Friday, 17 February 2012

Track Cycling and the Olympic Velodrome

Remember last year and all the hassle there was over getting tickets for the Olympics? Some people got what they wanted (or even more than they wanted) while others got nothing? Well I was one of the poor saps who came away empty-handed and I so wanted to see something! So when the London Prepares series of test events was announced I was first in line to score myself some track cycling tickets...and I managed to get some for the World Cup tonight.

I tell you this at 5pm today I could hardly wait to get down to the Jubilee Line and travel on to Stratford; which is not something that I'd usually say despite the dubious attraction of the Westfield Centre! Anyway once I'd hooked up with Lenore and we started walking towards the Olympic Park it was hard not to feel a tangible sense of excitement. I mean the Olympics are only four months away and this was going to be my first glimpse of the much-discussed Velodrome:

I know that it looks like a crisp!
I was not disappointed! As the double-decker bus drew up outside the arena (no walking across a construction site for us!) my mouth dropped open. I can't say that I've been to many velodromes but this one is something else. With the wood panelling soaring over our heads and the brilliant light from inside pouring out (almost too bright to look at) I couldn't wait to get in and find our seats. And when we do - wow! They are literally right at the back, with the gods in row 23, and the view is amazing; as is the atmosphere.

This is one amazing venue
Once the racing kicked off I have to say that we were captivated. Obviously I knew that I'd enjoy the action but Lenore really got into it; and when a GB athlete was competing well then the place really came alive. We were on our feet screaming and shouting, willing our girls and boys to do their absolute best, the whole arena reverberating with emotion. And they did too. With world records being broken and medals of all colours flowing we couldn't ask for more excitement.

Neck and neck in "devil take the hindmost"
The programme obviously made a big difference, in that it explained all of the different races and how they worked strategically, but the organisation was truly key and exceptionally slick. Race after race ticked by (sometimes separated by medal ceremonies and sometimes not) but for hour after hour the events of all types continued and we never had a chance to get bored. In fact tonight came close to matching some of my finest memories of watching cycle racing (such as the Tour de France) and that's really saying something.

The hum of the boards and the sweat of the riders
As the evening drew to a close after near on four hours of racing it was nice to think that we would be getting a break from the intensity but my what intensity! This was a night of fantastic racing and entertainment, phenomenally well organised and entirely gripping. I can very much see myself coming down to a track event in the future as this is such a full-on way to experience the exhilaration of athletic performance up close. So it was with a slightly heavy heart but also much anticipation that we bade goodbye to the Olympic velodrome for London 2012:

Isn't she a beauty?

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