It is still sinking in, we were really there! Although we watched the Olympics on screen, we did manage to get tickets to the Paralympics. One day pass on Wednesday, and one day pass with stadium on Friday. We only went in the afternoon on Wednesday, assuming that we would only be able to wander around the park and figure out where things were. Prepared, we had no liquids, packed a small bag, went though check-in and scanners (just like at an airport), and smiled. To be honest, I think it was against the IOC to do anything other than smile. The volunteers were amazingly cheerful and would high-five you, wave, ask perky questions, smile, if anything vaguely resembling a straight face (or, heaven forbid, a frown) passed ones face.
What we were not aware of was that the day pass entitled us to watch some sports like wheelchair tennis or rugby and 7-aside. So, we found ourselves watching Great Britain (or 'Team GB' as we all chanted) play 7-aside football and beat USA in the blistering heat.
Then we were swept with loads of people to queue for the wheelchair rugby or murderball.
Partner and I became instant fans. The game is wonderfully insane, like human dodgems, and yet the rules are easy to follow after a while (thanks to a wonderful commentator) and there is a cool level of humour - when one of the players faults in some way or another, he is sent out of the play area and the song that is played is 'Bad Boys'.
Exhilarated, we left that evening considering doing a marathon Friday in order to see as much as possible.
So, on Friday, we packed in lots of wheelchair tennis, watching Holland take all the medals in the women's singles and 'Team GB' women's double play hard to beat Thailand (who gave them a good and graceful run for the medal, but eventually lost),
had champagne and fish nibbles,
and strawberries and cream, and cup cakes (I think these are almost obligatory, I mean the cup cakes... )
and went to the stadium. This was akin to walking into a cathedral for the first time. My breath was taken away when I saw how close to the track we had seats.
A medley of flying disks, women long jumping, javelins, short races, long races, accompanied races, and a lot of flag waving and stadium madness ensued. The noise is deafening, like they kept saying.
I hope it is not too optimistic to consider that this event will make some difference to British culture, from the small gesture of seeing more smiles to the potentially revolutionary change that appreciating paralympic sports can bring to society as a whole. Personally, I am planning to watch much more! (not sure I can keep up the high level of smiling though... ).