Having enjoyed the 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 2022 Commonwealth Games have been in my diary since the venue was announced. The Birmingham caravan site was booked as soon as I was able for the duration of the games, whilst I waited to see what tickets I could get and how long we would actually need to stay. I duly applied to spend a small fortune on tickets and secured two athletics sessions fairly swiftly. Something that looked like tickets arrived by email. A few weeks ago, I managed to buy tickets for an additional session. This time the ’ticket’ looked different and I realised that the first two did not include seat numbers, whereas the later ones did. Panic one – had I missed an email with actual tickets in? I used the contact us facility on the website and waited and waited and waited some more and heard precisely nothing. Would we not be able to go after all? Finally after a great deal of poking around on the website, I found that I could access actual tickets and download them that way. This was not without incident but was accomplished.
Panic two – how were we going to get from the caravan site to the venue, which was on the other side of Birmingham? To be honest I’d assumed we’d use public transport. Further investigation revealed train stations near the site and the venue but the need for two trains and a walk to get from one to the other and a warning that the last train left the venue before the end of the evening session! Well, that’s helpful (or similar) thought I. We were warned that there was no parking at the venue. Could we perhaps drive to a station and then pick up public transport? That of course didn’t solve the trains not running late enough issue. Could we park in the road anywhere up to a couple of miles away and walk in? Possibly but panic three would these roads be residents only parking? It seemed that it was possible to book a spot at a park and ride at significant cost. The most convenient one was already fully booked but I managed to get three spots at a further distant park and ride. More ticket downloading to negotiate. Said tickets and the website warned that we must arrive in out allotted time slot or risk not being allowed to park.
I checked the what you are allowed to take into the venue regulations carefully. Then I noticed something to engender panic four. If you downloaded your tickets more than once only the most recent one would be valid as a new barcode would be generated each time. I wasn’t convinced that this would actually be the case but supposing it was? Supposing I hadn’t printed the latest version. Maybe I should download them again. Oh dear, there were warnings that if you repeatedly tried to download it wouldn’t work. Nonetheless, I decided to risk downloading again. By this time, my computer had died a sad and stress inducing death and I was working on a combination of two replacement machines. These are a borrowed laptop that I could use to access websites, as I could persuade it to remember my passwords but it had all the wrong software and didn’t connect to my printer and a tiny broken netbook with no memory (so won’t update) but does at least have the right software even though it doesn’t use the same browser. Undaunted by swapping from machine to machine I reprinted the tickets, making sure I saved the originals ‘just in case’.
The journey to Birmingham was uneventful but the caravan site is entered and exited via a charged barrier card. We have to be at the park and ride between 6.45am and 7.00am. It is forty minutes away. In my language this means we leave at 5.30am. Panic five, what happens if the card hasn’t been charged properly and we can’t get out? I am persuaded, against my better judgement that this won’t happen. It doesn’t, so next day and we set off for the park and ride. I try to put the postcode into the sat-nav. The postcode does not exist. I put the street address in instead. That leads us to a residential road with no multi-storey car-park in sight. See, I knew we needed to allow extra time. What to do now? Fortuitously, I had for some random reason downloaded what-three-words on my phone. I have the car-park’s three words. After a couple of false starts I make this work. Inevitably, we are still too early but we are allowed to wait and park at 6.45am. We walk round to the shuttle bus. Panic six – we will be in this car park all day. Technically our first ticket is for 6.45-3.00 and the next for 3.30-11.45. It did say we could stay all day and I have had both tickets scanned so let’s hope we don’t come back to find ourselves clamped. The bus to the stadium is uneventful. We have seats that are rather higher up than is comfortable for someone who doesn’t even like standing on chairs but we have a good view of the finish line. We see some heptathlon events, with three English competitors including Katerina Johnson-Thompson and women’s 800m heats with Laura Muir, men’s long jump qualifying, then rather a lot of men’s 100m heats and women’s T37/38 heats with Sophie Hahn.
Weirdly, the food outlets close before the end of the morning session and we have to leave the stadium. We elect to sit on a random piece of grass for four hours and eat the food we have brought with us. In the evening, we are high up again at the opposite end of the stadium. This gives us a good view of the women’s pole vault. There is more heptathlon, men’s 400m hurdles rounds, the men’s T45/47 100m final, women’s T37/38 100m final, the men’s 110m hurdles rounds, the women’s discus final, the women’s T33/34 100m with Hannah Cockcroft and the men’s 10,000m final. It seems that the British Virgin Island team is pretty much all the same family, with five siblings, including two sets of twins, competing. We are at the furthest point from the shuttle buses but panic seven (that we might miss the last shuttle bus) is unfounded. Even more peculiar that the closing of the food outlets is the closing of all the toilets before the spectators leave the stadium. It seems that buses have been bussed in from across the country and we board a Trumpington park and ride bus. All is well and we retrieve the car, which hasn’t been clamped.
We decide we can safely leave half an hour later for our second morning session. We are still just a little early so hide in a side road and turn up at exactly 6.45am to be told that they are not letting anyone in until 7.15am. I point out that our ticket says be there between 6.45am and 7.00am on pain of death to no avail. We park at 7.15am and are in the stadium in plenty of time. I enjoy watching the pre-event preparations. Radzi and Ewan Thomas are doing a good job of hosting. There are pyrotechnics and the games mascot, Perry the bull, flies in. This time we are much lower down, so we are nearer the action but we don’t get the bird’s eye view of the finish. Fortunately it is mostly 400m and 800m, rounds, as well as more heptathlon. It did get quite hot but I was prepared with my 2012 baseball cap (not worn since 2012). The person sitting next to me is also wearing 2012 merchandise.
Was it worth it? Yes, although I must learn to panic less before I try this again.