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Tower Bridge goes gold – London2012 Olympics

“It was all a very good show”……said with typical British understatement for the fact that Britain and London had managed to pull off one of the greatest shows on earth!! London2012 Olympics and then the Paralympics went off like a dream. Magic, mayhem, Madness, Mandeville, a zip-lining Mayor and the Mo-Bot; leaving us with the legacy of a summer of fun, friendliness and a whole new perspective to the usual stiff-upper lip the Brits are renowned for!!

After months of planning, hard work and a carefully crafted proposal that included what the committee considered would be the legacy of the 2012 games for London and the UK; 6th July 2005 brought the news that London had won the right to host the 2012 Olympics!   The thrilling announcement that our bid had been successful was met with a roar of approval, the crowds in Trafalgar Square went mad with jubilation, magic was in the air and London was abuzz with excitement. People chatted in the streets, in pubs, in offices and at home we watched the news over and over again, the scenes of our London Committee jumping into the air was thrilling. The first time for 64 years.

London 2012

That evening the talk was of the Olympics and Paralympics, 2012 seemed so far away.  The next morning London was shocked to the core and jerked out of her jubilation with the dreadful, terrifying and shocking events that ripped through the underground, killing and maiming so many people, by the bombings that took place.  7/7 was etched forever in the physche of London.   The Olympics left the scene, that was yesterday.

the 7/7 Memorial in Hyde Park

the 7/7 Memorial in Hyde Park

Slowly and surely, after many agonising months that for some stretched into years, London recovered, moved on, changed, welcomed newcomers, said goodbye to others and erected memorials in the name of the people who died on that terrible day.  The Olympic Park took shape,

the Olympic Stadium nearing completion

bridges were built, East London changed like a shape-shifter, the dissenters said it would never be a success – that it was draining the public pocket, the transport system wouldn’t cope – it was too old, too crowded, reams of papers were printed, millions of words compiled, and miles of temporary fencing installed – enough to stretch from Canary Wharf to Weymouth and Portland.

Then suddenly the Olympics were just 500 days away.  Where did the years go?  The Olympic clock was installed at Trafalgar Square, the event celebrated with a party and suddenly the excitement of what lay ahead started to seep into the very fabric of the city. And the people came from far and wide!   The clock become a feature of the square, included in millions of photos….in years to come they would be able to say…..I was there!  Tours of the Olympic Park could be booked, these tickets highly desirable and people came from all over the world to have a look.

London 2012 Olympic Park overview

The days crept by, now it was just months, the dissenters cried foul, the protagonists rebuffed and yet inexorably the days just crept by…and suddenly….100 days to go!!  The Olympic rings were up at St Pancras Station ready to welcome visitors from abroad on the Eurostar, the Olympic Park neared completion, many of the venues already completed; ahead of schedule despite reports of doom and gloom, the Olympic rings launched on the Thames carried on a barge, Olympic rings  were hoisted and secured onto Tower Bridge,

The Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge

and now the buzz on the street was the Torch Relay, not long to go!!!  Bubblegum Pink signs appeared on the underground, above ground;

with a colour like that…you simply could not go astray

go here, go there and @GAOTG, venues arose as if by magic in Central London and some of our favourite ‘places to go’ were suddenly out-of-bounds…..London will never cope!!

the Olympic Rings at St Pancras

Volunteers practised for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the practise run a #BestKeptSecret, Games Makers volunteers trained, the torch designed and 800 created, loved by some, by others not. The costs crept up £9billion all told, word on the street was that the Opening and Closing ceremonies alone would cost £80million, 50 pence coins to commemorate the Games taking place went into circulation, the main sponsors came under fire for not paying tax, their validity questioned; whoever heard of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola sponsoring an event that required peak health and fitness?  G4S fell down at the finishing post #epicfail – the Home Secretary came under fire – the already stretched Army roped in to provide security, and surface-to-air missiles installed on roof tops – controversy reigned…London would never cope!

An ancient ritual in Athens.  Greece, home of the Olympics.  A Princess. A Football legend.  Land’s End.
The Olympic flame, kindled from the rays of the sun flies in on a British Airways plane named The Firefly.  Then Saturday to Land’s End for the start of an 8,000 mile relay! The Torch has landed.

