#30 Go to the London 2012 Olympics with my family

I actually can’t think of a better time to arrive home than during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Maybe it was the fact that my family was waiting at the airport already in the spirit of things, with flags, hats and a Team E-A chant designed to draw maximum attention to my entrance.

Or maybe is was that instead of the grey skies of London I had been expecting (after a month of solid rain), topped off with miserable commuters and fed up tube workers; I was greeted by sunshine and smiles and generally a completely unrecognisable London.

Is that sunshine I see?

I’d been reading about the build-up to the big event for months and we’d stayed up all night in Beijing to watch the opening ceremony in a bar called Paddy O’Shea’s (although there wasn’t an Irish man in sight).

Even though there was only a small group of us, it still felt exciting to watch it all beginning, although I’m not sure that feeling was shared by the staff who had to stay up all night for six customers.

The countdown to London 2012 begins.
And just in case anyone was wondering what the weather was going to be like…

So I was looking forward to getting back home and as soon as I stepped off the plane at Heathrow there was a buzz in the air. When we got to the Underground, we were approached by friendly volunteers who offered to help before we even had time to get our maps out.

It was such a huge change from China and it took me a couple of days to get adjusted to how easy everything was to do now that I wasn’t trying to figure things out in an alien language. It was kind of like a reversed culture shock.

Everyone got into the Olympic spirit.

After months and months of reading articles about what a shambles it was all going to be, we were also amazed at how straight-forward and well organised everything was. Getting to the Olympic Park was easy. Finding our seats in the basketball arena was easy. Even getting a cup of tea was easy, with none of the massive queues which had been predicted.

No queues…
…no stress.

The atmosphere in the park was incredible and fair play to the Games Maker volunteers who kept going on their megaphones all day. I’m sure I’d have got bored after shouting: “Are you all having a good day?” after about the 20th time.

Having just travelled the world and spent time seeing the highlights of other countries, it was so nice to see so many different nationalities enjoying ours.

The fans from each country were brilliant and everyone made such a big effort to dress up in their country’s colours. Although I think top marks would go to the Dutch fans who stood out a mile in their orange outfits and could start a chant going in a venue with just two of them.

In a weird way it actually felt a bit like travelling, with everyone speaking to everyone and just a general feeling of happiness in the air.

As we all know, “sporty” is not a word which would ever be used to describe me but even those who didn’t know the first thing about sport couldn’t help getting caught up in the excitement. We had two day passes to the park to watch basketball and hockey matches, which were both brilliant, and we spent the rest of our time sitting out in the sun watching the action on big screens. The atmosphere when Team GB won a medal was unreal.

Prepared for any weather – thanks Sam!
But my favourite event was the women’s football final at Wembley. The match was between Japan and the USA and I loved that the fans were all mixed up together, but that even though people were cheering for different teams, it was all really good-natured. We decided to support Japan and although they eventually lost the match they still walked away with a consolation prize of silver.
Despite there being more than 80,000 spectators in the stadium, the Elliotts were still the last to leave and eventually the staff had to come and tell us they were locking up. We then went outside and started chatting to the ecstatic Japanese fans and I had a weird moment when it felt like I was back in Asia as a big group started taking pictures of us.
The Elliotts: Always the last to leave.
Some of our new friends.

The ten days we spent in London was also a chance for me to spend some time with my family again. Of course, within minutes of me arriving home it was as though I’d never been away (and the teasing began instantly) but it was also an opportunity to catch up on everything I’ve missed in the last nine months. Conversations kept beginning with “Did we tell you about…” and suddenly there was almost a year’s worth of gossip to catch up on.

It really was the perfect way to end my trip. I was back home, seeing my home country at its absolute best, with the people I love the most. Which totally proves what I’ve always believed: It’s brilliant fun travelling the world, but it’s always good to come home.

I DID IT! Ending my list with a brilliant #30.