The Longest Day (so far)


The whole country is Olympics mad, it’s as if nothing has been happening in the world except those events at all the venues.  Kofi Annan has resigned, European markets have fallen and Gore Vidal, the political outsider and man of letters has died. My favourite quote of his?:  ‘It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’  How apt for the Olympics or indeed any competitive endeavour. He wasn’t much of an author apparently but he had a waspish sense of humour and was related to the Kennedy family, who he didn’t get on with.  But his bon mots live on.

I’ve come to the conclusion that being a volunteer is harder when you are retired. I’ve got out of the working habit, but it all ties in with being an Olympic Games Maker.  This particular blog is a day late for reasons I shall explain later.  When I volunteered all that time ago, little did I realise how much it would take out of me. I must be walking, I don’t know, many miles a day, as I said before the Excel is huge, over 600 metres long and it takes 20 minutes or so to walk from end to another.  This plan gives an idea of the layout:

At the left hand or western end is the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station Custom House serving the entrance of the Excel. At the other eastern end is DLR Prince Regent which is the exit so that the pedestrian traffic flows one way in and one way out of the Excel.  The central area or Boulevard is where all the entrances to the various Event Halls are so the pedestrian traffic is to-ing and fro-ing all along this area. At any one time it can hold 70,000 people and this where I got caught out last night.  Having watched the Medal Ceremony for the Ladies Table Tennis (after I had finished my shift), I thought that’s it, I’m off home, having started at very early doors this morning:

Unfortunately another two events decided to finish at the same time so there was potentially 25-30,000 people in the Boulevard at that time.   Just like road traffic, there was a traffic jam and the exit towards Prince Regent was chock-a-block back to about a third of the length of the Boulevard.  I tried to join the queue and get to the DLR but it wasn’t moving. I thought, no this is going to take a long time, so walked back to the workforce rest area, which is near the entrance to Excel, grabbed a coffee, sat, and watched the people below for about half an hour.  Judging the time was right, leaving another couple of Games Makers I was chatting to, I made my way back to the exit having covered a return distance of probably a mile just to do so. No wonder I felt knackered having already walked a lot the rest of the day!  The DLR was fairly light, but the Jubilee line train was pretty full, and again I got into conversation with a chap from Lincoln who had been to the Olympic Park to watch something, can’t remember what but he was most interested in my uniform, what I was doing and how come I got involved. The feedback we get from these people is just as important as that which we get from the punters in the event areas. Always very positive, and always gratefully received.

Yesterday I was again in the Table Tennis arena, this time not involved directly with the spectators but doing the equally important, but quite tedious, job of monitoring various entrances into the restricted areas where the public are not allowed.  The good thing about this role is that the people you are dealing with are mostly sympathetic to the fact that you are stood, or sometimes sat in a position where often you might not see anyone for some time, and offer you drinks and snacks to keep you going; always welcome.  Luckily we are rotated around so you don’t stay in one place too long.  It was a long day and actually not doing much makes it feel longer, just like in my working days when I remember the same feelings of how the long day was dragging.  That’s not the case here though because in certain positions quite a lot is going on. I saw the interview by an American television network with the winning Chinese lady in the table tennis right in front of me.  London mayor Boris Johnson was going to go past but I never saw him, and finally I saw the medal ceremony so it was good day, but very tiring.  Actually the shifts have worked out well, in that the day off I have today is just right and needed, recharging the batteries for my fairly short shift on Friday when I am in the fencing arena, although I can’t for the life of me see some heavy blokes nailing fence panels to upright posts, sorry poor attempt at humour.

So Gold at last for the host country! Congratulations to sideburn Brad, the rowing girls, the shooting guy and the canoeists.  I don’t like the emphasis on the ‘table’ of medals and whether we are going to get more golds than last time, or the time before or another country. Does it matter? Surely just taking part is enough and if medals come out of that, so much the better. I also find the jingoism present in the media over the top. Why is the Olympic television provider  concentrating almost exclusively on GBR? Yes, I know they show other countries matches, but some of these have been quarter or semi finals getting into a fascinating position only for the Beeb to switch to a qualifier where the plucky Brit has come 8th.  Yes, yes I know there are 556 ‘streams’ (why can’t they call them channels) showing ‘all the sports, all the time’, but has anyone really got the time to watch them all?  Answers on a e-mail postcard please.

So to answer why this blog is a self-imposed day late, when I said I would write it every night? I was just too damn tired and thought well, with a day off I’ll do it then, and I have. No complaints please.  Night night.

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About cliverh

Retired aerospace engineer, first with the Royal Air Force and then BAE Systems. Now enjoying a variety of activities and not getting bored. I was a Games Maker Volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics and a volunteer at the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. I intend to blog about what interests me.
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5 Responses to The Longest Day (so far)

  1. See you just can’t get away from people from Lincoln wherever you go, nice blog mate.

  2. bjtraveller says:

    Tired??? What a surprise and you have only just (relatively speaking!) retired! Is Fran seeing ANYTHING of you?????

    • cliverh says:

      BJ, Oh the Olympics has taken but a minute fraction of my time. Yes actually it is tiring walking all day up and down, up and down. My poor old plates are screaming at the end of the day. Fran takes me into the station every day and I catch the bus home (with my 60+ bus pass) but after 40+ years we don’t need to be joined at the hip.

  3. Peter says:

    Thanks, Clive. I’m getting more sense of the crowd and spirit of the occasion from your piece than from the television
    Peter

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