Off to the other side of the world

I always wanted to travel and see the world. Although I have lived abroad for over ten years, my travels have never taken me out of Europe before. This is about to change. Following the excitement of the Olympics, I have decided to take a break and go to the other side of the world for three months. I am spending ten days in Sydney before flying to New Zealand for two and a half months. The ‘Land of the long white cloud’ has fascinated me for a long time and I am keen to see the beautiful scenery and the native wildlife with my own eyes. You can follow me on my travel blog if you are interested how I get on.

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London 2012 Paralympics: Swimming

The first ballot for Paralympic tickets closed at the end of September 2011. As we didn’t get tickets for athletics or swimming for the Olympics, we applied for tickets to get into the stadium and the Aquatic Centre. We selected the cheapest tickets for sessions that didn’t require us to take any time off work and a few weeks later it was confirmed that we had been successful.

Aquatic CentreOur swimming tickets were for the morning heats on day 3 of the Paralympics. When I looked at the schedule I was delighted to find that we would get to see Ellie Simmonds, one of the faces of the Paralympics, in her 400m freestyle heat. In total there were heats in 15 disciplines over two and a half hours. The finals took part in a separate session later the same day.

Sitting in a high chairWe arrived at the Olympic Park bright and early in good time for our 9.30am start and got through the usual security checks quickly. During our previous park visit we hadn’t noticed that the entrance to the Aquatic Centre was actually from the back of the building, rather than from the bridge at the Stratford entrance to the park. In an attempt to get a higher vantage point for a picture of the Aquatic Centre, I couldn’t resist to climb up an empty high chair. It didn’t improve the view of the building, but it made for a good picture in itself.

The IOC guidelines for swimming required seating for 17,500 spectators. To achieve this, two temporary stands were built along either side of the wave-like roof. The real beauty of the building, designed by Zaha Hadid, will only become clear following its post-Games transformation into a facility for the local community, clubs and schools. We had to climb up four flights of stairs to get to our seats. The humidity and chlorine smell of the pool hit us as soon as we got to the top of the stairs. Our seats were so high up that we were unable to see the stand on the other side of the pool! Luckily we had our binoculars and zoom lense with us.

View from our seatsWomen’s 100m Butterfly – S10
Sophie Pascoe in the 100m butterflyIn the second race of the morning we saw New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe, who had won three golds and a silver as a 15-year-old in Beijing. Sophie absolutely dominated her heat, winning by over four seconds ahead of her nearest rival in a new world record time. Pascoe went on to break her world record again to win the final.

Men’s 400m freestyle S6
Darragh McDonald in the 400m freestyleNext up were the two heats for the S6 400m freestyle. It became clear early on in the first race that Darragh McDonald from Ireland was swimming in a class of his own. By the end of the eight length he was almost a length ahead of everybody else, finishing over 26 seconds ahead of Australia’s Reagan Wickens in second place.

Matthew Whorwood (GBR) competed in the second heat which was won by by Anders Olsson from Sweden. Matthew was carried by the enthusiastic home crowd to finish his heat in second place. He would later win bronze behind McDonald and Olsson.

Women’s 400m freestyle S6
I have watched quite a lot of swimming before and was really surprised that for the heats the athletes do not come out individually before a race. Instead the swimmers for the next race get ready while the previous race is still under way. The Union Jacks were flying around the Aquatic Centre when Ellie Simmonds and Natalie Jones came out for their heat.

Ellie Simmonds getting readyThe classification system allows competitors with varying disabilities to compete against each other. This means that Ellie, who has dwarfism, competes against athletes who are much taller than her. It was also interesting to see that athletes are allowed to start races in different positions.

Start for the 400m freestyleDue to her size, Ellie isn’t a strong starter and tends to be behind for the first length. However, as the race developed, she stormed ahead, eventually lapping one of the other swimmers on the home straight. She missed the world record by .18 of a second but qualified fastest for the  final. Natalie Jones finished the race in third and both looked very happy with the result as they left the pool. The swimmer who was lapped, Lorena Homar Lopez of Spain, received great support from the crowd on her final straight to finish an astonishing 52 seconds after Simmonds.

The second heat was dominated in a similar fashion by Ellie’s main rival Victoria Arlen (USA). There had been issues over Arlen’s classification in the lead up to the London Games, suggesting that she wasn’t ‘disabled enough’ for the S6 category. In the end she was allowed to swim in the S6 category in London, but her classification will be assessed again in the future to determine whether her condition is actually getting better.

