The Olympic Games finally arrived in London on Friday 27th July 2012 after 8 years of preparation to a dazzling opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. After a 70-day long journey throughout the UK, the Olympic flame finally completed its journey at around midnight on the Saturday morning after passing through 8000 torchbearers. After missing out on seeing the flame on its circuit through Wandsworth in the week, I luckily had the opportunity to see the flame pass by on a small galleon ship on the River Thames on its penultimate journey to the Olympic stadium from Hampton Court to Tower Bridge. Hundreds of people had come out to see the once in a lifetime opportunity, although the boat whizzed by in a matter of seconds!
Strangely, the main torch at the bow of the galleon had blown out, with the torch bearer standing by it, holding up her torch high and proud.
The first weekend of events included one of the most exciting – the Cycling Road Race through London and the suburbs of Surrey, including Putney, Fulham, Richmond Park, Twickenham, Woking and Boxhill. The Men’s 250 km cycle race took part on the Saturday lasting around 6 hours, with the Women’s race on the Sunday, a slightly shorter 140km, 4 hour ride. What was most spectacular about this event was that it was the first time some of the busiest roads of London had completely shut down for the whole weekend, leaving the streets free for people to wander around at peace. It also gave me the opportunity to put my camera to work whilst soaking up the atmosphere of the hundreds of cheering fans in the streets. The party had well and truly arrived in London and it was great to see everybody out supporting Team GB. For once, London had the chance to come together as a community, with the crowds mingling and chatting amongst each other, all full of excitement and energy.
On the Saturday, I decided to head down to East Sheen with my friends Stu and Mike to watch the Men’s race pass-by on the corner of Priory Lane and Upper Richmond Road. Upon arrival, it was amazing to see the Upper Richmond Road completely empty of traffic, something we’ll probably never see again. But it didn’t take long for the calmness to turn into euphoria as the crowds lined the streets to greet the riders. Supporters had already been out the previous few days painting the roads in support of Team GB hopeful Mark Cavendish.We decided to perch ourselves on the inside corner of Priory Lane with the expectation that the riders would have to slow down as they approached the Upper Richmond Road on a slight downhill 90 degree right turn. I’d set up my camera at a slightly higher shutter speed of 1/500 in the hope of capturing the riders in motion, but not completely stop time. It turned out that I completely failed to capture the riders slow down at all. To our astonishment, they instead roared passed us in a matter of milliseconds at relentless speeds just a foot or so away from the front of my lens. It was so quick, the whole event passed us by in under 10 seconds! We always knew that they were quick, but they must have taken the corner at 40 miles per hour on tyres that are only a few millimetres thick. The strange thing out of my initial disappointment at not taking the crispest photos, the images at least captured the surprising moment of pure pace – the backgrounds are all completely still in contrast to the blurred speeding riders.
The Sunday saw the Women’s event also come to town and this time I headed into Putney High Street to take in the atmosphere. The day was marred by the changing weather conditions which ranged from torrential rain to bright sunny blue skies. This gave me the opportunity to capture some contrasting dramatic photographs of Putney High Street throughout the afternoon and of the race itself. The weather fortunately didn’t dampen the spirits of the people lining the streets or the amazing race that resulted in Team GB rider Lizzie Armitstead narrowly losing out to the powerful Marianne Vos of Holland.
Further Reading on London Olympics 2012
Official Site of the London Olympics 2012
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters