David Powles: A great day and a great advert for the Olympic Games
09:31 02 August 2012
As Emma Pooley toiled and Bradley Wiggins triumphed, David Powles was in amongst the crowds in Surrey enjoying the action.
This is what the London 2012 Olympic Games were always meant to be about.
A British gold, which thousands of us were able to witness. And, from where I spent the afternoon, there wasn’t even an empty seat in sight.
The only disappointment, of course, was that Norfolk’s very own Emma Pooley wasn’t able to make it a double celebration for Team GB.
A day off from Gamesmaker duties meant I was able to head south of the river (a few days in London and I’m learning the lingo) for both races.
And I certainly wasn’t alone as the crowd poured out of Hampton Court train station for most of the morning.
It may have been a Wednesday but thousands of people found the time to catch the event, the numbers no doubt swelled by the fact that it was not only free but offered the chance to get within a few yards of the competitors, something you rarely get even if a paying customer.
If you needed further evidence to dispel the claims this Olympics does not matter to the average Brit - here it was in abundance.
As far as the quaint Surrey villages chosen for the time trial route were concerned, they had probably never seen anything like it.
The more savvy amongst them spotted an opportunity for a bit of financial gain - it was 11.30am and the pizzeria was doing a roaring trade.
Others looked ill-equipped and crowds snaked out of several of the corner shops and on to the streets.
As the women made their departures in 90 second intervals I made my way towards the village of Esher - where the crowds along the route slightly smaller.
In the middle-class suburbs families were making the most of the day - laying out picnics, putting up gazebos and stoking up the barbecue.
Like me, everyone just wanted to see a GB medal - and news that our first of the games had already been secured did little to sate our appetites.
As such, when Pooley and team-mate Lizzie Armitstead, went by the reception they received was rapturous.
I’m pretty certain 90 per cent of those gathered had never heard of either women until the last few days - but that’s the beauty of the Olympics - suddenly anyone in Team GB becomes a household name.
Many soon slip back into the relative unknown. But for those talented enough to win gold, their names live on and trip off the tongue for years to come.
Pooley came and Pooley went - to the untrained eye like mine it was impossible to tell if she was riding well or poorly. She just looked fast.
Once all of the riders had passed the majority made their way to the nearby village green, where the action was being shown on a big screen.
Every time Pooley was shown, a loud cheer rose from the crowd, as if she had gone by again.
Alas, however, the encouragement of the fans was not enough to spur her on and sixth place was the best she could muster. But don’t forget that still puts her at sixth best in the world at her chosen event.
Instead the cheers, adulation, immortality and gold went to that man with the ginger sideburns.
It was clear the men’s race was the main event and by the afternoon the crowd had grown considerably.
As Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins passed-by people craned necks or stood on tip-toes just to catch a glimpse of them in the flesh - even if it was a very brief one.
Wiggins, in particular, received the sort of welcome which befits his newly-found rock star status.
By the time Wiggins headed for the home straight the crowd in front of the big screen must have reached 2,000-plus, all bathed in beautiful sunshine.
All of them were enjoying the moment that history was made - and, I predict, the moment millions more realised why the London 2012 Olympic Games are a great thing for Great Britain.