Friday 31 August 2012

Let the Games commence!

Spots v Stripes. Does that mean anything to you? For many months before the Olympics, Cadburys had a Spots v Stripes game  on selected bars, with codes you could enter online for weekly draws for tickets to the Olympics. Their Facebook and Twitter pages sometimes gave you chances to collect extra points for entry into the draws, as did their occasional email newsletters.

I didn't collect very many points, so was absolutely amazed to get an email telling me that I had won tickets to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics which was held at the Olympic Park this week. I decided to invite Claire, who blogs over at Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else to come with me.

 We got to the Olympic Park about 5.30pm as instructed and found everything as superbly well organised and the helpers as friendly and happy as everyone had said during the main games. By the time we got to the main stadium, everybody had huge smiles on their faces, you just couldn't help it.

As we went to our seats, we were a bit puzzled to be handed apples but told not to eat them. We were given programmes and raincapes too.

Our seats were amazing,  just 6 rows from the front, in between the cauldron and the flagpole for the Paralympic flag. The lovely crowd helpers were smiley and chatty and willing to take photos of us all. 

The programme started an hour earlier for us in the arena than for TV viewers at home, with some music and dancing and film of the background to several of the people taking part including the pilot who flew over at the very start - that plane with the lights underneath and flames coming from the wingtips was amazing and the pilot is a former soldier who was disabled in Afghanistan. We had the apples explained - they were for a Mass Crunch - and practised signing "I am what I am".

The show itself was just totally fantastic. I don't know what it came over like on TV but it would have only been possible to see what the camera was looking at. when in fact things were happening all over the stadium and you got dizzy trying to work out where to look next! I'm just blown away by the fact that I've seen Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Hawking on the same night. The athletes from all the countries got rousing receptions, but the roar and spontaneous standing ovation when the GB team came in was like nothing I've ever experienced before.

The entertainment was fabulous, irrespective of whether or not the people taking part were able bodied or disabled, a sign that maybe with a bit more acceptance some of these performers could become mainstream entertainers rather than having to find niche slots. I'd been worried that there would be all sorts of talk about courage and bravery, and it might end up sounding patronising, looking down on the Paralympians rather then looking up at what they can do, but the recurring message of the evening was Stephen Hawking's "Look up...." and we really came away with the feeling that the whole event was a celebration of looking up at all athletes for what they CAN do rather than getting mawkish and sentimental about the ones who can't do the same as able bodied ones. I think the performance of Ian Dury's "Spasticus Autisticus" really got everyone stirred up to share the feelings of anger and frustration at some attitudes to the disabled and I hope these games will do a lot to change that.

Once it turned dark my camera wasn't man enough for the job AND it ran out of battery, so there aren't as many photos as I would have liked although I did manage to use my phone to snap the cauldron.

By the time we'd cleared the stadium and got back into town, it was almost 2am and in a haze of exhaustion we went back to the wrong hotel! I blame Travelodge for having two identical looking hotels less than 100 yards apart. We had to open the hotel door with our room key which of course didn't work, and luckily there was a member of staff who had popped out for a smoke and told us how to get to the right hotel. But I bet when he saw two weary women stagger up at 2am and try to get into the wrong hotel he thought we'd been out for a heavy night on the booze!

Thank you to Cadburys, to everyone involved in the production and most of all to the athletes who will be working so hard to give their own best ever performances  over the next few days. I had a night I will remember for the rest of my life!


  1. Looks amazing, glad you both had a good time. I would love to have seen the cauldron IRL.
    Lynn x

  2. It looks like you had a fabulous night

  3. What an amazing evening for you, Stephen Hawkins is a class of his own, everytime he spoke I got goosebumps xxx

  4. Ha! I love that you went to the wrong hotel - I would *definitely* do something like that. Looks like you had a brilliant time!

  5. Pooh wow, it looks amazing. This is one experience you will never forget.
    Thanks for linking to the Paralympics blog he. Sorry it's taken so long to visit.

  6. Oh man. Sorry for the typos. I hate commenting on the mobile it will never let me edit comments and then they come out all garbled.

    I was going to say glad it's given me the chance to visit your blog!


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