We watched the Beijing Closing Ceremony and very impressive it was. Even Boris managed not to drop the Union Jack and Beckham kicked his football into the volunteers.
More local to home we then took part in Oxford's 2012 Handover Ceremony. The day was based around Nowka Bais boat racing, put on by Oxford's Bangladeshi and other communities and sponsored by private and public bodies. To finish the day, we went around the City in an open top bus with the flag raising by the Lord Mayor on Carfax Tower just before 5.30pm.
Looking at the final medal table, we've done outstanding well to reach fourth place, with 19 Golds and 47 medals in total. Fourth place was our target for the London 2012 Games so not sure where we go from here?
All in all we look forward to a more festive 2012, which will 'let go' a bit more than Beijing has. We hope its on time, under budget and just as good - time will tell!
Beijing terminal 3 is simply enormous. It is arranged like a huge spacecraft with two pylons pointing outwards to greet planes and passengers. We were through check-in, immigration and security in about half an hour. Security was quick but very thorough - lots of sniffing of various liquids and medicines for about 10 minutes for Ian. Our flight took just over the 10 hours and Heathrow Terminal Five and our family welcomed us - the first time either of us had been through. Impressive architecture but a slow (45 minute) wait for Ben's bag left us with mixed emotions. We're looking forward to tomorrow's closing ceremony.
A wet smoggy cloud descended over Beijing yesterday - perfect for enjoying our hotel pool and 10pin bowling. A late checkout meant we could enjoy lunch in a good Taiwanese restaurant around the corner before moving to our new hotel near the Temple of Heaven park. TeamGB continued our best ever medal haul but the Ruskies are catching us up with 16 to our 17 golds. We talked to other Brits about what it's like here and some problems for Beijing 2008 1) most agree the Games are the best so far, certainly for GB 2) Chinese welcome is good but not backed up by enough understanding of top 10 English phrases needed 3) information is lacking e.g. No map is handed out on entry to the Olympic park. English china state CCTV Channel 9 is useful but not publicised 4) food on the Olympic park is poor quality. 2012 can do a lot better 5) transport has been ok principally by the Chinese taking half the cars off the road every day and seem to have banned lorries. Taxis are the most convenient because they are cheap (say £4 for 5 miles) and door to door.
An amazing day, finished off with our last time at the Bird's Nest and a new World Record.
We had a look at the local shops this morning - nosing around the toy stores (for a certain 7 year old) and other stores in the Wangfujing Shopping district - think Oxford Street on steroids! Lunch was in a nice Chinese restaurant - except we didn't realise it was a cook your own. We looked at a strange metal plate in the middle of the table and realised this was a griller - oh what fun!
We left early for the Athletics at the Bird's Nest as Ben wanted to try out the Metro to the Olympic Park. It was quite crowded - not quite sardines but close! For you security buffs out there we had to leave the Metro station we were in, go through security clearance, then go back down into the Metro station and 2 stops later we were in the Olympic Park. Hopefully with the 2012 stations outside the Park we won't see this in four years time. We then had a half an hour walk to the stadium (from the middle of the park - it's that big) and sank into our seats early after stocking up on drinks (good thing we did - other Brits around us reported 30 minutes to queue for pretty poor food and drink - choice: yoghurt, bread, hot dog, biscuits, noodles, snickers!).
First up was 8 heats of the 800m, then the Women's Hammer final (invented by miners!) and after six rounds the Belarusian came out on top beating the Olympic record.
The blue riband race was at the end of the evening. Jamaica's Usain Bolt delivered another astonishing display of sprinting to add the Olympic 200m title to his 100m crown with a new world record. It was truly amazing - he looked like he jogged around, beating Michael Johnson's long standing world record and leaving the rest of the field far behind him!!! Something we will always remember. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics/athletics/7572885.stm
More comments tomorrow and Friday on the Olympic experience.
Setting off a bit earlier today we explored the Forbidden City - 500 years old and a vast expanse of temples and courtyards covering over 10km2. It was our hottest day so far at 34C in the shade and a bit more smog in the air, so we dived into the air-conditioned displays including the weirdest but most interesting display of clock's ever seen. We ended up in the Emperor's garden a magical mix of oriental plants and Ian was very excited to find a 300 year-old Wisteria still in flower.
