We are 65 metres up in the air . Below, a patchwork of picnicers spread out in multicolour irregular blobs, all cheering and watching Screen 1 as the women’s pursuit team won GB’s third gold of the day in the Velodrome barely half a mile away on the other side of the River Lee. The view today is spectacular from the top of this giant ferris wheel. The whole of London stretches out. To the East and just beyond the boundary of Victoria Park the magnificent Olympic Park-the backdrop and setting of what turns out to be the most extraordinary night for the GB team and particularly for the track and field Athletes.
As our capsule reached the top of its circuit we could look west to this magnificent city and a skyline that might not match Manhattan’s for sheer size but now contains landmark after landmark seemingly lined up alongside each other for maximum effect. From the left the newest and tallest landmark, The Shard, begins the line-up. Followed then by the City skyscrapers of the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and Tower 42, the still distinctive dome of St. Pauls, the London Eye and the BT Tower. You can see the Arch of Wembley Stadium on the horizon, where guess what, our footballers lost to South Korea on penalties, and to the right the hills of Hampstead, Highgate and Alexander Park. Finally, as we looked towards the river the O2 Centre and the towers of Canary Wharf sit. Wow!! What a place.
Back in Victoria Park we mingle with the crowds who seem to be in party mood. Free to get in, a large slab of this wonderful Park, the world’s oldest public park has been turned into part funfair and part viewing gallery for the local East London population. Three giant screens were entertaining the crowds with a mix of sports. Andy Murray, already assured of a silver medal by making it to the Tennis finals tomorrow, Andy was doing his stuff with Laura Robson and now has two chances of reaping gold-with a minimum of two silvers guaranteed. Screen one was showing the cycling in the Velodrome and large enthusiastic crowds were drinking beer and cider and soaking up the atmosphere and the sheer exuberance of being in a crowd at a great sporting event. Not quite as good as being in the stadium- there are less than 7000 lucky ticket holders for each Velodrome session- but the next best thing.
What a night was in store for those at the Olympic Park and particularly the Olympic Stadium. The noise from the stadium was unbelievable even if you were watching the greatest sporting night from your TV. First the “face of London 2012?, Jessica Ennis the pretty girl with a big heart and muscles to match. Boy did she perform. Her final task was simply to get round the Olympic track twice and stay out of trouble; such was her lead in the Heptathlon coming into this seventh event. Instead of playing safe Jess did exactly what the 80,000 in the Stadium wanted and what millions at home and watching on giant screens demanded by winning the 8oo metres and having that unique moment in her life of winning gold in front of her home crowd. Simply magnificent.
Meanwhile, quietly getting on with his business and winning GB’s second athletic gold , the red head Greg Rutherford leapt 8 metres 31 and that was on this night perfect enough and the first GB man to win long jump since Lyn Davies way back in 1964. Talking of long time no medals, GB has never won the 10,000 metres. Step into the arena one Mo. Farah. With a wide smile and a pencil like frame Mo came into this race as one of our favourites. So expectation was enormous and for 22 laps of the race I like many viewers, bit my nails and wondered and hoped as Mo, one moment in the top three or four , then slipping back to 9th and at one point 12th, was going to make this a record night for British athletics. Mo delivered brilliantly. As the last lap unfolded Mo charged around the track partly carried by those slender legs but I suspect carried, at least in part, by the unbelievable roar of those 80,000 sports crazy fans, and crossed the finishing line in emphatic style. What a moment. It was the fifth time today that I cried with pride and joy. What a week for the London 2012 team and Seb Coe. What a week for the greatest City in the world. And what a week for this almost forgotten part of London as all the world came to Stratford E15 in the London Borough of Newham as well as E20 the new postal district that contains the Olympic Park and the Westfield shopping centre.
Gradually Londoners are loosing their prejudice for East London and Londonmanstan and London Personally will be showing off London East of the Lee with renewed pride. Today was primarily about some super human athletes. But as they all acknowledged without the City’s dynamism and the Olympic Park and those amazing crowds at all of the Olympic venues it may never have happened.