Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympics Day 11: Go faster

It was another long day for me on Tuesday, with a very early start to head to Olympic Park on the high-speed Javelin train from St Pancras. the crowd control was amazingly efficient, and I never felt like I was actually waiting - always moving, right through security and into the park. So I had some time to wander around and look at all the venues there before heading to the velodrome for the morning session. Note that today all of the photos are my own.

And what a session it was. First up were heats in the men's Keirin, which Olympic champion Chris Hoy (in the front of the pack at right) led in fine style, while always acknowledging the support of the hometown crowd. This is one of the things that makes velodrome competition so exhilarating: the cheers circle the venue with the cyclists. And it's a relatively intimate venue as well - only 6,000 seats, so there isn't a bad view in the place. Both photos at right were taken from my seat, which was quite a way up.

Before the Keirin riders returned for their repechages, the women took to the track for the omnium individual pursuit element - the omnium is like the decathlon of cycling, with six events. At the end of this, Britain's rising star Laura Trott (right) got the biggest cheer of course. And it was great fun later in the evening to see both Hoy and Trott win gold medals in these events.

As for the Olympic Park itself, this is a real stunner. I've never been in this part of East London before, and when you're inside the park, it's hard to imagine that this was derelict land seven years ago when London was awarded the Games. (Although you can see it when you walk outside the park!) And there's no comparison with any of the other Olympic Parks I've seen (Sydney, Athens, Beijing and to a lesser extent Atlanta, where the concept of a park was only starting to emerge) - this is a true place of beauty, with attention to detail in the planting of native, wild plants around a river that runs right through the middle of it. There's plenty of space to sit in the grass and watch the Games on gigantic screens.

It'll be fascinating to see what happens here after the Games. Several venues are temporary, with the stadium, velodrome and a much smaller aquatics centre as the main remaining structures. It's possible to spot where roads are planned to run through here, which will make it much more accessible. It's also right next door to Europe's largest shopping mall, so that's rather handy as well. And the surprisingly large Olympic Village will become rather desirable housing after the Games.

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