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August 10, 2012 5:01 pm
We had the best seats in the house for the emotional victories of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and that long jumper whose name I keep forgetting. We were only a few feet from the action. The atmosphere was electric, the noise deafening, but then we did have the TV turned up.
The remarkable thing was how intimate it felt, in spite of the size of the stadium. The kids lolled on the specially prepared beanbags while we enjoyed the finest Olympic seats that the Sofa Workshop had to offer. We were struck by how smoothly everything went after all the predictions of logistical disaster; there were no queues for the fridge and everyone was so helpful, except when we sent the boy to the kitchen for more biscuits. Actually, we were very fortunate in the quest for tickets, also securing sofa seats for the opening ceremony and all the swimming and cycling events. There were complaints about empty seats, but, after a long day at work, we didn’t really want people round so we reserved the rocking chair for Olympic officials. We did have one morning at the Olympic stadium and though we enjoyed it a lot, it wasn’t the same as being there, in the lounge. We spent the best part of a fortnight in our Olympic park, ordering takeaways and proud to be using Visa.
But, you know, an Olympics is not something that just comes together. From the very moment that Jacques Rogge signalled that our lounge was the winning venue, we formed our own organising committee of the Games. We did not send scouts to Beijing but the boy popped down to Currys Digital to evaluate the relative merits of the widescreen TVs on offer. Obviously we couldn’t have done it without Lottery funding, so we worry about what we’ll do when the time comes to replace it. Having inspired a generation with a large TV, we want to build on that success, perhaps with an Xbox. It would be cruel to crush young dreams simply because of cutbacks.
Legacy concerns have been at the forefront of our planning since the outset, for this offered the chance for some serious regeneration – or at least a spot of decorating. The Olympic flame is all too soon to be extinguished; but our infrastructure projects had to live on. The sofa and TV had to serve this part of London for years to come; likewise the redecoration was not just for a few weeks in 2012, so we took the contentious decision not to go with gaudy Olympic colours. We knew there would be branding concerns so as a concession we kept five pizzas in the shape of the Olympic rings on the table. And while we may not have had the Orbit sculpture, there were days when the dishes in the sink formed a similarly erratic and towering pattern. Naturally, the awarding of contracts had to be transparent, so we invited tenders from local builders, three eastern European groups and some British decorators who promised to come round but never did.
There is also the sporting legacy. The spawn have taken up dressage and we now mark them on their ability to prance, straighten their backs and point their toes as they walk to school.
I know what you are thinking. The number of people who swear they witnessed a great sporting event is often many multiples of the maximum capacity of the crowd. People are constantly telling you they were there when Hurst scored or Flintoff struck and, now, when Ennis clinched the gold. But I can assure you there was no one else in the room that evening so if you meet someone who tells you they saw it at my place, treat it with a pinch of salt.
The Games took over our lives: we watched sports we’d never cared about and cheered Brits we’d never heard of. It’s hard now to imagine what life will be like when the Games leave town. The stadium will become just a place where West Ham play and our living room will, once again, go back to hosting the X Factor and back episodes of Glee. But for two momentous weeks in August we had the best seats in the lounge. What’s more, we can look our grandchildren in the eye and tell them: “We were there.”
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