Ellie Simmonds at the finishThroughout the morning we saw several other British swimmers qualify for the finals. James Crisp and Sam Hynd finished third in their heats in the SB8 100m breaststroke, Claire Cashmore won her heat and qualified fastest in the women’s SB8 100m breaststroke, Anthony Stevens finished second in his S5 200m freestyle heat and Sascha Kindred and Thomas Young finished second and third in the SB7100m breaststroke. We also saw Daniel Dias from Brazil, the Paralympic version of Michael Phelps, win his S5 200m freestyle heat with ease.

Swimmers leaving the poolThere were some very surprising moments which made me realise how little I knew about paralympic sport. It was fascinating to see how at ease the athletes are in the water when many of them required assistance in getting to and from the pool. There was a small white bench next to the exit from the pool where athletes would put their prosthetic limbs on again. Others were helped straight out of the pool into their wheelchair whilst the visually impaired were guided by a coach. Blind swimmers being tappedBefore the Paralympics it had not occured to me that blind swimmers would be competing. I can’t see very well without glasses and although I am a confident swimmer, I used to find being in a blurry swimming pool very unnerving before I got contact lenses. I could not image swimming a full length of the pool at full speed and waiting for my coach to tap me on the shoulder to indicate when I am about to reach the Swimmer finishing with his headfinish. Similarly I was astonished to see that 3 of 5 swimmers in a SB7 100m breaststroke heat did not have any arms. The crowd really got behind Tomotamo Nakamura (JAP) who caught up with Matthew Levy (AUS) on the final 20m and managed to finish with his head before Levy’s arm could touch the wall!

I really enjoyed the electric atmosphere in the Aquatic Centre. Although the crowd was patriotic, there was also great support and appreciation for athletes who were not challenging to win their races. There were lots of families in the crowd and it was brilliant to see the excitement in children’s faces. The Aquatic Centre will feel very different when it reopens to the public and I hope it with be flooded with daylight when large glass windows replace the temporary stands. Let’s hope we will be able to take a dip in the Olympic pool one day!

Being a Games Maker: Part 3

The first day of competition was my last shift for four days. During the afternoon I kept an eye on the men’s cycling road race and was incredibly excited that the riders were going through ‘my part’ of London in an Olympic race! The following day I swapped roles from Games Maker to spectator and went to see the archery women’s team event.

By the time I was back at the Hilton a few days later, the competitions were in full swing and our role had evolved. In addition to selecting images for the gallery, we compiled as much information as possible about the pictured athletes and competitions. This saved valuable time for the caption writers and meant that pictures could be published more quickly. It was quite easy to identify cyclists, swimmers or runners because their names or starting numbers are visible. Other sports like diving, fencing and taekwondo proved much trickier and took a lot of time. Crawling through start lists and statistics is not everyone’s cup of tea, but finding and organising information comes natural to me and I enjoyed it.

The images we worked with were taken by professional photographers working for the IOC and were of very high quality. We often had to discard beautiful pictures in favour of a more balanced coverage of all the Olympic sports. The closeup shots caught the human emotions of high-performance sports perfectly and it was fascinating to learn more about sports that I wasn’t so familiar with. My favourite session was selecting images from the women’s football final at Wembley. I had been at the game the night before and was very pleased that I managed to identify most players without checking the teamsheets.

Women's football final between USA and Japan

Danger in the Japanese penalty box during the women’s football final

Although we worked in an office environment away from the venues, I felt very much part of the whole event. With two large TVs in our office we didn’t miss any of the action. Whilst the BBC coverage was obviously very focused on Team GB, we saw the live streams provided by the Olympic Broadcasting Service. There was always someone in the office watching their national medal hopes which made me realise how differently the Olympics are covered in other countries. In my breaks I chatted to other Games Makers in the canteen or around the hotel. It was great to be part of such a diverse group from all walks of life with very different motivations to be there. I met life long volunteers who are involved with their local sports clubs, students, pensioners, full-time mothers, NHS staff and even a Chartered Accountant. One day accreditations at the entrance to our office were checked by a recently retired head teacher who loved the fact that someone else told him what to do!

