It was just over four years ago since I was accredited for the London Olympics. It proved to be a very detailed process as a long line of hopeful media snaked through the car park, which had been converted to the accreditation centre. In Front lay the whole Olympic park lay before us, but not without a vigorous verification process. Passports and details were handed over to very pleasant staff and brand new Domke numbered photographers jackets were given back in return. Pristine Accreditation around my neck and vastly thick timetables and venue timing books in my hand, I stumbled into the park and began to get my bearings. That was the last time I went anywhere near the Olympic park, brilliant as it was all my events were outside.
The London Olympics was a brilliant operation from beginning to end. Even the daily bag searches by the hastily drafted in military didn’t dampen the spirit of the moment. In fact the army banter was a refreshing distraction. Some have said that London took a holiday for two weeks then and it certainly seemed that. I’ve lived in London for many years previously but never felt that united spirit before. Clearly it was a bubble, but why not?
Ploughing through the thick and detailed transports lists (the timings were two inches thick) and venue details (a similar bound tomb) I began to get a feel of where to go and what was needed. The transport hub in Russel Square was a confusing, but well organised, parade of sweaty photographers and reporters scaling bus timetables for their event and venue. It seemed strange to glide along in the Olympic lanes, free of traffic and yes, strangely privileged. London was on holiday, as I mentioned, but it was still a treat.
I covered events outside the main park for EPA (Euro Pressphoto Agency, Germany), some of the venues were fantastic. Horse guards parade for the volleyball was a particular transformation, Greenwich park equestrian eventing had a stunning setting, Lords Cricket Ground for the archery and oh yes and there was Excel, which was fine. Then two weeks of chaos ensued, a rich variation of the world’s best sports and on what a stage!
There were long hours on qualification days. I remember starting at 9am and finishing at midnight one day. All those who had tickets surely had a great show as even the occasional torrential down poor was accommodated. One particularly wet day, during the women’s marathon, tested the athletes, fans and the photographers, as steamy August thundery rain threatened to wipe out delicate camera equipment.
All in all it was a feast of sport and fantastic for photography. My events such as archery, beach volleyball, marathon swimming, marathon running produced for me but the great thing is the standard always gets better as the weeks move forward. Great images were produced, champions crowned and heroes made.
Fans (and photographers) settled into the rhythm of the games, the transit, the queueing, the long checks, positions, angles, highs and lows. It becomes a second life and it consumes hour after hour of time. It was brilliant though, the country thought so, some people even tried sport. It will be interesting to watch Rio 2016, reminiscing about London 2012, while willing team GB to do well.