The helpful man at the ticket office at Abbey Wood assured us yesterday that he would be open ‘first thing’ this morning. Now, to my mind, ‘first thing’ is in time for the first train. We arrive an hour after the first train to find the ticket office closed. We accept the challenge of the self-service ticket machine. It turns out that a ticket that cost £10 yesterday from the ticket office is £17.90 by this method. This is made worse by having engaged fellow campers/athletics goers in conversation and discovering that their Oyster card tickets were only £1.90! I even have an Oyster card at home – odd I know but I really do – somewhere. For those who don’t know me very well, I should perhaps explain all these issues with public transport. Despite growing up in what is now outer London, I currently live somewhere with two buses a week and I am 16 miles from the nearest station. I would scarcely recognise public transport if it came up and bit me, so it always engenders a certain degree of panic when I encounter it. I refuse on principle to pay nearly twice what I paid yesterday, so we get tickets to Woolwich Arsenal and then DLR ticket from there onwards – total cost £7.60 – result!
Once on the DLR, there is an unusual fellow train passenger who is singing loudly. I am not the only person who is surreptitiously looking for what used to be called the communication cord. Having treated us to a loud rendition of ‘Penny Lane’ in honour of us reaching Abbey Road station (no one dares point out that he has the wrong road) the gentleman alights and our fellow travellers heave a collective sigh of relief.
Today, we have timed our arrival better and join the short queue just as the gates are opening. We are a little further round the course today on the back straight again and slightly nearer the front. First up is the heptathlon long jump in which Katarina Johnson-Thompson acquits herself much better. We are sat in an ideal position for this, right by the run up. This is followed by the men’s steeplechase heats and pole vault qualifying. We also see heats of the men’s 400 metre and 110 metre hurdles and women’s 400 metres. Although we aren’t told this at the time, GB’s Jack Green qualifies for the semis as a fastest loser in the 400 metres hurdles. The heptathlon javelin is also completed, with a season’s best by Katarina. The men’s marathon is being shown on the big screen at intervals. Exciting to see Britain’s Callum Hawkins in the lead on a couple of occasions. Bizarrely the crowd in the stadium clap and cheer at this, even though they can’t hear us! Slightly less getting up and down to free people to purchase beer this morning but we do suffer from someone behind us knocking coffee over, which trickles down under seats for several rows soaking the bags of the unwary.
We spend the afternoon in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I have passed on the opportunity of bringing a pasty with me, in the hope of acquiring something at the stadium. After all I have seen the full range of what is on offer as people squeezed past me yesterday with their various purchases. After the event finishes however, all the food outlets in the stadium are closed. I can’t help feeling that they are missing a trick here. Clearly it is the done thing to stuff yourself silly during the performances, annoying your neighbours by forcing them to continually bob up and down. I leave my companion with the heavy bag and venture in to the town in search of sustenance. I am so out of touch with crowds and city life. Most food outlets have forty strong queues. In desperation I settle for a slightly weird ham and cheese ciabatta, which is heated for me. I am a good ten minute walk back to where I have secreted my possessions and partner in crime. I do manage not to get lost but by the time we are reunited, the roll has cooled considerably and I have worked up an appetite for additional food.
We attempt to time our walk back to the stadium but it seems spectators are more on the ball for evening sessions and the queues are already forming in strength. Although this is our cheapest band ticket, this is probably our best view yet. Oxygen is required to reach our seats but we are high up above the big screen in clear sight of the finishing line. Next to us are seats reserved for the athletes but as so few events have finished there are not many taken. Only the Japanese and Australians are out in force. We don’t recognise any of them and it seems rude to stare too hard at their chests to read their security passes. We enjoy watching the pre-event preparations and picking our favourite volunteer job. This morning there was long jump pit digging over and watering. Tonight there is shot put ball polishing. Chris fancies driving the remote controlled cars that retrieve the javelins. An officious looking volunteer ‘Runner’ is supervising synchronised hurdle laying and lane marker/block siting. We could hear her un-amplified voice from the top of the stadium. I know the acoustics are good but….. I wouldn’t like to be the person responsible for lane 7, who was late on parade.
In this seat we are relatively free from having to get up and down for fellow spectators as the row behind us is empty and most people are climbing over and exiting via this. Instead, there is the need to rise for numerous medal ceremony anthems. This is more noticeable than usual as ceremonies are also being held for several medals from previous championships that have been reallocated following the discovery of drugs cheats. Host Iwan Thomas is giving a speech about how important it is for the clean athletes to be rewarded. Tonight’s re-awards include one for Jessica Ennis-Hill who is now the 2011 World Championship gold medallist. The irony of immediately following this with the medal ceremony for yesterday’s men’s 100 metres, won by the twice banned Justin Gatlin, is not lost on the audience and there are audible boos. In contrast, there is an uproarious reception and standing ovation for Usain Bolt, who is receiving his bronze medal.
Finally some athletics but a disappointing evening for Team GB. Our women’s pole vault hopeful Holly Bleasdale, comes sixth. We have no representative in the women’s javelin or men’s shot put. There are three women in the 100 metres semi-finals but it is a very strong field and none make the final. The men’s 400 metres heats follow. For GB, Dwayne Cowen qualifies as of right and Matt Hudson-Smith as a fastest loser. Not so much luck in the 110 metres hurdles semi-finals, where Andrew Pozzi, who performed very well in the heats, loses out. Katerina Johnson-Thompson ran a great 800 metres in the heptathlon but had sadly left herself too much to do and finished in fifth overall. The men’s 800 metres semis were more successful, with Kyle Langford making it to the final. The evening finished with a very close women’s 100 metres final, with surprisingly no Jamaican medallists and we were poised for a quickish get-away. Us and the majority of the remainder of the stadium. We leave from bridge 5 as instructed and find ourselves herded to Stratford station, as opposed to Stratford International. We have a perfectly rehearsed route from Stratford International. We are directed to the required platform and only miss one train in the effort to be in the right place. My concerns that the train will be full by the time it reaches us are unfounded and it takes just over an hour to get back to the site. I fear it may be somewhat longer tomorrow for our final session.