I didn’t see as much of the IOC members as expected. They were in and around the hotel regularly during the IOC Session but once the competitions started, they were out at the venues most of the time. Early on Prince Albert of Monaco, IOC member and former Olympian, walked around the staff offices to see how things were going. He was very down to earth and it was clear that he appreciated the contribution made by us volunteers and their own staff.

On another day Russian pole vaulter and double Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, an Ambassador of the Youth Olympic Games, came into the office for an online chat on the website. When she finished, we managed to get a team picture with her.

IOC Communications team with Yelena Isinbayeva

IOC Communications team with pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and canoe slalomist Jessica Fox (AUS)

I worked a total of 10 shifts over 19 days and time went by really quickly. Although I would have been happy with any other Games Maker role, I was particularly keen to look behind the scenes of such a large event and work within an international environment. I absolutely loved what I was doing and felt like a kid in a sweetshop, but I was also aware that not all Games Maker found their roles as exciting and fulfilling. I can’t remember how many times I was asked if we needed any help in our team as the role sounded so interesting!

I felt very sad to leave the Hilton at the end of my last shift on Saturday 11 August and couldn’t believe my luck the next day when I received a phone call from an IOC staff member to invite me to the closing ceremony! It was a mad dash to collect my ticket and get to the Olympic Park in time, but it was the perfect way to round off my Olympic adventure. The show was brilliant and I had tears in my eyes during the athletes’ thank you to Games Makers and when Seb Coe mentioned the volunteers in his speech. I thoroughly enjoyed being an Olympic volunteer and had a fantastic time ‘making the Games’!

Being a Games Maker: Part 2

After a confusing start to my first day, things had worked out well and I was looking forward to Our office during the Gamesworking with the IOC web team. The role was shared between a total of four Games Makers: Feliksa, myself, Stella and Claire. Each day one of us started at nine and worked the first half of the day before handing over to the next person in the early afternoon. They would then stay until the last person in the web team was leaving, often around seven in the evening.
Apart from our role, there was only one other Games Maker role in the office. We didn’t have much to do with the Games Maker hierarchy as our daily tasks were coordinated by the IOC staff.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the office. There were more than 20 people in the communications team, although we were hardly ever all in the office at the same time. Everyone knew their role and the team seemed to work like a well-oiled machine. Although I have lived in London for several years, the multilingual environment was new to me and I was fascinated by people regularly switching languages in mid-sentence. I soon joined in and shared lots of banter with Peter, my fellow German.
The IOC staff worked very long hours with only the odd afternoon off. Most of them had experienced several Olympics before and knew what to expect. They managed to make the most of their time off to see some live action and explore London.

Games Makers with IOC Web teamEverything was rather calm in the first few days. We mainly worked with pictures from the athletes’ village, ongoing training sessions and images taken around London to show the city getting into Olympic spirit. This changed once the Games were under way. We were all very tired on the morning after the opening ceremony, either from watching it on TV until 1am or after returning from the stadium in the early hours. We had hundreds of images to go through and worked through a long list of highlights from the show, significant ceremonial moments and honorary guests. This time speed was important to get the images onto the website as soon as possible.

Games Making never stops
One of the most unexpected experiences was to represent the Olympics when I was off duty. Before the Games started I changed out of my uniform to photograph the torch relay on Bayswater Road. But after that I happily wore the uniform on my way to and from the Hilton and was approached regularly by random people.

My favourite episode was one evening in a supermarket where I was trying to choose what to cook for dinner. An American family approached me, apologised for it and then asked if I could tell them what the best way to the Olympic Park was, tube or Javelin train? Luckily I had experienced both options at this stage and could confidently suggest going to St Pancras Station to catch the superfast, air-conditioned 7 minute Javelin train instead of a 45 minute tube journey from West London.

Being a Games Maker: Part 1

Seven years after London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, in July 2012 the Games were finally here and my Games Maker experience was about to begin.

During our training in April we learnt that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) holds its annual meeting, the IOC Session, in the week before the Games. Therefore some of the IOC Team Assistants were already needed during that period. I had signed up for a total of ten shifts and started my three weeks off work on Monday 23 July. When I received my shift plan at the end of May, I found out that my first shift would be on Wednesday 25 July, two days before the opening ceremony.

The London Hilton Park Lane in its Olympic dressFinal preparations – venue training
The real countdown started on 13 July. On a Friday evening about 150 volunteers arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel near Hyde Park Corner for our venue specific training. A week earlier I had received an email confirming my role as IOC Media Relations Assistant (Media and Press Centre). I wasn’t sure what this meant and completely ignored the reference to the MPC.