And it’s off – carried in turn by 800 nominated and carefully selected torch-bearers, from one end of our fair land to the other, travelling through 1,019 cities, towns and villages, the Torch relay galvanised Great Britain and the crowds grew and grew as the torch travelled round the country, people lined the streets come rain or shine, heroes and outstanding personalities as well as very ordinary people carried the flame; held high with pride and joy, a human chain that reached the length and breadth of Britain, each Bearer keeping their torch as a memento.  None too soon and the first torch appeared on eBay – up for sale!! 🙂  Commercialism is alive and well.

Parties were held, fireworks blasted off, events and extravagances, and at each stop the crowds just grew and grew, the relay had promised that the torch would pass within a few miles of every person in this country; South, East, West and North….we all had the opportunity to step out and cheer, supporting the runners as they took their place in history; the greatest show on earth.  We all had a chance to watch it go by.

Olympic Torch Relay at Kew Gardens

All too soon and yet not soon enough,  the Torch arrived in London, flying in by helicopter, upstream and up over our beautiful Tower Bridge, and in competition with the roar of the helicopters the crowds cheered and roared!  Hooray!!!!  The torch has arrived! Staying the night in the Tower of London from whence it set off the next day to travel through all 33 Boroughs of London.  I managed to see it at Kew Gardens, up close and personal and then again at Millenium Bridge – outstandingly exciting.

Millenium Bridge

Wenlock and Mandeville appeared as if by magic, not there yesterday, suddenly here today, these controversial characters dotted the city, at famous landmarks, along the South Bank, Albert Embankment, in famous gardens and in quiet corners;  @MOLPresents another London attraction!  Locals and visitors got into the swing of things and started to ‘Stroll’  on Blue, Green, Pink, Purple, Red and Yellows trails to #findWenlock & #findMandeville,

Tourist Mandeville – I Love London 🙂 – me too!!!

The Olympic Clock – one of many attractions in the city to celebrate the momentous occasion.  The days and hours flew by and as the clock counted down crowds would gather each night in Trafalgar Square as the day drew in and evening hour approached 9, then in the space of a millisecond, with a loud cheer and applause the numbers slipped over…..** days, ** hours, ** minutes and ** seconds to go…..

the Olympic Clock at Trafalgar Square

Twitter, facebook and youtube alight with excitement or dissent, millions of photos uploaded to the net, the London Eye blazed bright for a while lit up by the tweets of the nation, the colours pulsed capturing the mood on the street. News spread with the flash of a fire #socialmedia changed the face of the Olympics.

At last the time had arrived and on the 27th July, aboard the Yarmouth Belle, astounded at the crowds already lining the banks of the river at 6.30am on a wet and chilly morning, I followed the Olympic Flame as it travelled on it’s penultimate journey, burning brightly in a cauldron on the Royal Barge Gloriana along the Thames from Hampton Court Palace to Richmond and thence to London Pool.   And from Hampton Court to City Hall, on boats, grassy banks, in buildings, house-boats, lining the locks and bridges, the people of London with flags, brollies and bunting held high cheered and waved as the flame went by.

the crowds waiting patiently to cheer on the Olympic Torch on the Royal Barge Gloriana

At Richmond I disembarked and ran like crazy to the station for the train to central London, I wanted one more glimpse of the torch as it arrived at Tower Bridge, we had the #HomeAdvantage.

Again the torch was greeted by huge crowds, like a moth to a flame ( 🙂 ) the people came, the space around City Hall on Bankside and the walkways of Tower Bridge filled up rapidly as word spread….hooray! the flame is here………and now it was time…..let the Games begin. Inspire a Generation.

The Royal Barge Gloriana arriving at Tower Bridge with the Olympic Flame

And later that night, along with billions of people round the world, we settled in front of our tellies – the best seat in the house! – desperately envious of the 80,000 people who had managed to get tickets for the #OpeningCeremony.  With music, magic, mayhem and Madness the ceremony began.   In turn we were amused, astounded, thrilled and surprised as the wonderful, amazing #OpeningCeremony got under way. Gently and slowly the pace built up as our pulses increased, green fields gave way to the Industrial Revolution, gold rings rose into the sky, the Queen parachuted in with James Bond; shaken and stirred as were we.  What a spectacle!  We had it all, laughter, music, scenes from history, a nod to the Victorians, scenes from the 60’s, the Tor, the Minis, the dancers and drummers, the pace quickened and a loud cheer greeted the parade; the first of the Athletes as they entered the stadium.

