What An Awesome Day !!!

Rare As Hen's TeethIt’s 7:30am and the Famous Four are standing on Hackbridge railway station waiting for the train to take them to St. Pancras. Getting tickets for the Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby, or Murderball as it is also known, is very exciting and although we are laden down with cameras, picnic goodies and the like, we are raring to go.

The newly refurbished St. Pancras is a really beautiful Victorian station, now restored to its former glory and heaving with like-minded Paralympic visitors as the train trundles to a halt. We are surrounded by Games Makers, volunteer guides, who are all keen to help us find The Javelin, which will speed us on to Stratford station and the Olympic Park.

The Olympic ParkThe weather is amazing, cloudless blue skies and beautiful morning sunshine that promises to warm away the chill from the air. We join the throngs of visitors queuing to get into the park, but the electronic scanners make swift work of checking bags and belongings and within minutes we are strolling towards the main stadium.

I, like many others, was worried that the UK Olympic authorities were going to make a bit of a dog’s breakfast of organising the games. I could not have been more wrong. The park and all the stadia are simply breath-taking and the Games Makers are everywhere, to make sure that your visit goes smoothly.

The first Wheelchair Rugby match of the day, Great Britain v Belgium, starts at 09:30, in the Basketball Arena, a long walk from the entrance. We take a quick break at McDonalds on the way, but are seated in good time to watch the match. Not quite as violent as we had expected, but amazing for the skill of the players as they fly around the court in their bespoke wheelchairs.

Wheelchair Rugby

Great Britain beat Belgium in a close fought contest, but sadly this is only one of the playoff matches for the 5th to 8th places. No medals on offer for the warriors in this game. With the best part of an hour to wait till the next game, we head off out into the sunshine and find a shady spot in Park Live East, opposite the huge TV screen.

The Basketball ArenaWe manage to make a serious dent in the picnic supplies before heading back to the air-conditioned comfort of the arena. It’s barely midday, but the temperature is soaring into the high twenties, so the chill of the arena comes as a welcome change. We settle down to watch Sweden take on, and beat, France. The level of on field violence is matched only by the fanatical support of the hundreds of yellow and blue clad Swedish supporters.

The OrbitThe games fly by and soon we are back out in the scorching sunshine. This time Steve is on a mission to get to the Olympic Megastore before the spectators emerge from the main stadium. But our timings are off, and as we make our way, we are engulfed by the outpouring of 80,000 or so athletics fans. Retail plans are quickly shelved.

Steve’s dismay is only compounded by a group decision to walk around the park and take in as many of the sites as possible before anyone wilts under the blazing sun. We follow the City Mill River, with its shady bridges, between the main stadium and The Orbit viewing platform. The whole riverbank is covered in wild flowers, laid out to represent the old plan of the demolished buildings.

Royal Barge GlorianaDoubling back, we pass the Royal Barge Gloriana, moored up in the Great British Garden. Such a beautiful craft and in a beautiful setting, apart from the piles of pallets stacked behind her. Bumble takes an age trying to get just the right shot, but the throngs of visitors walking past make it impossible.

Then it’s back to the rugby, USA v Canada, and this one really is a battle. Canada race into a 7 point first quarter lead, and look to be cruising, but The States make a couple of tactical changes and start to claw back the deficit. In the final few minutes they draw level and look to be heading for victory, but Canada pull out all the stops, and with seconds to go to the final whistle, take a one point lead that wins them a place in the final.

The day was rounded of in fine style when we were treated to some stunning sunset views from the train. Bumble tried once again to capture them, but the amateur art scratched onto the windows and the trackside scenery conspired to make her fail. The rest of the evening was spent consuming a very welcome Chinese meal and watching some of the highlights on TV, before we all retired exhausted from the days activities.

It was an amazing day, a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the Olympics in our own country. Now it’s over to Brazil to emulate the huge success of these games. Makes you feel proud to be British.

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