Watching the Olympics

Summer 2021, but it should be summer 2020. I should have been in Tokyo. Ever since 2004 in Athens, I have tried to go to watch the Olympic Games. I make a regular saving each month to my Thamesbank Credit Union Savings account to help fund this passion.
Sadly, this time spectators were not allowed, but I managed to spend the savings on a new bathroom. Every cloud has a silver lining…
I soon got into the rhythm of waking up at 7.30 and watching the morning recap with a cup of tea in bed. Then relax during the morning and early afternoon as the excitement unfolded.

My main sport is athletics, which had a disappointing game, though I was delighted when Holly Bradshaw got the first Team GB Pole Vault medal as it is an event I coach. The highlights included the cycling in the velodrome with Jason Kenny winning his 7th Gold medal over four Olympics, Tom Daley finally got the gold he deserved in the diving and there was double gold in the modern pentathlon for Joe Choong and Kate French.

Back in 2016, I was able to combine a tour of South America with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As the previous games were in London, I had a bit longer to save up! One of the joys of the Olympics is seeing many sports. I was delighted to find that there were a number of tickets available and at half price to the Over 60s! Bagged another four sets. The road cycling was on a circuit just a short walk across the famous carnival Copacabana Beach and provided a fitting start to my Olympic Games watching. The next day, on the way to the Basketball (USA Dream Team vs China) we were handed free tickets to the Boxing in the same complex. Not really my sport but plenty of atmosphere. The next day was the highlight for my wife at the Tennis as we saw Andy Murray successfully through an early-round followed by Nadal. On to the hockey, Team GB vs Brazil, the locally bought tickets were in the Brazil end with strong vocal support as Brazil took the lead. However, the tension increased as GB equalised and then took the lead before running out 10-1 winners. By this stage, everybody had started to relax again.

The next day started with a thrilling Rugby Sevens, Team GB beating Japan 21-19. In the evening, a stone’s throw from our flat, we watched the Beach Volleyball live on Copacabana Beach, where the sport was invented. Loud, raucous and a late night! The following day we joined new friends we had met in Chile for the Canoe Slalom. Not necessarily an event I would watch, but it turned out to be very exciting as Team GB got silver in the doubles. Finally, we were due to leave Rio, but not before a fantastic visit to the Olympic Stadium for the first morning of the athletics. What a morning, a world record in the women’s 10000m and then we managed to move around to watch GB’s Jessica Ennis-Hill, Katerina Thompson-Johnson and Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam battle it out the Heptathlon High Jump. Possibly the greatest ever multi-event High Jump.

2012 – The London Olympics – unforgettable for anybody who managed to get tickets. I applied successfully to be a volunteer Gamesmaker. Definitely the volunteering experience of my lifetime.
– welcoming spectators to the O2 for gymnastics, basketball and wheelchair basketball
– getting a standing ovation in my Gamesmaker uniform one night on the last tube home

– Seeing gymnastics, trampolining and wheelchair basketball.

– Attending the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony. The only part of the show missing was James Bond and the Queen!

My only success in the ticket ballot was the rowing, but it turned out to be the first GB Gold. Through my involvement with Athletics, I managed also to get a ticket to see Mo Farah in his 5000m heat.

2012 showed the rewards from volunteering, and I could keep my savings in Thamesbank Credit Union ready for Rio!

I decided to miss 2008 in China. Too far and not enough saved!

Our Olympic Games travels started in 2004. I was fortunate to be offered a free flat in Athens for the Games. In 2004 it was easier to get tickets, so we kicked off our Olympic spectating with a number of sports. The highlight was the Men’s 4 x 100m Gold medal and Dame Kelly Holmes complete her 800m and 1500m double. Cuba vs Italy in Baseball, a one-sided 19-1, while the atmosphere in the Basketball arena for Lithuania was amazing. Again, we were able to walk to the triathlon course and stand just away from the changeover area, then rush into a nearby café for the out of sight finish on the TV.

We had tickets for the 5th & 6th place hockey, India vs New Zealand and coming out were allowed to go into the 9th and 10th place final, Team GB vs South Africa, for free. Arrived just as extra time was starting, followed by penalties which GB won! We finished this adventure with the modern pentathlon.
Following, the excitement and enjoyment of a fantastic 10 days in Athens I resolved to make a regular savings to my Olympic fund direct from my payroll. Once I had got used to making savings, I didn’t miss the money and over the years it has built up to allow my wife and myself to have a great time at the world’s best sporting event.

Paul Oppe
Vice Chair, Thamesbank Credit Union

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