Great Britain….Athletes Parade at the Opening Ceremony (and this was as close as I got 🙂 )

Greece as the guardian of the Games proudly in front.  Then from A-Z  the teams from 204 countries marched by, the Athletes excited and jubilant, the flag bearers carrying their country’s flag with pride.  We watched with curiosity as the parade went by – what were those copper petals carried on the arm of a pretty young girl?  #BestKeptSecret   And the crowd just cheered and cheered.

Speeches followed, then the flags of Greece, Great Britain and the Olympic flag were carried in and raised as the crowds just cheered and cheered.  And then the moment we had all been waiting for, a moment suspended in time….finally we saw the flame again; now on it’s final leg, with speed along the Thames, burning brightly in it’s golden torch, a luminescent speedboat steered by one of the most recognisable faces in the world sped beneath Tower Bridge leaving behind a wake of bright light as fireworks exploded above the bridge……. a fitting display for a very important flame.

With a flourish it arrived at the Olympic Park, handed over to a legend of sport, then carried high on the roar of the crowd it arrived in the Stadium, carried round in relay by 7 young athletes and finally, as the world held their collective breath, the next generation stepped up and the first flicking flames leapt high lighting the amazing, the brilliant, magnificent London2012 Olympic cauldron, 204 copper petals rose slowly towards the heavens, ablaze!  You could almost feel the gasp;  what an amazing cauldron.

The London2012 Olympic Cauldron

Fireworks lit up the sky, explosions of colour shooting high! Let the Games begin!

To say that I found the Olympics totally inspiring would be an understatement…I spent most of my free time glued to the TV, and bounding high on a wave of euphoria when finally the days arrived when we too could atend the events I had been lucky enough to secure: Fencing at the Excel Arena and Synchronised Swimming at the Aquatics Centre….in yes!!! wait for it!!!! In the Olympic Park no less!!! OMG!!!

me at the Olympic Park for the Synchronised Swimming

The events were brilliant – @TeamGB shone and shone and shone, GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE our wonderful atheletes put on their best show and we went from strength to strength.  I was bursting with patriotic pride.  Never mind that I had never heard of 90% of those athletes, I saw them now and they were brilliant.  Tears flowed….some theirs, plenty of mine!!! Kept Kleenex in business. LOL

Claire Balding came into her own, a brilliant presenter….we marvelled at the magnificent Mo Farah….the Mo-Bot was born.  I gasped and cried as I watched a horse dance in the Equestrian event, screamed at the TV and jumped up and down like a lynatic, an audience of one but no less excited, thrilled and blown away….yes!!! GOLD at Eton-Dorney.   The Mayor Boris Johnson got stuck on a zip-wire at Victoria Park and Bert Le Clos captured the heart of the nation when his beautiful boy won the swimming event.  We watched records broken, hearts broken, and barriers came down.  GOLD here, SILVER there and BRONZE  everywhere…..and then in the closing event  Mo Farah secured a final GOLD and a place forever in sporting history.

OMG, my heart.

Our excursion to Excel Arena was way exciting, and despite being way at the back and not having a clue as to what was going on, just being there was sheer magic.   The Games Makers were brilliant, guiding, shepherding and answering.  Army chaps smiled and said hello, not quite going as far as a high-five but close enough.

me and Cémanthe holding one of the Olympic torches at Excel Arena

And so those magical days of the #London2012 Olympics went on, thrilling, exciting, fun and fascinating.  A summer like no other and never to be forgotten.  And all too soon the last day arrived, @TeamGB were 3rd in the league of medals….whoo hooo!!!  Way, way better than anyone ever expected…carried through by the sheer determination of the athletes and the joy and pride of the spectators.   The #ClosingCeremony was no less exciting and just as crazy as the #OpeningCeremony albeit tinged with sadness….the time had come to say goodbye.

But fear not……the #Paralympics were on their way……..

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london 2012, olympic games london,

London 2012

#London2012 and I am here!!! Thrilled to be part of what is the cremé de la cremé of sporting events, one of the most amazing events in sports.  I am living a part of history that for some folks (me included) is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We live history every single day, some impacts on us and much doesn’t….depending on where it happens and what happens and whether or not we are involved in some way.

