When I found out that Team GB women’s football team was being sent to Coventry after their magnificent win over Brazil, I wanted a piece of the action and experience the games myself. The Olympics had arrived on my doorstep. I kept my eyes on Twitter updates and found out that tickets will be sold at the stadium. Then conflicting tweets started popping up that I’d to call the stadium. Unfortunately due to the name change, it was like finding a needle in a haystack. But moi is a librarian and information search is my numero uno. The lady on the phone was very surprised that I managed to get through. She told me that tickets will be sold from midday. I took the afternoon off.
“The Olympics remain the most compelling search for excellence that exists in sport, and maybe in life itself.”
We parked at Tesco and walked towards the Stadium. It was only 1pm and we saw quite a few fans/supporters lingering about around the grounds. There was a double men’s football match where Japan v Honduras at 17.00 and Senegal v UAE at 19.45. There were lots of security men and policemen about, making their presence felt. We walked towards the ticket office in Car Park D and joined the queue. 20 booths were open and we got our precious tickets within 30 minutes. Yes…we felt like we’d already won a gold medal. We were going to be a part of history.
We walked the opposite direction to leave the stadium. I wanted to check out the the otherwise unloved Rowleys Green roundabout just outside the City of Coventry Stadium which was now resplendent with a set of Olympic rings. I had seen photographs of small queues as spectators braved the busy traffic to obtain souvenir photographs. The traffic had been extra heavy and I managed to snap a few from across the road. We did a bit of shopping in Tesco before heading home. I spent the evening pottering about in the garden, more weeding and dead-heading. I also transplanted the winter purple kale into the raised beds where the radishes and pak choi were. The leeks were doing fine and I put more composts on their bases. I also had a nice surprise when one of my artichoke had a globe. Unfortunately, you can only harvest them when they were at least 2 years old. I’ve planted 4 and they were all doing well. A Cabbage white came fluttering in and started feeding on the Buddlea. Just beautiful. On Friday, I took the afternoon off and Coventry was blessed with perfect weather. We checked the lists of dos and dont’s because we knew that security was very tight. We arrived 2 hours early and already we saw at least 5 busses dropping passengers. We followed the crowd and we could feel the buzz in the air. We were hit by how great the atmosphere was. The volunteers in their pink tee-shirts and friendly smiles were everywhere. We were handed plastic bags where we’d to put in whatever we brought with us.
As we got nearer the stadium, volunteers with big pink foam hands showed us the direction. Spectators with huge bags and rucksacks were led to a different section where their bags were searched and were given a bigger plastic bag. Another volunteer appeared and informed us where our entrance was. And then, he thanked us for being part of 2012. Thank you to him too for making it wonderful.
With every step towards the stadium, every one seemed to be in a happy mood. Even the policemen were smiling. Stalls selling souvenirs and programmes were making a brisk business. We joined the hundreds who were milling outside the East entrance and sat on the pavement. Families were having picnics, flicking through the programmes or, like us, just simply savouring the atmosphere. Everyone was smiling and determined to have a good time. Some were dressed head to toe in Union Jack flags, with face paints, hats. Children were enthusiastically waving the big foam hands and flags. I wore my Jubilee earrings. I wanted to bring my wiggler but it might be confiscated because it has a pole. But seeing the flags everyone’s waving, I should have brought it. Then the gates opened. The sexes were separated because there was a body search. My sling-bag was thoroughly inspected before a female security personnel patted down my body. Then only I was allowed through the turnstiles. And then we were in. This was our second time in this beautiful stadium but it was the first time we entered it through the spectators entrance. Another friendly volunteer showed our seats. We sat in the middle tier between the half-way line and the goal. It was the perfect view to see the goals coming in. Since we were an hour early, there was less than 1k people but they were slowly trickling in. We took the opportunity to do what we love most, taking photographs of everything and anything. And we were not alone. Every one was capturing the moment. The stadium sound system whipped up a party atmosphere beforehand with some really fantastic songs. Then the DJ asked the audience to looked up the screen where the Team GB men’s team pursuit were facing the Australians and the whole stadium cranked up ten fold when we won. Woo-hoo. The stadium erupted again when a few of Team GB footballers came out to wave at the crowd and inspected the field. Then came the referees. When both teams came out for a practice session, a huge flag was unfurled and it rolled from the lower tier to the top tier with much enthusiasm from the crowd. Then there was the never-ending Mexican waves, even the press joined in. It was one huge party and I was thoroughly engrossed in the clappings, chantings and togetherness of the occasion.
