Once I beat it out of the four wall confines of my hotel room and on to the sidewalk my daily choice was run the footpath gantlet of humanity or take the DLR train five minutes to Olympic Park? You see the OP was the first place to be for me, not only did it enclose 2.5 square kilometers of 9 venues, 3 free fun zones, 1 biggest McDonalds in the world, 1 grassy outdoor kick back relax area, 2 big screens, 1 IBC, 1 waterway, 1 bird sanctuary, it held my home away from hotel, the MPC where I began my daily pursuits.
My chosen point of entry into the OP was the Stratford International Station gate. Check Point Charlie would give me the uncompromised twice over and set me free to hop one of the classic red double decked Press buses that snaked the parameter of the OP, destination the MPC. While in route to the MPC our sweeping view was full blown “behind the scenes” barbed wire topping rock wall fencing, entrance machine gun toting military guards, panorama cityscape of the athletes village, golf carts and trucks delivering people and goods non stop to venues.
Mornings, we, my computer and I were locked down to a desk in the MPC waiting on the press conference while surfing the official information highway of “info+/myinfo+” an insider program for the press created by Aptos the European leader in technology. Info+ and myinfo+ 24/7 furnished results, athlete biographies, schedules (we now had hard copy and digital) records, medals, message boards, daily news, weather, transportation and when dinner is served, not really, just joking, no dinner. info+/myinfo+ terminals were in venue pressrooms and if I wanted to buck up I could access the program on my own computer too cool. It felt like I had just been cloned into 20 mini me’s.
After the press conference I would stash my computer in a locker and headed out to the wonderland of venues. The OP was built for the Games and beyond on a nasty industrial wasteland, more on that later. The OP now held 9 venues, the Aquatics Centre (swimming), the BMX (Olympic only) the Copper Box (goal ball), River Bank Arena (soccer), Velodrome (cycling), Water Polo (Olympic only), Basketball Arena (wheelchair basketball and rugby), Eton Manor (wheelchair tennis), Olympic Stadium (track and field). I spent so much time in the OP I felt like a local ans may have developed an accent.
The second multi, multi sport set up was the ExCeL a 600 meter in length building on London’s Docklands that was a mire 20 minute train ride for me.
This center built in 2001 for international conferences, exhibitions and concerts housed 6 Paralympic events, judo, powerlifting, table tennis, sitting volleyball, fencing and boccia. On more then one occasion I spent the entire day inside this massive superstructure with endless supplies of food, drink and entertainment.
Just down the road from the ExCel, another 15 minutes on the DLR train, was the Royal Artillery Barracks. I never made it to this venue used for shooting and archery, but I saw it on TV if that counts as being there. In the same neck of the woods were the Greenwich venues; North Greenwich Arena for wheelchair basketball and Greenwich Park on the River Thames held equestrian events.
I spent part of a day exploring Greenwich Park, London’s oldest enclosed Royal Park dating back to 1433. Here the Cutty Sark was docked so I had a look-see at the classic British19th century three-masted “clipper ship” known for its speed, she was a beauty.
I was able to get to one remote venue and by remote I’m referring to an hour plus travel time, by bus or train, one way. Brands Hatch in Kent an international car-racing tarmac track was used for the cycling road races. This venue was not very spectator friendly for someone using a wheelchair. Wheeling over dirt roads cut sideways on
rolling hills paired with a golf cart shuttling to viewing zones was too labor intensive to be enjoyable. Eton Dorney for the rowing events and Weymouth and Portland for sailing which was said to be “the best natural sailing waters” in the UK were so far away they require an overnight stay, something not in my budget.
My time spent at venues was in the press tribune areas. These tribunes are considered the best seat in the house, centrally located and created to accommodate the needs of the press so they could do their job with ease, write about the Games. The tribunes had power outlets, monitors for camera coverage, runners supplying updates and results consistently, were secluded from spectators, clear view of the playing field and easy to access. Unfortunately London dropped the ball when it came to wheelchair accessible press tribunes. Views were
obstructed, runners forgot updates for us, spectators over ran the areas, outlets and monitors were non-existent and the tribunes were difficult to access. No whining here I'm pointing out that as good as London was there were bits missed and maybe missed because someone with a disability doesn't fit reporter hat, yet.
It’s an easy fix to pick up the ball dropped in London. Don’t wait until the Paralympics begin, as London did, to create accessible press tribunes, build them as the venues are built and pass the ball, she shoots she scores!
Blessings to All, In Joy Candace
© 2012 Candace Cable
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