May 23 2013 Latest news:
by Luke Jacobs
Saturday, August 11, 2012
“Holland! Holland!” chanted a group of Thai men, dressed in a curious mix of flags, face paint and lederhosen.
They were joined by a bemused looking Dutch man, who posed awkwardly in between them for a picture as they banged their drums and cymbals.
A few metres away, a group of up to eight police officers surrounded a man in what appeared to be a crackdown on ticket touts.
And on the other side of the chanting Thais, queues for the box office stretched back dozens of yards - but there was no sign of irritation or itchy feet.
This is the ExCeL centre in Custom House during the Olympic Games, a hive of activity and colour.
“We couldn’t get tickets so we just came here to take in the atmosphere,” said assorted members of the Davies family, who travelled in from Essex and Buckinghamshire.
“It’s just so friendly and fantastic and coming in on the Underground has been fine. We came in on the Jubilee line.”
Despite the focus on the main Olympic Park, seven key events, including weightlighting, Taekwondo, and boxing, are taking place in five arenas at the ExCeL.
Sally Macguire, from Streatham in south London, came with her friend to collect table tennis tickets.
“We’re not massive fans of (table tennis) but we came today because the dates and times were convenient,” she said.
“The experience has been fine, apart from the queues, which are a bit of a pain but you can see they are actually moving quite well now. Maybe we could get an Olympic gold for queuing?”
Hundreds of enthusiastic ‘Games makers’ kitted out in the familiar purple dot the path to and from Custom House and Prince Regent DLR stations.
“Every day is very busy,” said Abdul Atia, one of the smiley volunteers. “We tell people where to go with a smile on our faces, as always.”
Diane and Emily Giuesti, from San Francisco, have been dazzled so far by their Olympic experience in Newham - but not all venues have impressed them.
“We were here for about one week before the Olympics, I think the Olympic Park is exactly what this area needs, it’s fantastic,” Diane said.
“This area, nah, not so much, it’s like any other dockside area of a city.”