The session started with a motivational video, followed by details about the logistics and workforce operations in the Olympic Family hotels. The Olympic Family consists of the IOC members and their families, representatives of each country’s National Olympic Committee, representatives of the International Sports Federations and members of the organising committees of future Olympic Games. They stayed in five different hotels in the area. The IOC members stayed at the London Hilton in Park Lane which is also where the IOC staff offices had been set up, although the IOC staff stayed in one of the other hotels. After the presentation we were split up into groups. Me and my fellow IOC Team Assistants got a quick tour of the areas in the Hilton that were being transformed into staff offices for the different IOC teams. So many corridors, boxes and temporary workstations!

Wearing my Games Maker uniformWhen I picked up my uniform at the UDAC, several people commented on the fact that my accreditation included access to ALL venues and the Olympic Village. Of course I was hoping that an IOC member might need me to accompany them to the Olympic Village or the opening ceremony! Unfortunately there had been a mistake with our accreditation. During the venue training our cards were swapped and we no longer had automatic access to all sports venues and the athletes’ village. It would have been too good to be true!

First technical rehearsal – 23 July
I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first rehearsal of the opening ceremony five days before the Big Day. Walking over the bridge at the Stratford entrance triggered a mix of emotions. I felt very privileged to see the park before the official opening, excited about my first shift a couple of days later and a bit nervous about London’s ability to cope.

It turned out to be a magical evening. I got there early and had enough time to explore the area around the stadium. The crowd were mainly other volunteers, Olympic support staff and local residents from the Olympic boroughs, all people whose lives had been touched by the London Olympics in one way or another. It was very moving to see the surprise and excitement in people’s faces. I sat next to a Councillor from a local borough who works as a nurse within the NHS. She was almost in tears during the sequence which paid tribute to the NHS! I absolutely loved the change from the ‘green and pleasant land’ to the Industrial Revolution and still get goosebumps when I think of the army of drummers creating the soundtrack to this section. I had sneaked in a small camera and was relieved that nobody stopped us from taking pictures. We were simply asked not to share any details until the actual opening ceremony. I eventually blogged some pictures and was surprised when I was contacted by a volunteer in the ceremony who recognised herself in one of my pictures!

The evening ended with a good test of the transport system when we heard after the show that there was no service on the Central Line at all. Luckily I had more than one travel option. I waited about half an hour to get onto the fast Javelin train to King’s Cross and was home just after midnight.

My first shift
As a well prepared Londoner my plan was to avoid public transport and use the London Cycle Hire scheme instead. The affectionately called Boris Bikes are dotted around the city and are free to use for journeys up to 30 minutes.
Once I parked my bike near the Hilton, I had trouble finding my way around due to the security barriers surrounding the hotels. As I rushed around to report for my first shift on time, Princess Anne (or rather: the Princess Royal, the British IOC member) walked past me on her way to the IOC Session at Grosvenor House! Was this the beginning of rubbing shoulders with the VIPs?

8:55
I sign in for my first shift and collect my lunch voucher.

9:10
Another IOC Team Assistant and I are met by an IOC staff member who tells us that we should have been at the Media and Press Centre in the Olympic Park rather than the Hilton. Off we go to the Olympic Park by tube.

10:00
Arrival at the workforce entrance in Stratford. Somehow we manage to get separated and I learn an important lesson: save people’s phone numbers straight away!
It is a beautiful summer morning and feels like the quiet before the storm. The only other people around are other Games Makers and members of the Armed Forces. I walk underneath the large Welcome sign and feel like it is there just for me. May the adventure begin!

10:30
After a 15 minute walk across the Park and another 15 minutes of finding my way around the MPC (rows and rows of desks for print journalists), I find a tiny little office marked IOC Communications. No sign of my fellow Games Maker yet.

10:55
The other Games Maker finally appears. Her accreditation wasn’t valid as it had not been swapped over at the venue training. We meet a third Games Maker who started the previous day and is busy answering journalists’ queries at a little information desk (such as: What is the total number of accredited journalists at the Olympics?).

