At the Paralympic Park yesterday there were lots of wheelchair users. People in electric chairs, self-propelled with muscle power, pushed by attendant. A few people using sticks. But no assistance dogs.
Then I saw Cody. He was lying down, so I approached the man with him and asked if I could stroke him.
I got the go ahead. Cody was one of the most relaxed dogs I have ever met. He settled his chin onto my arm when I spoke to the man with him who turned out to be minding him while his son, Cody’s human partner, was enjoying one of the attractions close by. Cody is a fetch and carry dog, sponsored by Dogs for the Disabled which just happens to be one of my favourite charities. He’s three years old and was due to be filmed by, I think, Sky, later in the day. It turned out I wasn’t the only one surprised at the lack of assistance dogs in the park. Cody’s minder had only spotted two others, both guide dogs for the blind. I hope if more dogs start turning up they won’t be met with the same lack of water bowls that Cody faced.
The Games Makers have been singled out for praise many many times during London 2012. The friend I went with yesterday interviewed people from around the world who applied to be volunteers. The system seems to have worked really well, but we were especially pleased to see this cheerful chap with his megaphone as we headed for the Aquatics Centre as we had just passed a trio of lads who should not have been given the uniform. They looked like Games Makers turned bad, huddled together, making negative comments about passers-by, they made me wonder aloud if they could possibly be doing community service. I certainly wouldn’t have been happy to approach them.
Inside the Aquatics Centre we climbed to our roof level eyrie. The place was full. And the crowd was predominantly British. We could see ParalympicsGB’s poolside presence from where we sat.
We cheered everyone, but there was a definite partisan roar for Hannah Russell. We yelled ourselves hoarse as she swam a very tight race, claiming the silver. I love the way the crowd just takes to its feet as one when excitement grips it.
Here’s Hannah diving at the start of the race.
You can see in this picture just how close a swim it was.
There’s a nice piece about Hannah and her race here, if you want to know more.
When Jonathan Fox appeared, the crowd’s voice surged again. Within seconds of the race starting everyone was standing up and yelling, and when he took the gold you must have been able to hear the noise for miles.
I don’t think I have ever heard the British National anthem sung with such gusto as when these flags were raised.
By the time we left, it was dark. we could see the flames from the cauldron through the arena.That’s where I’ll be tomorrow, in the arena, not the cauldron.
The Park looked wonderful, the crowds were smiling and orderly as we streamed out to the public transport, Games Makers wishing us safe journeys and hoping we had enjoyed our day.
We had. We really had. It was wonderful. Thank-you everyone. The Paralympics, the Park, the organisers, workers and athletes. You are amazing.