Kingston just loves the Olympics

There had been an air of cynicism over the Olympics in Kingston. We were having to contribute substantially to the costs with no obvious benefits to us.

That all changed as we gradually realised that not only were we hosting four Olympic events but we were also getting the torch twice! And all could be watched for free.

250,000 people watched the torch relay in Kingston. That is not only far greater than the population of the borough but beat the turnout in all the other London Boroughs, even though we are the smallest one.

It started out from the Hook Centre - our great pride and joy down here in Hook - carried by James Cracknell, a former Kingston school pupil.

I didn't get in to Kingston to see the torch when it went down the river on Gloriana. The river side pubs and restaurants were the perfect place to watch it go by, although I caught the whole event online.

You can see the Guildhall top right as the flotilla approaches Kingston Bridge on its way to the Olympic Park.

The next day was the men's road cycle race. We found a spot on Kingston Hill as the cyclists flashed round the corner by the Albert pub.

A thunder storm broke out in Kingston just as the women's race set off on Sunday from the Mall. A tree in Bushey Park, on the route, was hit by lightning and burst into flame. I decided to watch this one out in the dry, and it was wonderful seeing so many places I recognised, across Surrey and through Kingston.

The crowds were amazing again, but they were nothing compared with what awaited us for the time trials on Wednesday. 

I watched the women's race from the pavement opposite the Rose, and managed to capture a Canadian rider with her supporters across the road.

We were all waiting for Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins in the men's race. A huge roar preceded them as they rode up the High Street and turned into the Ancient Market.  I sneaked into the Upper Circle Bar in the Rose to get this shot of Wiggo storming past the Guildhall.

The roar of the crowd was unbelievable.

The two cyclists said this in an interview:

‎"It was really something special, just enormous, the support," Froome said. "It's something that I don't think I'll ever experience again". Wiggins said the same, "coming back round the roundabout in Kingston, I'm never going to experience anything like that in my entire career. It's topped off."

So which roundabout was he thinking of? It could be the mini-roundabout at the junction of Kingston Hall Road, but many people think he was referring to the wall of sound, bouncing around the narrow roads, that hit him as he turned into the market.

Once he had gone past, there was a rush to see the end of the race on the Big Screen in the Rose. I was ushering and I've never seen a crowd like it in the theatre before. Everyone was screaming at the screen as Team GB took the gold and bronze. We all cheered the medals ceremony and stood up for the National Anthem. What a day!

A friend of mine who lives on the Sussex coast remarked that he was glad he wasn't up this way because it must have been chaos on the roads. From this end it looked very different - it has been one big party for Kingston. The trial event last summer alerted everyone to the restrictions, and whereas there were some mutterings then, when the reality hit us the sense of pride in Kingston was palpable.

So we did get our money's worth in Kingston after all, and no doubt the pubs and restaurants will be very, very happy.

 

 

Comments

Was part of the crowd by the riverwalk a few hundred yards before you. You got warning of most riders via the headlights of the motorcycle pre riders. With Froome and Wiggins it was the roar of support that alerted you before they were in sight. I was wondering about the roundabut too but as he didnt know where he was when being interviewed "wherever we are, that castle behind us" (almost verbatim) it might be best not to ask him !

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