11:15
We are told by the IOC staff that only two Games Makers are needed at the MPC to help at the IOC’s general information stand and that one of us should go back to the Hilton! This is the moment that decides my fate for the next two weeks. They are looking for someone to support the IOC web publishing team and I am the only one who has previous web publishing experience. In addition, I am also very keen to stay at the Hilton as I don’t need public transport to get there. I have a telephone chat with the IOC webmaster to see what the role involves and I seem to fit the bill. Back to the Hilton it is.

12:30
Arrival at the hotel where I meet Anne, Peter and Arturo, the members of the IOC web team. Before we start properly, I get some lunch at the workforce canteen, a large conference room at one of the nearby hotels.

13:15
Anne talks me through the IOC website and explains that my role will be to select pictures for their online picture gallery. As a keen amateur photographer, I am really excited to get started!

14:00 to 18:00
I meet Feliksa, my fellow Games Maker, who started the previous day. We are given a selection of pictures from the athletes’ village and have to select between five and ten of these for the picture gallery. Once Anne has approved our selection, we resize the images and save them in different sizes to prepare them for publication. It is a really enjoyable afternoon that goes far too quick. By the end of it I have almost forgotten about the chaotic start and look forward to being back tomorrow!

Opening Ceremony rehearsal

London 2012 Olympics: The world is in town

During the Olympics many countries have national houses to promote their culture and provide a ‘home away from home’ for fans, athletes, officials and sponsors. Most of these are open to the public, some ticketed and some for free. I had seen a list of locations before the Games started, but wasn’t sure whether I would find time to visit any of these houses during the Olympic fortnight.

Club France at Old BillingsgateOn one of our walks along the Thames we saw Club France at Old Billingsgate across the river. Later that evening we stumbled across the Danish house at St Katherine Docks almost by accident. Whilst there were long queues for tickets at Club France, entrance to the official Danish Olympic house near Tower Bridge was free.Danish house at St Katharine DocksIn fact it wasn’t a house, but an outdoor area in front of the Dickens Inn pub. To get in, we walked across a little rope bridge past a replica Viking ship. Next we admired a LEGO version of the Olympic Park, built from more than 250,000 pieces, and a wind turbine, also built entirely with LEGO pieces.

Olympic Park in LEGOA partisan crowd was watching their men’s handball team on a large screen and several stalls were promoting Danish fashion and design. Others sold hot dogs, Danish bacon, smoked salmon and drinks. At half time TV presenters reported live from just a few metres away, using the picturesque maritime setting as backdrop to their temporary Olympic studio. They must be pretty famous in their native country as lots of people were taking pictures with their phones. The atmosphere was incredibly friendly and we were glad that we had taken this little side track on our way home.

A few days later I went to Canary Wharf where the entire Museum of London Docklands had been taken over by the German House. Entry was free before 5pm so I walked straight in and found myself in what can be best described as a Bavarian beer garden. Almost instantly my attention was drawn to a Strandkorb, a wicker beach basket typical for my home county Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. A tall guy asked if I wanted my picture taken and he didn’t have to ask twice. He was really friendly and told me that all the people working on the Mecklenburg stall were in fact police officers who had been seconded to London to promote Mecklenburg during the Olympics!

StrandkorbI spotted a Games Maker uniform in the crowd and introduced myself to Steffi who was working as a driver during the Games. We ended up chatting for a while over a German beer and it was really interesting to talk to another German volunteer. In the workforce canteen at Park lane I had heard a few stories from other drivers allocated to specific IOC delegations, but Steffi was not allocated to a particular person but on call for different types of clients. I was pretty impressed as I don’t think I would have been comfortable driving around London in a shiny Olympic BMW without knowing the city! The crowd was following the men’s single finals in the gymnastics on big TV screens, followed by track cycling from the velodrome. Somehow I found myself cheering for Chris Hoy rather than the German guy…

I didn’t stay too long as I was keen to see the MS Deutschland nearby. I have seen many cruise ships before at home in Warnemünde, but never had they been moored between skyscrapers! The ship, known in Germany as ‘Das Traumschiff’, was the official hospitality ship for the German team and not open to the public. The German team travelled home in style after the Games.

MS Deutschland moored at South QuayI went around South Quay and admired some of the world’s largest privately owned yachts. There was a large public screen on the other side of the quay. It was a bit sad that there was not a soul about to see Chris Hoy collect his sixth Olympic gold medal.

