As the curtain comes down on the London Olympics 2012, the nation can stand proud after its remarkable achievements over the past fortnight. Not only has it arguably delivered the best games in history, but Britain also boasted one of its best ever medal tallies with 29 golds, 17 silvers and 19 bronze medals. One of the most historical triumphs was on Saturday 4th August when Britain topped the Athletics medal table with an incredible treble Gold winning performance in the space of an hour – the best the country has ever performed in one sitting at an Olympics. Jessica Ennis commanded the Women’s Heptathlon, Mo Farah dominated the Men’s 10km run and Greg Rutherford upset the field as he took Gold in the Long Jump with one leap to spare. This was Team GB kicking off the events in the Olympic Stadium with a bang. Earlier in the day before this amazing spectacle, I managed to catch the rather peculiar Men’s 20km Walk outside Buckingham Palace.
Firstly, I took a stroll through Central London to take in the atmosphere once more. After spending time on the South Bank, I walked over Waterloo Bridge to stop off in Trafalgar Square briefly before heading down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.The streets were packed as ever with supporters and tourists alike and it was nice to see the City at ease.
The Mall was lined with Union Flags, Olympic flags and crowds aplenty, leading right up to a barrier by Horse Guards Parade where the Beach Volleyball events took place. As The Mall was closed off, I had to duck up past the Institute of Contemporary Arts and head down Pall Mall to try to get to Buckingham Palace through Green Park.
En route, I had a chance to take a couple of beautiful photographs of the bottom of Regent’s Street, an empty Pall Mall (albeit it with black cabs still running) and an old Wine Merchants. A stunning cavalry horse also sauntered past in the opposite direction.
Once inside Green Park, I headed towards the outskirts of Buckingham Palace to see what was going on. There were huge crowds amassed outside the Palace with the most diverse collection of people I had managed to bump into. The Mall was closed off for what I imagined was the previous week’s cycling events or an upcoming road race of some kind. As I strolled around mingling with the crowd, I still didn’t know what huge event was about to take place – the Marathon races weren’t scheduled until the final weekend and the cycling I thought had finished already. There were people huddled together from all corners of the world – from China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand to the African and South American nations. There were also large clusters of people from all over Europe including Spain and France in the West to hoards of Latvians and Slovaks from the East. Why were there so many nations here?
Then, an announcement was made – the 20km Men’s Walk would begin in 15 minutes. The Men’s 20km Walk! Outstanding! I’d never been so randomly excited in my life! Not only would I be able to see another Olympic Event, but I would get to see one of the strangest competitions. My enthusiasm was clearly shared with the thousands of people who gathered around The Mall – the bizarre event was accompanied by a similar vibe in the crowd. It was almost like the World Cup Final had come to town. People were just so eager for the event to get going. They were even chanting at each other in warm jest and joking around eccentrically. This was as big a spectacle as the Marathon would be. Eventually, after finding the best spot I could get in the middle of a cluster of photographers, the race kicked off. The crowd cheered in jubilation as the men powered their way round the first lap of 10, starting at The Mall, heading past the Victoria Memorial onto Constitution Hill and back round again. And the race was one of the most painful I have seen. Not in terms of entertainment, but of physical pain. The walking race has to be one of the most unnatural of sports. It’s not only the pain of walking 20km at pace, but it’s also the mental stress put on the brain to prevent the body from naturally switching from a walk into a run. The fact the competitors are penalised every time both feet are lifted off the floor adds to this constant mental stress to make sure optimum speed is reached without breaking the rules. As everyone who has tried a fast paced walk, this makes the human body turn into a rigid state, almost semi paralysed as it starts to battle against the running stance. Watching the athletes evidently showed how traumatic it is. They would sweat buckets, more evidently it seemed than the Marathon runners. They would grit their teeth almost in need of a gum shield to prevent chapping away the tips. Even Japanese pace setter Yusuke Suzuki suffered from a stitch half way round and had to pull up briefly! It was an amazing sight that lasted for around an hour and a quarter, the athletes walking round at an approximately hefty 12km/h pace. Most people run that on a treadmill and struggle! And it was understandable at the end of the race why there were so many Chinese spectators as Ding Chen strolled round to win the Gold with Zhen Wang taking the Bronze.
Further Reading on London Olympics 2012
Official Site of the London Olympics 2012
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters