Who knew when London was awarded the Olympics, how the nation would respond to the arrival of the Games themselves some seven years later. I am sure you will agree that they have been overall a fantastic success. It was rather a disappointment that I had not had the foresight to purchase tickets for any events. I had not even tried and I am sure the Teg from 2006 would be bashing me over the head with a club for being so passive (if time travel is ever invented, I am sure it will be on the agenda for my future self to track down my past self!). Therefore, when tickets started to be traded on my work social mailing list, I was keen to get my hands on anything. Tickets for the semi-final Men’s Football competition came up but at first, I had just missed out to my utter disappointment. However, fortunately the initial sale fell through, so I secured tickets from my colleague and thankfully already had the day off in question. There was only one problem, getting to Old Trafford, Manchester.
With my wife on holiday, she was able to quickly find that the best option, with only a few weeks remaining, was to travel by National Express from London Victoria. We opted to stay the night in a Travelodge, as the evening match would not finish until close to 10pm. We booked everything on the Friday, in blind faith that I would get my hands on the tickets on the Monday. We were all set and with my hands finally on the tickets, I was looking forward to Brazil potentially playing host nation Great Britain (although technically England and Wales, as Scotland and Northern Ireland declined the invite). Due to a fantastic athletics schedule on Super Saturday, we only had a small eye on the football on one of the 24 BBC HD streams. We were over at my parent’s house that evening, so had access to the additional channels, rather than just three on Freeview.
Before I get bogged down in the story of the event, let me just briefly reflect on the Olympic experience. As you know I live in Slough, which is a stone throw away from official venue Eton Dorkney. Of course events kicked off on Saturday 28th July but it was not until I left my house on Monday 30th July that I noticed the full impact of having an international sporting event on your doorstep. There were twelve double decker buses (provided by First Group) waiting at the newly renovated Slough train station to ship spectators to Eton. I do not think I have seen organisation on such a scale and in Slough of all places. Barriers had been setup and there were many volunteers helping the early birds make their way to the first double decker bus that was waiting to take them on their short journey to the lake. Just to repeat, this was all before six thirty in the morning, in Berkshire, England.
Fate would be against us and Great Britain would not get passed South Korea (losing on penalties – it could not be any other way!). The team sheets may have not been to our liking but we were going to enjoy our trip over to Manchester. It was my second time in the city but perhaps one of many visits for my wife, as her sister had attended university here and her brother (for his sins) is an avid Manchester United fan! The game was pretty one side as we expected and it was great to see some of the fresh faced Brazilian stars before the World Cup in South America in two years time. Match report including highlights video over on BBC Sport website.