursuit guys for the whole 4 minutes it took to complete their heat. I still have a sore throat. But the image of the day for me was Victoria Pendleton – obviously stunned at being disqualified, she hugged her teammates, walked over to wish the Chinese riders well and then went to face the media. What a star – so glad she won gold next day in the Keirin.
There was no let-up for us either next day. Back at Olympic Park for the first evening session of athletics. Starting off with the 67-step climb to our seats! I was knackered before the runners even appeared. High up we may have been, but the view was fantastic. Looking down to the long jump pits and opposite the finishing line. Jessica Ennis got the loudest cheers of the evening but the lasting impression for me was Tirunesh Dibaba in the 10,000m. Having run 24 laps at what looked like a fast pace to me, she suddenly sprinted away and left the rest trailing. I couldn’t run 10 metres at that speed.
And then, so quickly, our olympic trip was over. It was back to my sister’s in Kent for a couple of days olympic sofa lounging (gold medal performances from all of us) and a smorgasbord of tennis, athletics and more cycling.
An unforgettable few days for me, a real feel-good time for Britain and hopefully a legacy which means that the next generation of schoolgirls will get rather more opportunities than I did. Especially those with limited natural sporting ability.
Trip to Rio anyone?