London Revolution series at Lee Valley Velopark

HDR of the Velopark
HDR of the Velopark

The day has finally dawned. I booked tickets for the Revolution Series cycling event in what was the Olympic velodrome a long time ago and they have been sitting immense draw ever since, I magnet to get task side status because I booked early. A of A&C picked us up at 08:45 because C was under the weather and we got the 09:15 from Berkhamsted all four tickets were only £43 all the way to Stratford International, that seems like good value for money. The train was on time and we walked the back road to St Pancras where we noted that the new Crick Institute building looking like it will be finished soon, although it did have quite a few missing tiles on the face of the building.

At St Pancras we jumped on the Javelin train to Dover but got off at the first stop which is Stratford International which is right under Westfield shopping centre. We stopped for a coffee and something to eat at Westfield as we had plenty of time to spare, and had heard that the prices at the venue were inflated. Helen had the healthy option of fruit yoghurt and a couple of pastries which when it turned up did not seem quite so, I had scrambled eggs on a muffin with spinach and asparagus, A had veggie breakfast and the other A had some sort of toasted meat and cheese thing with a small portion of chips. Westfield is my idea of hell on earth it is a shopping centre and an expensive one at that all the designer brands are there as well as a load of other shops which I would never frequent. I guess they must cater for tourists as they run a service along the lines of if you can;t carry your shopping hand it in and we will arrange fore it to be delivered to your hotel.

Revolution Series 2014 Lee Valley Velopark Laura Trott

Suitably replete we headed to the Olympic Velodrome which is now call the Lee Valley Velopark, it is about a 10 minute walk from Stratford International train station. It was a shame that the whole park was not open as we could have had a look around as we had some time to spare. I turns out that it will be opening on the 9th April so a return trip would be in order, as Helen never got the opportunity to see the park during the 2012 Olympics. The Velopark is a nice looking building slightly raised on a mound, and clad in a wood panelling that has faded a bit in the two years since I saw it last. The doors did not open until 12:00 so we went and had a look at the Olympic rings on one of the hills, and took some pictures.

When the door did open we queued up and were soon at the entrance. Velodromes are usually a controlled environment and is kept very hot. Warm air is conducive to fast times not only because it helps keep the athletes’ muscles loose and flexible, but also because warm air is less dense than cooler air, decreasing the aerodynamic resistance the riders encounter. That explains why we had to go through and air lock at the entrance, i.e. they let some people into an area then close the outside doors before opening the internal doors.

HDR of the Velopark Track

We soon found our seats which because I had booked early were right on trackside this meant that the cyclist came close enough for use to reach out and touch them, which of course we did not. You could feel the slip stream they created as they shot past. We were at the event for three hours during which we saw a variety of events including some UCI counting events. My favourite was the Sprint which involves a certain amount a cat an mouse as the cyclist vie for position sometimes balancing on their bicycles to remain at a standstill waiting for the other competitor to make a move, it is better to come from behind in the slipstream than lead out an opponent.

The sun was still out when we left and reversed our journey home, stopping for a bite at St Pancras, then being messed about at Euston with the train being called on platform 11 then when everyine was on 11 waiting changed it to 13. We still managed to get seats together. We all agreed that it had been an enjoyable day and would love to do it again.

A French slam dunk and Ozzie rules

The Haynes family

Through a couple of good friends A&C got the opportunity to go to an Olympic event (basketball), they had a spare ticket and I am always up for opportunistic days out because I am not good at sorting things out in advance. A&C picked me up at 05:30 on the main road through the village, it was was not very bright out as it was overcast and very early in the day. We parked up at Berkhamsted station and timed it to perfection to get the 06:01 to Euston.

The Olympic tickets cover your travel to the event so we only needed to but a return to Watford junction. The train was a fast one and we were soon at Euston, the train was fairly quiet at that time in the morning so we had no trouble getting seats together. From the station there were signs leading us to the Javelin train service from St Pancras, which runs every 10 minutes and shuttles between St Pancras a Stratford station. The signs took us via the back roads to St Pancras rather than along the busy Euston Road, interestingly they has painted some silhouettes  prints on the pavement, it took us a couple to figure out what they were all about. Each one had a name, city and year, it was obvious that the cities were all Olympic venues, but not all the names were familiar. They turned out to be representations of some famous Olympic feats, the silhouettes we the foot/hand outlines representing  the moves required to do the event. For example ones had lots of foot prints clustered together at many angles, then further down the street was the outline of a ball connected to a handle and chain representing a hammer, the the track and field.

