Monday, 6 August 2012

The Olympics with mixed feelings

Olympic rings on barge

At Greenwich it is wall-to-wall Olympics, Olympics, Olympics.  There are Ambassadors dressed in the now familiar pink and purple everywhere, pink signs to direct the hordes of spectators to the equestrian events, roads divided off into different lanes, buildings freshly cleaned and painted, all green areas manicured to perfection and groups of police, army and navy personnel strolling around; lovely for those who like a man – or woman – in uniform!

Olympic stall

It has been very strange working in Clearing Reception, with part of my time spent at Avery Hill and part in Greenwich. Once I leave the immediate surroundings of Greenwich Park with all the Olympics fever, I feel like I am entering another country.  I only live an hour’s walk from there and as I meander my way back home after work, gradually the streets become shabbier and quieter.  My street is almost ghostly quiet – the impact of so many locals leaving to avoid all the disruption.  As a scooter rider and cyclist I notice the increasing number of potholes the further I travel from Greenwich – evidence of the uneven distribution of our council taxes used to smarten up certain areas at the expense of others. As a former business owner, I feel sorry for those traders suffering decreased takings as people avoid areas expected to be very busy with Olympic traffic. I have such mixed feelings about it all.  When London won the bid to host the Olympics just as the world slumped deeper into recession I was one of those sceptics concerned with how much funding would need to be diverted from other areas to fund it all in an “enjoy now pay later” culture quite alien to my upbringing of living within one’s means. Despite the hype and excitement, I have not changed my views.

In contrast to our Maritime campus, the Mansion site on our Avery Hill campus is very quiet - the usual summer quietness when students have left for their summer break.  This is the first year we have had a Clearing reception area open at Avery Hill and it is an ideal place for visitors to pop in for advice or help to complete their applications if they would prefer to avoid the crowds in Greenwich.

Big screen bill board

To my great surprise, I enjoyed the Games Opening Ceremony. In preparation, Him-at-home and I had an evening picnic, the ingredients sourced during my lunchtime stroll through Greenwich Market.  We ate wonderful fresh sushi freshly made by ‘T’ and Laslo followed by strawberry custard tarts from Saint Sugar of London.  We ate sitting by the Thames entertained by a succession of graceful boats sailing past as the sun began to set.

Sailing ship

After watching the aerial acrobatics by the Cutty Sark, we washed our picnic down with a welcome pint of locally brewed Meantime bitter at the Old Brewery.

Aerial acrobatics

Acrobat on ropes

By this time the area around the big screen was filling with people gathering to watch the ceremony.  We all oohed and aahed at the flypast by the Red Arrows. 

Gathering for the show

Still with an hour to wait and nowhere comfortable to sit, we wandered up the hill to watch the screen in Blackheath instead, preferring to do the steep climb early rather than later.  As we walked up past Greenwich Park the familiar horsey smells reminded me of countryside adventures with my daughter.  We arrived at Blackheath to a wonderful festival atmosphere just as the opening credits rolled. The exuberant crowd entered fully into the spirit of the show, greeting different segments with cheers, laughter, and applause.  Following the much enjoyed segment with Her Maj and James Bond, the crowd rose to their feet as the opening bars to the National Anthem rang across the green. It sounded like as football match as they sang along lustily while enthusiastically waving their Union Jacks.  It was quite an experience for those of us holding more republican views; we stood by, quite bemused by it all.

By the time the athlete’s parade began our feet were sore from standing for so long and with our ears ringing from the rather dodgy unsynchronised sound system, we headed back home intending to make it in time for the fireworks.  However the parade went on for so long that after our half hour of fast walking followed by a rush to switch on the telly, they were only up to the ‘E’ countries so we sat comfortably with feet up and a nice cup of tea to watch the F to Zs and then the closing extravaganza.  It was well worth the wait and as we watched on TV, we could hear the real thing faintly in the background.  With the bangs of fireworks and the roar of the crowd ringing in our ears, we tumbled into bed at 2am after awarding the ceremony a gold medal for its British eccentricity factor.

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