The “London Prepares” events climaxed last night at the opening of the Olympic Stadium in Siberian Stratford last night. We came, we saw and we left early – underwhelmed by the experience.
Which is a little unfair on an event that went as smoothly as could have been hoped.
But is it enough to drag 40,000 people out on a cold Saturday night to test whether they can be herded around a renovated bombsite without incident?
This from the BBC report on the event
Simon Levy, who came to the Olympic Park for the first time on Saturday, said: “It’s not a problem, really. It’s much quicker than the airport and it’s good to be checked because now we know we’re safe.”
Police helicopters flew over the park and armed police patrolled the area.
Adrian Casy, a security guard at the Olympic Stadium, said Saturday’s events were among the main rehearsals for the games, particularly in moving and managing the crowds of spectators from the park and from one venue to another.
“Honestly, so far, so good, although we’re still trying hard to make it run smoother,” said Mr Casy, adding that some spectators were wearing “insufficient clothing” to cope with the weather conditions.
It’s interesting that we now regard the airport experience as a necessary price to pay to feel safe. Perhaps this is Bin Laden’s legacy. I’m less worried by Simon Levy’s supine acquiescence as by Mr Casy’s attitude to his customers – will he get the security guards turning away revellers inadequately dressed.
I got the feeling last night that for the likes of Mr Casy, this event would run even smoother if we could do away with spectators altogether. Clearly the organiser’s KPIs are more to do with risk management than in letting people have a good time. For all the measurables, it’s an immeasurable- how much we enjoy the games, that is how we will judge the games.
The jury is out on whether what we experienced on Saturday 5th May is an indicator of trouble to come or a step along the road to a happy and relaxed games. I suspect that most of us while feeling disappointed, will continue to look forward to July but more in the Olympian spirit of optimism than the logic of what we saw.
Here are the lessons I learned
- Don’t drive in East London when anything is happening in the Olympic Park. Our car was stopped, searched and misdirected. We ended up crawling for an hour to the Westfield Car Park in needles queues.
- Don’t park in Westfield, you may be adjacent to the entry to the Park but you will be directed by big foam fingers round a block or seven.
- There is no good argument for going to Stratford on an Olymic day by car.
- Expect to be searched and leave half an hour to get into the Park the search is efficient and friendly.
- Don’t rely on Olympic catering- at £5.20 for half a glass of wine, £2.80 for instant coffee and £3 for a coke it isn’t cheap and none of the concessions can sell you all three at the same time. Buying a round is a 40 minute process.
- Don’t expect to see much sport if you are seated on Westfield side of the stadium, your view of the finishing line is non-existent unless you are at the top and the TV screens are inadequate.
- Be prepared for corporatism at every term. Visa were last night sponsors but at every turn a “sponsorship opportunity” unveils itself in its full phoniness.
Although I was happy to “play my part” the event last night was distinctly sub standard. The BUCS events weren’t up to much, several of the Olympic hopefuls down to race “did not run” and if the performance of the “military wives” singing the national anthem was a taste of things to come, entertainment could be catastrophic. We stayed for two or more events which were frankly dreadful watching a big screen of a man on an exercise bike for goodness sake. Film clips of Jonathan Edwards in shirtsleeves, audience shivering in Siberia.
The current emphasis on security is so overwhelming the occasion that any sense of Olympic Spirit is at best muted.
The Stadium is alright but it’s no masterpiece and Stratford isn’t a great place to be late at night with kids.
I hope this event is part of the Olympic Comittees’ program of improvement, because the Olympic experience had better be a lot better than this.
Final verdict – even at £20 per head, this was not a value for money experience and no-one in my party were enthusiastic about going back.
Roll on some proper competition to put the bureaucrats and security guards to the background.
Thanks to all the volunteers, the true stars of the show.
- All systems go at London’s Olympic Park (ctv.ca)
- London stages final test events ahead of Olympics (sfgate.com)
- London stages final test events, opens Stadium (espn.go.com)
- London opens 2012 Olympic Stadium (EndtheLie.com)
- Olympics bomb scandal (thesun.co.uk)
- London’s Olympic stadium opens (abc.net.au)
- Olympic stadium opened in London (radionz.co.nz)
- Spectators arrive at Olympic Stadium (itv.com)
- Olympics Stadium Opens Gates To The Public (news.sky.com)
- UK: Nine-Year-Old Girl Opens Olympic Stadium In London (eurasiareview.com)
- Olympic Park: Coe hails transformation from fridges to hot property (mirror.co.uk)
- Olympic Stadium officially opened (telegraph.co.uk)