04 September, 2012

Three cheers for the Paralympics!

My family and I attended the Paralympics on Sunday morning and had a fab time. We were extremely lucky because we saw Aled Davies win the gold in discus for Great Britain. The atmosphere was great and we were part of the the celebratory Mexican wave that went round the stadium after Davies' victory.

But it wasn't only the winning that meant we had a good time. We were impressed by many things, starting off right at the beginning with the organisation. Our train was greeted at Stratford by several staff who directed us and made sure we didn't do anything stupid (like falling off the platform onto the tracks!). The joining instructions advised us to arrive at the Olympic Park two-and-a-half hours before our event, but in fact we were through security and into the Park in a matter of minutes, including ticket check and security and bag scan. This was down to the number and efficiency of the staff, as well as lots of ticket checkpoints and numerous x-ray machines. The airports could certainly take a few lessons in managing crowd security from the Paralympic team!

The staff were also super-friendly. You might think that dealing with that many visitors all day long would be wearing, but the staff were unfailingly positive and helpful. They undertook their duties with a real sense of humour and made a great effort to interact with the visitors and particularly to make children feel welcome.

The catering was much better than expected too. I had envisaged McDonald's only, but in fact there were various catering outlets appealing to a variety of tastes -- Indian food, deli-style sandwiches, fish and chips, champagne and seafood... Again, there were plenty of staff around, directing people to less busy outlets so that they didn't have to queue for such a long time.

And the Olympic Stadium was a very impressive structure -- worth a visit in itself to admire the size and the design. Our seats were right at the back of the stadium, but still we had a good view. The angling of the seating meant that we had no problem with the heads of the spectators in front of us.

I wasn't quite sure how we'd find our Paralympic visit as we're not hugely committed sports fans, but the experience was really good, and this was down to the quality of the whole package, not just the sport.

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