A day at the Paralympics

Thanks to my London chum Rob Hingley, I had a day pass (Monday 3 September) to the Paralympics in Stratford and I was fully expecting just to have a wander round looking at the architecture and art installations, but I was wrong! After a false start that I won't go into, I was an hour and half behind schedule. The £10 day ticket included a free Zone 9 Travelcard so I only had to buy a ticket to East Croydon. At St Pancras I grabbed (and paid for) a beany scotch egg and boarded the Javelin, basically the high-speed train to Kent - mine was going to Margate. A few minutes later, we were off at Stratford International and up a tall escalator, I was on the look-out for Rob, who apparently was at the other tube station!

 Performance art ladies

We met up though and got through the security quickly. It was a hot day and I was dressed for a Brighton autumn (it was chilly on the Shoreham riverbank for the air show on Saturday, when I'd been waiting for the mighty Vulcan). After a circuit of the Orbit and a meandering riverbank stroll that took us not very far, we ended up at the Riverbank Arena, after queuing to fill up our water bottles (you're not allowed to bring any in!). A 7-a-side football match had just started and we were right behind the goal. It was Russia v Netherlands and the dutch team lost 8-0, the Russian goalie never even touching the ball.

 Riverbank Arena

We then strolled over to the Basketball arena where a match was about to begin - in 30 minutes time. It was Netherlands again, but this time against Brazil. We left after the first quarter to get some fish and chips (£8.50 + £4.30 for a 330ml Heneken) and then headed for the Copper Box. Eton Manor with its wheelchair tennis was a bridge too far.

 Basketball Arena

All the 'free' venues (and the velodrome) are at the far end of the park, so there was a great deal of walking involved. My improvement would be the provision of Boris bikes to get around on, or maybe more mobility 'trains' - but for more able-bodied people - or even a shuttle bus going from one end of the site to the other.

 Stern Gamesmaker

It was getting dark and the Olympic Stadium, Anish Kapoor's  Orbit and other attractions were lighting up, looking spectacular. At the Copper Box we got in to see the last goalball of the day, not exactly the most riveting spectator experience, with only one goal being scored in the match between Canada and Japan, and that from a 'penalty'. The DJ was pretty good tho, as they were in all the venues.

The main stadium, at night

Then it was a schlepp back to the tube station, listening to all the cheering coming from the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics centre, where more medals were being won. I thought I'd try the Jubilee line back to London Bridge but it was a bad choice: the tube was packed and hot and at London Bridge had to walk all round the houses to find the Brighton platform. Home about 11.30, completely exhausted and with aching feet. But what a memorable day out.

 Orbit by night

More photos on Flickr.

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