Later, we met up with Patrick Bruce,luckily in Beijing for a day, for a few beers (lowish alcohol honest Ros) and caught up with old and new times. 27 years has passed so quickly!
Tonight we went to the Worker's Stadium for the men's football semi-finals - Argentina - the defending Olympic champions vs Brazil. Unfortunately the Brazilians had forgotten to bring any decent defenders with them, in their Olympics squad which has to be mostly under 23 and they looked a bit dodgy from the start. Even Ronaldinho was looking down in the dumps, as he kept hitting the post. It was a great experience, though, lots of flags and some Chinese supporters behind us mad keen on the Argies, even down to buying the blue and white kit. We left the Stadium after Argentina had put three past the Brazilian goal keeper, a little before fulltime to avoid the crush and that proved to be the final score.
We then came home to find Christine Ohuruogu had won the gold for Britain in the 400m! And we are still third overall - that topped off a brilliant day.
Shaking off our jet lag this morning, we were rewarded by a great breakfast and a pure blue sky - no smog in sight. Heading to Tianenmen Square, we had a very friendly welcome, even from the security guards, but not from Mao who was just lying around in his Mausoleum (groan!). We headed off for the Forbidden City and one mile later we had traversed only up to the inner gates and decided to save the rest of it for tomorrow. Everything about Beijing is huge!
Heading back to the hotel - Ben forgot to look four ways at a road crossing and pulled back by Ian, just managed not to be hit by a motorised bicycle.
Leaving early, our taxi dropped us off near the Birds Nest stadium for an evening of Athletics - what a magnificent building - 91,000 capacity and wrapped in an amazing stainless steel mesh. We walked all around it, taking in a brilliant view of the pulsating blue Aquatics Centre, next door.
The athletics were great - the Womens Pole Vault with a new Olympic Record set by Yelena Isinbayeva and Long Jump Final won by Panama's Irving Saladino (with GB in 10th). Usain Bolt easily won his 200m heat and Angelo Taylor led home the field in the men's 400m hurdles with USA taking all three medals. GB is still third overall - what a result so far! See the medal table top right of this page.
Heading back to the hotel was nerve racking - we couldn't see any signs to the Tube, so we competed with thousands of others for a taxi. Luckily one arrived and we grabbed it, getting back to the hotel tonight at 10.30pm.
Tomorrow is the football semi-finals - Brazil vs Argentina and we can't wait!
We had a great flight over on BA, only 10 minutes late coming in and with a marvellous view of an almost total lunar eclipse over Siberia. The moon turned an eerie blue colour! We then negotiated the airport all fairly quickly including a search of Dad's bag after a sniffer beagle (I kid you not) sensed something amiss - nothing more than a Kit Kat!! After a quick sprint through the hotel to check-in and pick-up tickets we heard that the Ladies Final had been added to today's order of play (what a bonus!) before the Mens tennis final, so the start had been brought forward by two hours. We had an exciting day of tennis to look forward to in the Lotus flower-shaped Centre Court.
Getting there was quite an adventure when the taxi took a series of wrong turns, through poor sign posting and ending up facing soldiers with large guns. Eventually we got to the Olympic Tennis Centre, to the north of the Olympic Green and about 8 miles from our hotel.
First up was the all Russian ladies singles final - Safina vs Dementieva, which was quite unremarkable at first, in front of a very small crowd due to the early start. The game then rose to a crescendo of grunts and great tennis. Dementieva won the game - 2 sets to 1 and took the gold on an all Russian podium.
Next was Nadal of Spain vs. Gonzalez of Chile and right from the off, this was a hard hitting cracker of a match. Gonzalez battled well but lost the first set 3-6. He then did much better in the second set going 6-5 up at one stage with a set point, but it was not to be. Nadal came back and won the resulting tie-break 7-6.
We're now pretty tired and after a beer and perhaps some Peking duck we're off to bed. Its Athletics tomorrow in the Birds Nest stadium - more then!