It was an afternoon full of contrasts. I enjoyed the friendly encounters and the unexpected sighting of the Strandkorb at the Deutsches Haus. However, seeing all these luxury yachts and the empty public viewing area at the foot of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers left a bit of a sour aftertaste to this Olympic experience.

London 2012 Olympics: Women’s triathlon

Anja Dittmer during the runTwelve years ago I watched the women’s triathlon at the Sydney Olympics on TV. I was cheering for Anja Dittmer, born not far from my hometown in Neubrandenburg, who finished in 18th place. It was the sport’s Olympic debut, the first triathlon I’ve ever seen and really good fun to watch.

Three years ago I went along to see the first triathlon World Cup race held at London’s Hyde Park in preparation for the Olympics. That year the women’s and men’s races were held in quick succession on the same day and we were fortunate to see the world’s best triathletes in action. We managed to stand right by the transition zone and saw the changeovers at close hand. This was a great insight into the sport and made me appreciate the level of precision required to ensure that no time is wasted in transition.

Like other Olympic road events, the main part of the triathlon route was open to the public whilst ticket holders watched from a large stand overlooking the transition zone and the finish line. We hadn’t tried to get tickets, but when a friend told me that she thought about going to watch the women’s race, I decided to join her. We looked at the route and thought we would try to get a place on the Serpentine bridge to get a glimpse of the swim and be close to the cycling and running route. It was the morning of Super Saturday with the race starting at 9am. When we got to the park just before 8 o’clock, the route was already quite busy. It turned out that the bridge was actually closed to the public. We decided to sacrifice the chance to see anything of the swim for a place in the front row just outside the Serpentine Gallery.

The crowds have arrived earlyDespite the early morning the atmosphere was really good. A group of Games Makers were busy setting up one of the refreshment areas for the race. Two police officers cycling along the route were greeted with huge cheers. The fences along the route were soon sporting a wide range of flags from all over the world and people were chatting to strangers about their Olympic experience. I put my German flag over the fence in support of Anja Dittmer in her fourth Olympics, the only competitor in the race who participated in all Olympics since Sydney.

Police officers being cheered along the route

The Olympic triathlon distance is 1500m swimming, 43km cycling and 10km running. The athletes cycled past us seven times and as we were standing near a U-turn of the running route, we saw the athletes eight times during the run. There was no commentary in the park but First view of the riderspeople around us were keeping up with the action via radios and mobiles. A big cheer went up when the athletes approached for the first time. A large group including all the favourites was followed by a second group a couple of minutes behind.  My camera’s sport programme proved very handy as it allowed me to take a series of shots when the riders came into view.

Every time the leading group came past, we checked that British medal hope Helen Jenkins, Anja and the other favourites were still hanging in there. It had been raining overnight but we didn’t realise that the riders had some difficulties with the road conditions at the start of the bike race, although we noticed one or two riders at the back of the field who looked like they must have crashed. I only heard later that there had been a series of bad crashes on the slippery roads in front of Buckingham Palace.

A big group on their bikesNobody managed to break away at the front during the bike ride. Soon after the riders had gone past on their last cycling lap, we heard from the American couple next to us that Anja was leading at the transition from bike to running, although only by a few seconds! However, by the time the first runners came into view, she had already been caught. Throughout the four laps a leading group of six emerged, including Helen Jenkins, Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig and Lisa Norden from Sweden. The noise was deafening every time they came past, no more than a couple of metres away from us.

As soon as the leaders went past us for the last time, everyone made their way to a large screen nearby to watch the finish. In the short time that it took us to get over there, Helen Jenkins had lost contact to three of the others. This made for quite a Rushing to the big screen for the finishstrange atmosphere as we all realised that an almost certain British medal was suddenly out of reach. Everybody was screaming at the screen when we saw Spirig get slightly ahead before Norden almost caught her in an amazing sprint finish. I have no idea where they found the energy for that sprint at the end of almost two hours of racing!

Anja finished twelfth in the end. Her run was hampered by cramps and a blister on one of her feet. Although she wasn’t able to finish her Olympic career with a medal, she has been a great ambassador for the sport.

Spectator stands across the SerpentineOnce the race was finished and the crowd slowly dispersed, I made my way towards the Serpentine where I managed to get a glimpse of the big stand across the water and even spotted the victory ceremony through my zoom lense. By the time I got back to Hyde Park Corner, Games Makers were already taking the barriers down to re-open the main sections of the park. Another example of Olympic efficiency!