My personal history was written the day the company I was working for back in South Africa went into liquidation…little did I know just how much that was going to change my life; the radical shift that was pending…and I didn’t even know.   My only concern on the day was…”let me into the building I have work to do…don’t have time for this BS!!” (they did and I got on with my job 🙂 ), my next concern was whether or not I would get another job….those were the days of the new South Africa where to be Old/er, White, Man/Woman was not conducive to getting a job and then the worry about the mortgage popped into my head.

Then I had a stroke of genius….I would visit my sister in Ireland 🙂   What a great idea…. I didn’t have to ask for leave..I would be free to go on holiday for as long as I liked!    So I booked my ticket and the rest is ‘history!’…..and here I am living in what is the greatest city in the world and just about to be part of one of the most momentous events of this year…and we have had quite a few!  I bought/ordered tickets for my daughter and myself and thankfully we were awarded tickets for 2 events; one at the Olympic Stadium and one at Excel.

london 2012, olympic games london, oliver golding

Oliver Golding, just before they lit the flame for his section of the relay…up close and personal

The buildup was initially slow, but over the last few months the excitement has mounted and when the Olympic Flame landed in the UK on 28th May, we really got into the swing of things as it travelled around the country, drawing ever greater crowds to watch it go by!   And yesterday it travelled through my home town!!! Hooray.

I was so excited the night before that I hardly slept!!!  I went to bed at about 1.30am; the adrenaline  racing through my body & my mind popping about all over the place.  I finally fell asleep only to wake at 5am. Unable to go back to sleep, I got up, had a cup of tea and a biscuit then dressed and ready to go by 6:48.  I kissed my daughter goodbye.   She is usually out the door well before me (I don’t do mornings) and by 7:12am I was at Kew Gardens….no-one else was there.  I thought for sure I had the wrong place.  I quickly got onto twitter (via my brand new wonderful little mobile computer (aka a phone) and saw tweets about the traffic being interrupted and that they would be handing out maps and info at Kew Station…so I whizzed over got myself a much need cup of coffee and waited.  They got there at just on 8am and map in hand I strode back up the road to the gates…..the Marshalls had just arrived and were amazed to see someone already there. LOL I was in the right place, at the right time…okay, well still a tad too early!

london 2012, olympic games london, kew gardens, olympic torch relay

Kew Gardens gates…..open at 9.30am 🙂

Then while I sat and waited an old gent joined me on the bench and we chatted awhile.  I was too excited to sit still for long so made my excuses and off I went to hang around in front of the gates in the hope they may opened them sooner….they didn’t!

Finally they opened the gates……..and I was in.  By then the crowd has grown as more and more folks arrived. My friend Peter joined me and we set off, taking photos along the way to find a good spot.

london 2012, olympic games london, kew gardens, olympic torch relay, anjula wilson

Anjula Wilson – at Kew Gardens after her stint carrying the Olympic Torch in the relay

Yesterday was seriously awesome…to see the Olympic Torch from such close proximity. No barriers, no policing, just UK citizens and visitors enjoying what is a momentous occasion. To see a flame that has travelled not only across our country but from another land, with a history that goes back aeons…this is a must see. Personally, despite all the hiccups, all the negativity and all the problems we have had…I think we should be proud to hosting this amazing event. #London2012 I am so grateful that I am here to experience it.

One of the advantages of being up that early was that I got to see the river with the morning sunrise.  I have photgrpahed this particular scene hundreds of times, but this was the first time so early in the morning…..I guess I am going to ‘have to do mornings’ 🙂

london 2012, olympic games london, kew gardens, olympic torch relay, twickenham bridge

early morning at Twickenham Bridge

After the Torch had left, we meandered about exploring the gardens and having a look at the new David Nash exhibition and walking around the Treetop Walkway which is seriously cool. After an hour or so we headed over to Twickenham for tea and cupcakes, then strolled along the Thames pathway to Richmond and finally to the station at 5.45pm. What a brilliant day.

I have posted some photos of the Olympic torch and Kew Gardens on my facebook page.

 

Just found this new post with a brilliant photo of the Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens

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