And so my last day at the Olympics dawns. I shall really miss it all when I'm home although I long to see my family and my dogs (in that order).
I'm going to find a lot of things really tricky to adjust to – my accreditation laminate is the single best thing I've ever possessed. With this one big yellow pass hung around my neck, I have total access to any Olympic venue: it's like the dream backstage pass you've always wanted at a festival.
When I first got it I assumed that there would be limitations. I could probably only use it to get into things that nobody else wanted to see: Greco-Roman wrestling, synchronised swimming, the Kazakhstani weightlifting locker room....
But soon I got more adventurous. This magic pass really did get me everywhere. This was how I found myself sitting 10 yards away from the finish line for both of Usain Bolt's history-making sprint finals. The excitement in the air at those two moments was like nothing else that I've ever experienced. It was the simultaneous recognition of 91,000 people that we'd just witnessed something totally extraordinary.
On my first day here, as a greenhorn, I assumed that there was no way that I'd get into the opening ceremony. It was a ticket-only event, even with a laminate, and I was certain that they would all be long gone. I even saw a news item on CNN about an American tourist paying $16,000 for one.
To be honest, it didn't bother me that much. Opening ceremonies of these sorts are usually TV Mogadon and I tend to avoid them like the plague. But I was here, in Beijing, so I might as well try. I emailed the British Olympic Authority office just on the off-chance. Three minutes later I got an email telling me to come down to their offices where I could collect a ticket. I was totally gob-smacked.
That evening I entered the Bird's Nest for the first time – an unbelievable structure, really stunning and impeccably designed for ease of access and premium viewpoints.
The atmosphere is extraordinary as well. When the opening ceremony started I was totally blown away. It was unbelievable in its sheer grandiose scale. Things got really out of hand: when Chinese basketball hero Yao Ming entered the stadium with a tiny little boy who had helped his schoolmates in the recent Sichuan earthquake, the crowd went totally apeshit and I blubbed like a baby.
If this wasn't bad enough, it was so hot in the stadium that I had almost stripped down to my underpants. This would have been the perfect time for the TV cameras to zoom in on me – naked, sweating and weeping. I could never have returned to the UK.
I've always loved the Olympics, ever since I got my first glimpse of the Montreal Games in a torrential rainstorm in a little hotel called the Pin Rose in Tuscany back in 1976. I was given a book called 'The History of the Olympic Games' for my next birthday and I would read it over and over.
I can remember where I was in the world for every 100m final since: in a recording studio in New York State when Ben Johnson, ripped to the tits on drugs, smashed the world record in 1988. I was in a hotel in Cyprus to see Alan Wells win in Moscow in 1980, in a bar in Marrakesh when Linford Christie won in Barcelona in 1992.
And now here I was, in Beijing, seeing it all with my own eyes. Nothing has disappointed – the Olympics are everything that I hoped they would be... and more. Bring on London 2012 and let's not be too British about it. I expect I'll be there, blubbing like a baby again – come join me....Reuse content