When the London 2012 Olympics ended a few weeks ago, I wrote a Blog post about my Olympics regrets. I regretted not having been able to be a part of such a momentous event. I'm delighted to say that I am both pleased and proud to have been a part of the Paralympics - an event which I have no doubt will be remembered as an inordinate triumph.
Yesterday, I spent a whole day at the London 2012 Paralympics, with my dad, and my sister. We had day-passes to the ExCel centre, and we saw a variety of events throughout the day. We watched the Wheelchair Fencing, we marvelled at the extraordinary Power Lifting finals, we cheered Team GB in the Sitting Volleyball (even though they got badly beaten by Brazil!) and we learned how to pronounce "Boccia".
The thing which struck me the most about the Paralympics was just how wonderful the atmosphere was at all the events we saw. Talking about it on the way home, Dad and I both agreed that the whole thing had felt like a big party - a party where you didn't really know anyone, but where you didn't need to, because everybody was so friendly and warm-hearted, you just instantly got along.
The organisers have done a great job of the event - everything is clearly signposted, there's ample space for queueing/eating/resting/whatever and the GamesMakers are helpful, friendly courteous, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, and are always smiling!
The in-house presenters and commentators do a great job of setting the mood, and getting the audiences involved, and the result is that the crowds really get behind the athletes. Obviously, there was huge support for the British athletes, as the home team - hearing an entire ExCel Arena shouting itself hoarse for the Team GB's Sitting Volleyball Women's Team was quite an experience, and I shall never forget how the place erupted as one when the big screens (which are dotted all around the venue) showed a clip of British Paralympic Swimmer Ellie Simmonds from the Aquatic Centre. But even at the Power Lifting, where there were no British competitors in the events we saw, the crowd really got into it all, and you could feel that whole room of people willing on each athlete to achieve the best he or she possibly could.
The only bad thing about my Paralympic experience (and I do mean only) was the rapid resurfacing of my disappointment not to have made it through the final stage of the GamesMaker applications. As I've already mentioned, all the GamesMaker volunteers really are fantastic at what they do - I have so much respect for them.
Other than that, however, the whole day was brilliant. The Paralympics is an amazing event, and to be a part of that felt just as amazing - if you haven't got involved yet, I would absolutely urge you to do that when you can, before the opportunities to see it all are gone for good!