(Click and double click on the photos below to enlarge them)
Getting to Wembley on final day
Final day in the football promised sunny and hot in Essex and delivered as I left Leigh-on-Sea for Wembley via train and underground. The privatised rail services in this area are run by c2c, which I take it translates into Sea to Sea. Walking down to the station I was among families making their way to Hadleigh Castle in the next suburb to the west where the mountain biking is taking place. My niece had snared tickets for this so she and her family were already on their way to the station where a series of red double-deckers were lined up to take them to the venue. When I got on the train there were little groups walking all the way in the sunshine. The route through fields overlooking the Thames estuary and the Essex marches had toilet tents and stopping points, while a blimp flew overhead.
This is all part of the mammoth organisation which is this decentralised Olympic Games. It is London 2012 certainly but many activities are taking place in the suburbs and beyond, including the football in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Coventry and Cardiff as well as Wembley.
The tournament has really caught on among the British public. There are long queues for returned tickets, probably from the corporate allocation, in London. On the way I met a family from Upminster who missed out on tickets but have been glued to the television for the duration. They were off to the city and would probably finish up at one of the outdoor centres with big screens which exist in most places. On the underground I met a volunteer writing up his diary so we agreed to exchange notes after it is all over. Wembley Way was already thick with people going to the game, or even to the rhythmic gymnastics which were taking place in the Wembley Arena round the back of the stadium.
I set off deliberately very early as the game does not kick off till 3 pm and was at Wembley just before noon. It was a breeze through security but then they did not open the press working area till the clock struck 12.00. It is this mixture of open welcome and volunteers who cannot do enough for you and the pettifogging changes to promises made in brochures that press facilities will be open all day which irritates. Once inside I decided to settle into the seat in the press box (tribune they call them following an Americanism of Latin origins) staying just under the roof line so that the sun was not beating on my head all day. Normally I start in the work area inside but given that this is a final there will be a rush to grab positions nearer kick-off and so it is worth getting in early.
They were trying out the sound system long before the game. I think it is only a matter of time before someone challenges the stadium organisers for physical damage caused by the noise pollution which results from this in every moment when there is not football being actually played. It has become a complete nuisance.
On the other hand they were showing the mountain biking at Hadleigh Castle on the screens at the ground so I could get a sense of what my niece and her family were watching on the ground. This is a seriously dangerous sport and the miracle is that there are not more injuries resulting from the way these competitors throw their bikes and bodies down cliffs and inclines one would struggle to descend even with climbing ropes.
All part of the London 2012 experience.
Brazilians on Wembley Way.
Mountain biking at Hadleigh Castle.
All photos: Roy Hay.