I think I knew deep down that it would be a fruitless endeavour. The euphoria surrounding the Games carried on to the final day and the closing ceremony and we decided to get up to town to see something. Having failed in all attempts to get tickets for anything Olympic, and after my experiences as a Games Maker, thought it would be nice to do something ‘off duty’. So it was to watch the Closing Ceremony broadcast from the Olympic Stadium, due to start at 9.00pm.
So train to Waterloo, decided on Victoria Park, Mile End, Tower Hamlets, whatever. It is the first (and probably only time) I’d ever been on the ‘Drain’. This is the underground line from Waterloo to Bank, known as the Waterloo and City line and is normally used by bankers and city types to get to ‘The City’ in a hurry. It’s an odd line compared to the rest of the tube network, because it only has two stations and the train runs between the two of them and no-where else. When you look at the labyrinthine workings of the tube system in its entirety, the Drain is simple in the extreme. I could say it has to be so as not to upset or fool the bankers but I won’t go there. Anyway from Bank on the dreaded Central Line (it’s always getting signal failures and shutting down), to Mile End and a 15 minute walk to Victoria Park. There was humanity everywhere and it didn’t bode well when we joined the queue to get in. Victoria Park was one of the places (including Hyde Park and Woolwich) which were providing ‘free’ access to big TV screens, courtesy of BT, where the Olympic experience could be shared with thousands of others who hadn’t got a ticket. A fruitless exercise as it turned out:
We queued for 30 minutes and moved forward about 30 feet towards the ‘security’ check. At this rate the whole show would be finished and we would not see anything and have to turn round immediately to go home. The queue was good-humoured but restless, with multiple rejoinders from a Tannoy’d announcement that no food or drink or sharp objects were allowed through the security check. This was repeated about every 3 minutes or so and became very annoying. I should preface the next bit with the knowledge that I know about security checks and safeguarding the public, but really was the overkill at this event absolutely necessary? The queue was moving forward inexorably slowly and we were getting more frustrated by the minute by the lack of forward movement. The security checkers were probably being extremely fastidious about their jobs and searching every nook and cranny of everyone’s possessions for contraband. The fact that you could buy alcohol and food inside the park was I suppose irrelevant to the searches; were they looking for nasty stuff, or illicitly hidden food and drink? I personally think the latter, so that the operators of the park concessions could make the maximum profit selling their perhaps less than savoury wares, rather you take in your superbly assembled and packed picnic. There’s obviously no contest, a rat-burger from a greasy spoon at inflated prices, or a lovely fresh sandwich or salad and bottle of £4.99 plonk from home? No, I get it about security, but I thought on this occasion, perhaps it was somewhat zealous, after all everyone there wanted to celebrate the Olympics, didn’t they? But I suppose that’s the way of world in these unsettled times, any mass gathering will require someone to check that they haven’t got nefarious means about their person. It’s all to the credit of our fellow queuers that they remained cheerful and willing to wait some time to get in. We decided after 40 minutes enough was enough and made our way out. I stopped and asked a ‘supervisor’, read ‘bouncer’ how long would it take to get through security. His reply was about 1-1/2 hours. By that time it would be all over bar the plaudits, so it was a correct decision. I then tried a different tack. I had taken my accreditation (Olympic security pass) with me just in case. When proffered to the security man to see if I could get in via the gate reserved for the great and the good, he said yes: result! Except of course that Fran, not having one, could not go with me. So we trudged away from the entrance, out of the park and along the pavement back towards the tube. A couple of lads stopped me to ask them to take their picture with one of them’s camera, which was very trusting of them, I could have run off with it, but instead complied and took said photo. ‘You been to the park?’ queried one. I told them the queue was 2 hours long, oh they said, we’ll go anyway. Must be local with time to spare. Anyway we found a pub and bought drinks and watched some of the closing ceremony on one of the 6 large screens they had in there. After about 45 minutes it was getting very crowded and hot, so decided to make our way home, in not very good temper. Luckily I had recorded the closing ceremony, but it’s not the same as being there.
There is always the Paralmpics I suppose.