Monday, 10 September 2012

The greatest show on earth...

Some people saw the Paralympics merely as an opportunity to enjoy the park after missing out on ‘the real Olympics’. To share in the euphoria after the success of British athletes such as Mo Farrah and Jess Ennis. While these feats were amazing, I’d argue that Sarah Storey and David Weir picking up 4 gold medals each was far more impressive. The outstanding achievements of athletes like these who have had to overcome disability made the Paralympics of 2012 ‘the greatest show on earth’.  And ‘Wheelchair Boy’ was there.

The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. It was not your typical London weather so as the crowds entered Stratford; it really did feel like a holiday somewhere on the Mediterranean which was being taken over by tourists. But, one look in the murky River Thames confirms you are still on British soil. After taking a few pictures for Facebook, my first stop was the largest McDonalds in the world. It was nearly lunchtime so very busy but the amount of tills and staff meant that there was no queue. Impeccable service at McDonalds? That’s a first.

Our event was Goalball in the Copperbox but it didn’t start until 6 so we had hours to kill. The ticket allowed us entry into Eton Manor, the Basketball Arena and the Riverbank Arena providing there were seats left. We decided to go and watch some football (well I did because I can’t get enough). As we made our way to the Stadium, we were able to soak up the warm, friendly atmosphere as well as opportunities for some more photos. It was great to see and hear fans from other countries coming together to celebrate sport. The great thing was that everyone was smiling and seemed happy to be part of it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the football. The two teams, Ukraine and Brazil, were made up of players with various levels of disabilities, from Cerebal Palsy to brain injuries. The quality of football on display was second to none, particularly Brazil’s magical counter-attack to make it 1-0. For me, it was like a dream. Superb football, a great view, lovely arena and the sun was shining down on the pitch. All that was needed to make it perfect was some barely dressed women, burger, chips and unlimited drink.

By the time we got an expensively priced Ice-Cream and enjoyed the live entertainment on offer (three piece Mexican band), it was time to watch the Goalball. You probably haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t) and it is a little different from any other sport. Basically, there are four mini goals stuck together at either end of the pitch which is about the size of a volleyball court. The aim is to throw the ball in the opponent’s goal. Simple enough. But, the players are blind. It is interesting because there is a bell in the ball so the crowd have to stay quiet. However, some games can be too tactical with hardly any goals and so get a bit boring to watch. So, after the second match, we decided to leave.

Before setting off for home, we went up the Coca- Cola Beat Box which was disappointing at first. All you do is touch things and they make a noise. Plus, most of the ‘instruments’ were too high for me to reach so I was not that impressed. But, the top was worth it because you get a picture with an Olympic torch. Coming down was good aswell because you get a Coke (even though I hate fizzy drinks) and a break dancing/rap show. The best thing was that it was all free and everyone loves freebies, even if it is an extravagant marketing ploy.

I am so glad I went to the park and shared in this historic occasion. I didn’t get to see any of the 120 medals for Team GB but that didn’t mean I enjoyed myself any less.

My Paralympics adventure didn’t end there. Look out for some more blogs about the ExCel and my interview.

Bye for now! 

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