Following our three days at the Olympic games for badminton, tennis and hockey, Janie and I were well up for our Monday at the Paralympic Games a few weeks later.
I booked a day at the ExCel Centre, as we hadn’t got to see any Olympic events there and I liked the spec. for such tickets, which was basically a confirmed booking for one sport at one time, with an open ticket to see any other sport that day, on a walk-up basis, if there were seats available.
We planned to get to the ExCel via North Greenwich Tube and then the Emirates Air Line Cable Car across the Thames. This was mostly an excuse to take a quick look at the O2 (at that point neither of us had been) and to try out the cable car.
When planning our day at the ExCel, Janie had marked off several sports on the schedule which she hoped to see. I suggested that we manage our expectations, as I knew the days had all sold out, so I thought that the “walk up” element might be very limited.
As it turned out, the days had clearly been sold with a view to most people moving around and watching several sports. The stewarding was of the very highest standard, so that each time we asked a steward for advice, along the lines of “we’ve already seen volleyball and are firmly booked to see boccia later, we quite fancy…what do you suggest we do next?” you’d get a sensible answer and help to find a good event to watch at that time.
Very cleverly planned and executed by the organisers and stewards respectively. The upshot was that visitors all seemed to be getting loads to see and every event had a large crowd. By that stage of that summer, believe me, the London crowds knew how to make noise and enjoy watching sport; any sport.
So, we started off with the seated volleyball, which was very exciting indeed to watch – I’d certainly volunteer to watch that again.
Then weightlifting, which frankly doesn’t float my boat in any format but was fascinating to see in its Paralympic form.
In truth, the boccia was the least watchable of the sports we saw, but it is a sport that severely disabled people can play. Or elderly people; indeed a few months later my mother proudly showed me a boccia certificate that she had won at Nightingale, although she didn’t quite remember what she had played or whether she had enjoyed playing it.
We rounded off our day with the table tennis, which was very exciting and watchable. In effect we sort-of got to see two sports in this event, as some of the matches were wheelchair while others were standing. As with lawn tennis, the wheelchair version of the game is quite different from the standing version of the game; both good to watch, just differently so. We watched the table tennis for quite a while before heading home, very satisfied indeed.
We loved this day; it is one of our favourite memories of that summer.