Not content with getting Team GB Football tickets, my mate David went online and managed to secure 4 tickets to see Olympic Boxing at London’s Excel Arena.
I have been to Excel many times over the last decade for the uber-geeky ‘London Expo’ bi-annual conventions and was really excited to see how the riverside venue would look with an Olympic influence.
I accompanied David, his wife Jane and daughter Isabelle on the train to London Bridge before switching to the Jubilee Line which took us to Canary Wharf; both the train station and tube network was almost devoid of people other than those going to the event. It was very cool to see the transport system so well managed and relatively empty; in all honesty it was a little bit eerie!
Passing through Canary Wharf from the tube station to Docklands Light Railway (DLR) takes you above ground and allows you to take in the giant Hong Kong-style skyscrapers which define the area; I have always loved going on the DLR as it is run by an automatic train control system (no driver!) and the route takes you through some truly unique modern and industrial sights.
Arriving at Custom House (The DLR station for Excel), we were greeted by the fantastic Olympic Volunteers which offered great advise and enthusiasm at every turn to help people get to where they were going. I was really impressed by the general organisation of both events that I have been to.
I genuinely believe that the volunteers have really made the games as their positive spirits have clearly set a great example to everyone following the games.
Excel is situated right by theRiver Thames, huge dock cranes adorn the banks both sides and remind people of the industrial history of the area, specifically the Royal Victoria Dock. A statue now sits in the landscaped forecourt and depicts the dockers who sweat blood for Great Britain; it was fitting given that Team GB has been doing just that over the course of the Olympic Games.
We walked up the corridor to get to the Boxing area, passing Judo, Fencing and Table Tennis as went. How I would like to have seen the Table Tennis!
Once inside the boxing reception area, we grabbed a few souvenirs before taking our seats around the ring. We had fantastic seats, the atmosphere was exceptional as almost 10,000 people got behind each and every boxer regardless of their country of origin. I had felt the true spirit of the games at Old Trafford when the crowd championed the UAE against Uruguay, but the buzz at Excel took things up a notch. It was mental.
Most people in the crowd chose a fighter, always dressed in blue or red and got behind them as if they were a member of Team GB. Football-style chants brought great humour to the proceedings and you could tell that the boxers were both shocked and humbled by the unexpected support that they received from the crowd.
It’s moments like this which make you proud to be part of the human race.
We saw 5 flyweight bouts and 5 light heavyweight bouts. Flyweight reminded me of watching Brian box when he was a teenager and seeing him punch some Ginger kid up in the air for fun, light heavyweight is probably my favourite because the fighters are at the top of their game and are able to demonstrate exceptional technique using their superior physique.
The boxing on show was all of a great quality, the defining moment for me was seeing Damien Hooper of Australia pack Marcus Browne of the USA in good and proper.
David and I were using the empty seats in front of us to make enough noise to scare off an army of Zulu’s, even Isabelle got in on the act whilst Jane sat in awe as the Aussie out-boxed the American who was clearly the favourite; much to the chagrin of several American fans who were draped in the Stars and Stripes. “USA, USA, USA……oh!”.
I left the Arena absolutely buzzing for London 2012, I felt a pang of genuine regret when I realised that I did not have any others tickets to enjoy other events, however I quickly reasoned with the fact that so many tried tickets but weren’t able to and I felt fantastic that I had been part of the games having been lucky enough to go to both the Boxing and Football.
A great day.