Grace Dent: Using ninja internet tactics, I finally enter Olympic Park


Click to follow
The Independent Online

After five days of Olympic red-button surfing, it was time to actually leave the house and enter the Olympic Park.

Snaffling tickets for Spain vs Croatia yesterday in the men's water polo – via ninja internet tactics – came at just the right time. I'd run out of clean cups and groceries. In fact, by the time Team GB had taken silver (downgraded to bronze) in the gymnastics on Monday night I was considering drinking banana Nesquik out of a shoe. I'll never see the jolly side of Japan sulking away our silver. My Olympics goodwill had also run thin with the beach volleyball DJ, the twonk who sounds like Pat Sharp warming up Tokyo Joe's in Magaluf 1988.

Somewhere in Britain a waltzer's control booth is missing its big gob. If you're reading this, sonny jim, I am one more "We Will Rock You" jumping to a "My Sharona" then back to a cheeky Mariachi trumpet before you get a visit.

Right now, the Olympic Park feels like a vast concrete Glastonbury with a complete dearth of places to buy merchandise, food or booze. How did this happen? I've spent six years being whined at about the IOC corporate tie-ins, then by 2pm yesterday I'd have motor-boated Seb Coe for a sip of a Robinsons Fruit Shoot.

Spain vs Croatia ended dramatically when Spain's goal in the last 10 seconds was disallowed, leading to a mob of Spaniards shouting the odds in tiny trunks. The Croatians had already donned their dressing gowns and flounced off.

Needing emotional rescue from the medal race

Medal-wise, I've accepted that the Chinese are – and I've run this past the sport desk, they assure me it's a term – annoyingly bloody good.

I've started treating our own Team GB athletes like the sexy characters in a straight-to-DVD horror movie. They look great in shorts, but don't get attached as they won't be around long. I kept a stiff emotional distance from Tom Daley. It worked out very well.

In contrast, I got my heartstrings all tangled up with the 18-year-old weightlifter Zoe Smith, which led to me spending Monday screaming: "But WHY would they ENTER her for that weight if she's not a good prospect in it?" I did this while frantically checking Twitter to see what type of cookies she ate for breakfast.

When it comes to medals, the surprises and freak occurrences are lovelier. Like 15-year-old Plymouth schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte grabbing a gold in the 100m breaststroke. Ruta's from Lithuania but came to Plymouth to concentrate on her swimming.

Ruta's little face as she stood in the water, trying to make sense of events and then garble a message to her dad back home, was a special moment.

Anybody fancy a visit to Covent Garden?

Inside the Olympic Park and in Westfield Shopping Centre there's a constant stampede. In contrast, central London still feels like a ghost town.

After months of being warned by Boris that London would be a post-apocalyptic vision of nihilistic hell (OK, he said "jolly busy" while doing his bumptious Old English Sheepdog face, but we got the gist), London is actually TOO quiet.

There are no panicked tourists knocking each other under Tube trains or attacking each other with stuffed Wenlocks for the last orange Calippo within the M25.

In fact, Londoners, being a resourceful bunch, seem to have treated the Games in much the same manner as West Londoners have treated the Notting Hill Carnival for decades – by going on holiday or staying indoors with the blinds shut.

"Pleeeease come to Covent Garden!" a council official wibbled on the BBC London News, standing outside the Punch and Judy Pub in the centre of the market. In the background a juggler performed for tumbleweed and a bored crow.

This made me laugh. I always tell visitors to never look at London street theatre. It just bloody encourages them.