Welcome back to London 2012. I'm here for every day of the Paralympic Games, just as I was for the Olympics. I''m sorry I've not written sooner but it's been a VERY hectic week.
Now I’ve seen a lot of talk about how the Paralympics compares to the Olympics over the past few days.
It seems a lot of people who went to the Olympics but haven’t been to the Paralympics think that there cannot possibly be a contest in terms of what’s the better experience, I mean, it’s the Olympic Games, right!? It just has to be better...
Wrong. There is a definite contest. But it’s a contest where there are no losers, only winners.
The Olympian fans think that it is some kind of pro-Paralympic propaganda to say that the atmosphere at the Park and around the venues in the past three and a half days is better than it was at the ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’
As someone who has spent every single day at both Games so far, let me blow that straight out of the water.
This Games is special. I’m not going to say it’s more or less special than the Olympics, because the whole point is that these are the Para-lympics... it’s got nothing to do with the words paralysed or paraplegia, it means ‘alongside.’ These two Games sit alongside each other in absolutely perfect harmony.
This will probably set the cat among the pigeons, but the noise at the ExCeL for the start of the GB women’s sitting volleyball game on Saturday evening was the loudest thing I have heard at either of the Games. Louder than Ennis’ last lap, or Farah, or Bolt, or the ‘Dorney Roar’ or even, gasp, the Velodrome. That’s not propaganda, it just is what it is. I know my own ears.
I quite honestly would not advise taking a small child to the volleyball without the necessary ear defenders. I am not exaggerating for effect. It is THAT loud.
Yes, I know it might have something to do with the fact that it’s a far smaller, enclosed hall with a low metal ceiling which bounces the sound around, as opposed to a huge Stadium which sends the noise up and out into the London sky, scaring the birds well away. But why do we need to compete to decide which is best anyway?
To me at least, the crowds at these Games, while almost as large as those of the first Games, seem slightly different.
If you’ll allow me to make some presumptions (albeit ones I believe are safe) here, a lot more of the tickets for these Games have found their way into the hands of the British public.
I get the train up through Kent every single day (assuming I’ve made it home the previous night) and I can honestly say there are significantly more people standing on the platforms, in the aisles and who alight with me at Stratford International than there were during the Olympics.
Again, I have no agenda here, this is just how I’m seeing things.
It also seems to me that there are a lot more families with younger kids. Now I am guessing here, but I reckon there are far fewer corporate tickets for the Paralympics than there were for the Olympics and also I reckon the ticket prices are more affordable.
That makes for, in my opinion, a potentially noisier fanbase. People who have decided to jump on the London 2012 magical bandwagon in the last month or so and who want a piece of the party atmosphere for themselves.
Tickets for the Olympics were being snapped up for months in advance by people who just wanted to go to the Olympics, maybe just to say they had been. I should know, I was one of them. I applied for £2,000 of tickets and ended up with two £30 badminton seats. (I eventually got lucky in other ways though, clearly!)
The people who have trawled the websites to get themselves to these Games are doing so because they have seen on TV just how special the Park is and the atmosphere has been and they want a piece for themselves and their kids.
Yes it’s about being able to say ‘I was there’ and ‘have you been to the Park? Isn’t it amazing...’ but it’s also about wanting to have a day of celebration and fun and be a part of literally spine-tingling support for people who you don’t know and often have nothing in common with except a purple passport.
The Paralympics crowds have come to make some noise and enjoy themselves because they know it’s the last chance we’re ever going to get.
They’re not ‘better’ fans, the atmosphere is not ‘better’, the Games experiences were and are both incredible in their own ways.
I have heard, and it’s true, that the Olympic crowds had more overseas fans to interact with, but surely that means there are more Brits providing breathtaking support for ParalympicsGB competitors this time.
I have memories from every single day of both Games which will live with me forever. Neither is better or worse. They have both been incredible and we should be so, so proud.