Chris 'Blocka' Dutton has hit the ground in London ... and stumbled on an opening ceremony rehearsal. Illustration: Marco Mana
By Chris Dutton
Bleary-eyed and confused after 23 hours of travel, I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the Olympic Stadium in an eery silence just days before 80,000 people get swept up in the euphoria of the games.
Strangely deserted ... the London Olympic preccinct. Photo: Chris Dutton
Maybe it was the jetlag or the relaxed London attitude ahead of the biggest sporting event in the world, but I had stumbled into somewhere I didn’t think I was allowed to be.
But instead of turning around, fellow Fairfax journalist Tim Barrow and I sat down in the front row trying to imagine what would happen in the coming days.
The details of the opening ceremony are under guard, but there is already a buzz that it will be one of the most spectacular shows.
A security guard let us through one of the gates and it was a strange feeling in an empty stadium.
I'd stumbled into the end of what seemed to be the end of some sort of non-official dress rehearsal.
There were workers in hard hats putting the finishing touches on the hidden displays and there are strict rules about what the media can reveal before the opening ceremony fireworks.
We sat for about 20 minutes trying to soak it all up, waiting for a glimpse of something extraordinary three days before the rest of the world gets to see the show.
And judging by the small insights we gathered and the rumours we've heard, it's going to be a cracker.
Around 60,000 people got a sneak peak of the opening ceremony on Tuesday morning, but they’ve been sworn to secrecy in the lead-up to Saturday morning’s event.
It could have been the calm before the Olympic storm as the precinct was deserted with only volunteers and journalists roaming the empty roads between venues.
The land of warm beer and the Barmy Army had turned on a spectacular welcome and getting an up-close look inside the main stadium was the perfect beginning.
When we arrived for the first time there were no crowds and no boundaries. Even the volunteers were unsure where to send us, so we forged our own path.
We won’t be able to do that in a couple of days when the precinct is overflowing with over-enthusiastic Poms keen to win gold and rub it in our noses.
A couple of times we over-stepped the line and walked into restricted areas before we were ejected in the nicest possible way.
When we arrived there were tractors racing around with scaffolding to finish stands at the outdoor hockey and BMX venues while power tools grinding metal screeched across the industrial area which has been transformed to an Olympic hub.
The venues look outstanding.
Before sneaking into the main stadium we walked into the BMX track where Canberra’s Caroline Buchanan hopes to claim a gold medal in two weeks.
It’s a makeshift track in between the hockey and basketball arenas.
The Australian athletes are starting to trickle back into the village after spending a large chunk of time at separate European trianing bases.
The excitement around London is slowly building with pink-shirt volunteers at every train station and around every corner.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to get into the opening ceremony when it kicks off, I’ll be stuck on the outside trying to get a glimpse or watching it in a pub.
But while I’ll miss the extravagant show, I’ve already had my own experience in the stadium.