Armchair Pundit

Crowds light up Olympic venues

Alex Chick

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The Olympic Velodrome roars its approval as Jason Kenny wins gold

What a wonderful, unforgettable fortnight.

London has staged sport's biggest party, and has done so with efficiency, hospitality and good cheer.

It is pointless to elect a 'greatest Olympics ever', but the fact that people - and not just Britons - are talking in those terms is testament to a glorious success story.

From a personal standpoint, the biggest triumph of all has been the fans.

Over 10 million poured into sold-out venues to roar on Olympic achievement in all its forms - highlights like Usain Bolt's pyrotechnics and Britain's amazing gold run, but also the less-heralded likes of water polo and weighlifting.

From the world-famous to the obscure, London 2012's crowds have cheered every participant like a champion.

It has been an immense privilege to witness this first hand on my Olympic travels. I have seen an Olympic 100m final, gold medals for Britain in rowing and track cycling, and watched stars like LeBron James and Ryan Lochte, Tom Daley and Victoria Pendleton.

But some of the most uplifting moments have come away from the gaze of the global TV audience. I will never forget the joyous atmosphere in the Copper Box last Sunday morning for the women's handball preliminary match between Brazil and Angola.

That sheer enthusiasm has been replicated across the Olympics - a 9am date at the archery; volleyball at creaking Earl's Court; canoe slalom in Hertfordshire - all have brought the same spirit.

The Olympic Park has been a place of sheer happiness. Hundreds of thousands came from all corners of the globe in a share love of sport. Everyone just happy to be there. You could not help beaming with delight.

Legacy is important of course. But for me, the last fortnight alone has been well worth the £9 billion. At five times cheaper than an RBS bailout, it seems like fantastic value to me.

All of which is a very long way of introducing the final league table of venues, which I have been rating over the last two weeks.

While I have doled out arbitrary ratings, I have had no genuinely negative experiences - just degrees of positivity.

Even the venues at the bottom of the table, if not flawless, were part of something fantastic.

The scoring was very subjective, and highly dependent on the entertainment in the particular session I attended - that's where table tennis fell down, for example.

In some places the spectacle outshone the venue (volleyball at Earl's Court), others were the opposite (open-water swimming at Hyde Park).

Circumstances played their part. ExCel's weightlifting score plummeted due to the ridiculously long walk to Pontoon Dock DLR station on exit - on subsequent visits I ignored the signs and the score improved.

I also feel I scored the Riverbank Arena rather harshly, while the out-of-London venues suffered due to accessibility issues.

You cannot scientifically compare a day of two British gold medals at Eton Dorney with a hockey group game, and I have not really tried to.

So, with those many disclaimers out of the way, here is the final venue scoreboard:

1- Velodrome (track cycling): 43/50
2- Olympic Stadium (athletics): 42/50
3= Eton Dorney (rowing): 41/50
3= Copper Box (handball): 41/50
3= BMX Arena: 41/50
6- Lord's (archery): 40/50
7= North Greenwich Arena (gymnastics): 39/50
7= ExCel (boxing): 39/50
9- Aquatics Centre: 38/50
10= Basketball Arena: 36/50
10= Hyde Park (open-water swimming): 36/50
10= Lee Valley White Water Centre (canoe slalom): 36/50
10= Horse Guards Parade (beach volley): 36/50
10= Earl's Court (volleyball): 36/50
15- Box Hill (road race cycling): 35/50
16- Weymouth (sailing): 34/40
17= Riverbank Arena (hockey): 32/50
17= Water Polo Arena: 32/50
19= ExCel (weightlifting): 31/50
19= ExCel (table tennis): 31/50

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The volunteers deserve high praise for giving their time and labour so generously and happily.

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They have provided constant cheer, even if jobsworth tendencies surfaced on occasion, which not even Olympic champions escaped.

At Eton Dorney, rower Kat Copeland came out of the athletes' area to speak to the media after her triumph with Sophie Hosking.

Everyone marvelled at the sight of her gold medal - except the guy manning the security point as she re-entered the restricted area. He ignored the glittering gong around her neck, and insisted on seeing her accreditation.

Even if Gamesmakers were sometimes guilty of following orders to the exclusion of common sense, they remain heroes for offering their services for no material reward.

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London's transport system coped extremely well - almost too well. The dire warnings issued in advance scared people off public transport to the extent that many Olympic journeys were quieter than on a normal day.

This was exacerbated by the Get Ahead Of The Games website, which specialised in sending punters on the most obscure, circuitous journeys available to keep them off the main routes.

In their desire to scatter people as widely as possible, signs were often wilfully misleading, such as those sending people leaving ExCel on that epic hike to Pontoon Dock.

And woe betide anyone who took any notice of the huge pink placards outside the Olympic Stadium claiming West Ham station was the fastest way to Central London.

This was a bare-faced and embarrassing lie. The signs neglected to mention that West Ham was a 45-minute walk away, or that it wasn't even quicker once you got there.

I have no problem with efforts to spread the load across their network, but I didn't like patent untruths that merely punished obedient, trusting people.

However, credit is due for avoiding transport meltdowns - a single rough morning on the Javelin trains was about the worst of it.

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Despite spending 10 out of 16 days on site, taking in as much action as possible, I could not get round everything.

Here's what I missed:

Football venues and Wimbledon tennis: A deliberate call as I wanted to stick to 'proper' Olympic Sports.

Greenwich Park equestrianism: I planned to go there on Sunday for the climax of the women's modern pentathlon - but the early arrival of my second child put paid to that. Kids, eh?

Wembley Arena badminton and rhythmic gymnastics: Had there been time, I would have loved to go. But it was just a bit out of the way.

The Mall, Hampton Court Palace and Hadleigh Farm cycling and athletics events: I went to the Velodrome, Box Hill and Hyde Park instead.

Some of ExCel: While I gave it a decent hammering, taking in table tennis, weightlifting and boxing, I missed out on fencing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling.

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Alex Chick has been writing from London 2012 throughout the Olympic Games.

Follow @alexchick81

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