London 2012 Olympic Basketball Arena fish eye view

As we arrived at St Pancras (only a five minute walk) we were directed by official Olympic helpers in their purple Olympic uniforms, towards the platform for the Javelin Shuttle service. We stopped off at Sourced Market for a coffee and I chose a couple of Chelsea buns for lunch later, because I had not made any sandwiches. A was carrying a really heavy rucksack, which probably contained enough chocolate to feed everyone in the basketball arena. Our timing was perfect we boarded the train with about a minute to spare, and seven minutes later we were at Stratford.

At Stratford you exit the station almost directly into the Westfield shopping mall, with all it high end fashion shops. We walked through the mall and out the other side where the entrance to the Olympic park awaited us. It was not yet 08:00 but the park was open and the queues at security were short. We finished off any water we had in bottles, but kept them in our bags as we had been told that there are water fountains where you can fill them once inside the Olympic park. Security was a breeze we hardly had to wait and the army guys on duty were courteous and friendly, whilst x-raying our bags and scanning or bodies for guns.

London 2012 Olympic Velodrome

Once in the park the helpers were doing a great job corralling the crowds to the events, using load hailers, which they seemed to have given to people who had a sense of humour which was great. They seemed to be attempting to have one side of the routes for one direction and the other for the other direction, i guess when it gets busy this will really keep the flow of people moving. The last thing you want to people walking against each other as one event leaves and another event arrives, which will just slow right down. We head towards the Basketball arena at the other end of the park in our own time as we had plenty of time to spare.

Once in the area of the arena we found a water fountain to fill our bottles and a WC for a comfort break, then we headed to the entrance where again without any significant queue we had our tickets validated, and headed into the arena itself. We had seats in block 201 row 20, which basically meant we had fairly good seats, we were up in the high section but fairly low down in the section, at one end of the arena. We were close enough for A&C to get good pictures with their 200mm zoom. Soon after we sat down AH arrived the 4th person in our party. AH is very devoted to Olympics spectating he had taken 2 weeks off work and had tickets for at least one event everyday, except for the opening ceremony. It seemed like a labour of love to me, he was getting up early and going from one event to another, including one which involved getting to Dorny lake by bus via trains to London he lived in Princes Risborough, he had managed only 22 hours sleep in the first 4 days.

London 2012 Wiggins Way

Basketball is quite and animated event with music and a compère  getting the crowd going, and cheerleaders and dancers wheeled on during time-outs and between ends. The first match covered by our tickets was France v Lithuania, which was won by France. The game had a fairly high scoring rate and the Lithuanian’s racked up more fouls than the French. Towards the end of the match the French seemed to raise their game and kept the lead until the time ran out. The support for the French was nearly non-existent I did at one point here some people singing “Allez La France” but it was not that loud compared to the background noise, it could hardly be noticed. Compare that to the Lithuanian’s who cheered loudly when they had the ball and booed and whistled when the French had the ball, which was not very sporting. I notice later that a Lithuanian supported had been arrested and fined at an earlier match against Nigeria for racist chanting, which is a bit reminiscent of the trouble at the Euro 2012 football earlier in the year.

Next up was China v Australia and to make things just a little bit more special for us, the mum, dad, and brother of one of the Australia team Aaron Haynes, were sitting in the row just in front of us, we became the Aaron fan club corner, and they kindly explained some of the finer points of the rules of basketball. Australia were in control through out the match and never really looked in danger of losing but it was not a whitewash. The score line was lower than the previous game and so was the number of fouls. We left the arana after the game it was around13:00.

London 2012 Olympic Park Aquatic centre

Next we went for a wander round the park there were a few more people about than earlier I guess due to the fact that we were between sessions now not at the start. We went to the merchandise shop but the queue was so long we gave it miss. The  ArcelorMittal Orbit was impressive in that it was tall but as a piece of art it did nothing for me. We were near the BMW centre when it started to threaten rain so we popped in for a look the got corralled into the corporate video before exiting via the roof to get some shots of the view across the park.

After some food, thanks to A for making egg and tomato sandwiches which went down really well, we headed slowly round to Wiggins Way the name that has been given to the grassy area around the large outdoor screens which show the events. We found a fairly good spot with a good view of one of the screens, and settled in to watch the events in the Velodrome, it was a strange feeling to be watching an event with the building where they were taking place also being within view. Great Britain won a couple of gold medals, and at arounf 18:30 we decided we had had a long enough day and headed back home.

London 2012 pavement art

The journey home was just as good as the way in there were a few more people on the trains but we still managed to all sit together. As we got off the train at St Pancras A noticed that Stella McCartney was just a few yards ahead of us, I tried to get a photo but it came out blurred. On the train we chatted to a couple of Germans (father and son) over for two weeks going to many events, and two other guys originally from the east end who had been to the Velodrome which made us fell envious. I got home at 22:00 and went straight to bed it had been a long day, but an excellent one, thanks to A and A&C for the experience.