20 minutes before the game started, both teams came out. We stood singing the national anthem. I’ve got goose bumps listening to “God Save the Queen”. Team GB was guarding the goal post in front of us in the first half. At exactly 7.30pm, the Japanese referee blew her whistle and the battle began. The match itself was warming up nicely when suddenly in the 12th minute, Team GB got off to the worst possible start by conceding from a set-piece. Schmidt directed a corner towards the penalty spot, where Filigno scored with a glorious half-volley. From our vantage point, it was a goal from the moment Filigno struck it and Bardsley never had a chance. Amidst the crescendo, some one blew a horn trumpet. OMG, everyone turned to look, including the stewards and security people who quickly ran to him. How on earth did he managed to smuggle that in especially when everyone had to go through a body search? The offending instrument was promptly confiscated but thankfully the owner was allowed to remain. Slight boos were heard but quickly forgotten because we have an important game to watch.
With the ear-splitting roar of the crowd on their backs, Team GB tried hard for a quick equaliser. A long shot was saved and a header missed by inches. Midway through the first half they went further behind through a lapse in defensive concentration. Faced with an untidy wall and a goalkeeper leaving her goal unprotected, the Canadian captain, scored the 2nd. goal. We couldn’t wait for the 2nd. half whistle.
I joined the very long queue to use the facilities. And then another long queue to get a bottle of water that costs me £1.50 !!! A cheese pasty sets you £3. I don’t want to know how much the fish and chips were. At the stands, huge balls were thrown into the crowd and they were bobbing up and down the stadium. The Mexican waves was rippling around again. Then the 2nd half of the game began, accompanied with a rousing “God saved the Queen”, chantings, clappings and flag-waving frenzies. The crowd was delirious with excitement when it was announced that the attendance was 28,828 – the fourth highest for a sporting event at the stadium.
The second half was high on effort but low on goalmouth action. Team GB was chasing the game continuously, but they could not summon the organisation or the imagination to break their opponents down. They were simply out-muscled and out-played although they looked stronger at the end. Nine minutes from the end, there was a moment of controversy. Aluko was tripped in the area by Wilkinson only to see the referee waving play on. That really incensed the crowd. By that time, we decided to make our way home. And we were not alone. A lot of people were already leaving.
“Behind every kick of the ball there has to be a thought.”
I walked past the security personnel and the policemen who were lining the walkways. The taxis and busses were already waiting to ferry the passengers to their destination. Everything ran smoothly. Tonight was one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences where the memories will be treasured forever. I was able to strike two things off my bucket list ie to attend a world class football match and to attend an Olympic event.
My colleagues and I had a wonderful time comparing notes. RSC watched the synchronised swimming and beach volleyball. SLA saw the 3 golds that Team GB won in the athletic event. GLW watched the Belarus men beat New Zealand at the City of Coventry Stadium. JG beat us all hands down because she was an audio converter during the rhythmic gymnastic. Each of us agreed that it was the best feeling knowing that “We were there”.
“One of the really important things about the Olympics is, to enjoy yourself, you have to accept that it's different and feed off the enthusiasm of everyone and the inspiration and hopefully that will elevate your performance.”
Bode Miller (American athlete)
Saturday was spent chilling in. Babe was in bed recovering from our adventure. Moi was out and about in the garden. More dead-heading, weeding and mowing. The summer kale was growing like there was no tomorrow. The more I picked, the faster they grow :-). I’d to plant the winter kale in another raised bed because they were climbing out of the greenhouse. It was a bit cramped with the broccoli, spinach, leeks and artichokes. The blueberries were beginning to ripen and I’m looking forward to having them with my cereals and my favourite blueberry muffins. Nom…nom.
On Sunday, we stretched our legs at our favourite playground. The reserve was very quiet. From Baldwin Hide, even the usually vocal Lapwings and Terns were subdued. We managed to reach East Marsh Hide before the heavens opened. It was raining cats and dogs and they were pelting the zinc roof. Thunder and lightning rolled and struck in turns. A few birders entered the hide drenched. And so were these Canada Geese out there.
As soon as the rain stopped, we made our way back to the car. A pit stop at Teal Pool where we spotted a couple of Common Sandpipers feeding along the mudbanks. By the car-park, the swallows were drying out by the electric lines. They will be leaving us soon. Have a safe journey my beauties and we will meet again next year. A couple of Song Thrushes were busy feeding on the ripening rowanberries. It felt like the season was about to turn but I hoped not too soon.
If the first week of August be warm,
The winter will be white and long.
You have been warned. :-)
Below was a Gatekeeper feeding on the daisies which were dotted around the garden. We left them for the butterflies to enjoy.