Category: The Olympics…..


A few days ago I spotted the golden tram, specially painted to mark the Olympic Parade of Team GB through the city. Today I actually got to ride on it from Chorlton to St Peter’s Square. Over the last few weeks the company running the tram service has taken delivery of the last of the trams they are buying for present. There are now enough to run a full service and have a few spares should they be needed. But, as they are about to start a new line out to the Traffod Centre and Port Salford, to be opened in 2020, they made need a few more by then. And I’ve heard they want to extend to service even more to the less accessible parts of the city.

In St Peter’s Square they have finished the landscaping around St. Peter’s Cross that marks the spot where the long vanished church, that gave the square its name, once stood. I think I’ve mentioned before, that in spite of all the hustle and bustle going on at ground level, this part of the city is still consecrated ground. The cross tells us this and reminds us that below it is the ancient crypt with its long dead Mancunians still in situ. During the rebuilding of the station the builders had to check the crypt to see if it was still safe. The prospect of a rush hour tram crashing into it doesn’t bear thinking about. It was safe but the builders were spooked by what they saw and some had to have counselling. The cross looks splendid now, here with the Midland Hotel in the background.

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I noticed that some of the paving stones around the cross had the façade of the long gone church carved into them. A nice touch.

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And here is the cross with the intricate façade of No 2 St Peter’s Square behind it. The intricate patterns echo the carving on the 1930s Town Hall Extension across the square and that reflects the carvings on the Victorian Gothic Town Hall around the corner on Albert Square. A lot of thought has gone into this design. We’ve been trying to workout the pattern on this wall. I’m almost there. The top left panel reflects the bottom right. The next four diagonals in the top left reflect the corresponding diagonals in the bottom right. But the remaining three diagonals baffle me. You may have to click on the picture and make it larger to see what I mean. And if you can decipher the three remaining diagonals I, along with the rest of the city, would be delighted to hear from you.

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Manchester hosted the ‘welcome home’ Olympic Parade yesterday, honouring all the athletes who did so well at the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio over the summer. Team GB did well at the London Olympics back in 2012 but managed to do even better in Rio in 2016. This winning of medals hasn’t always been the norm for Team GB and when the Olympics were held in Atlanta in 1996 we only won one! I think that was our low point and after that we decided to throw money at the problem. With some problems that doesn’t work but it does if you want to win Olympic medals it seems. World class facilities and world class coaches and research into things like special fabrics that shave milliseconds off times have helped. Manchester was chosen as the venue for the parade as we have a great sporting tradition and the city has become a ‘medal factory’ for Team GB. The second part of the welcome will be in London today when they all get to go to the Palace to meet the Queen.

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The Manchester Parade started on Liverpool Road by the Science Museum, joined Deansgate below the Hilton Tower, past the Cathedral and Victoria Station and then along Corporation Street and Cross Street into Albert Square where there was a big welcome and a chance to meet our newish Prime Minister, Theresa May. She has a lot on her plate so it must have made a nice change to have a trip up to Manchester and bathe in the reflected glory of our Olympic athletes.

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Of course, something of this size doesn’t just happen. And the streets around Albert Square were filled with the media and their equipment to cover the event.

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The mayors of all the areas that go to make up Greater Manchester were using St Peter’s Square as a car park while they quaffed mid range champagne and canapés at the city’s expense in the Town Hall. I might try the parking idea next time I’m in town but I don’t do ‘mid range’ anything.

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I had a wander round the stores and, about 4pm, decided to find a place to watch the parade. Apparently 150,000+ people turned out for it. On a Monday afternoon at that. With a huge section of the city centre closed down in the rush hour, I can’t help thinking a Saturday afternoon might have been a better idea and more people could have come in. I’d parked in Chorlton so getting my car in wasn’t a problem. But getting on a tram back to Chorlton afterwards was a bit of a nightmare.

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And then the weather turned nasty and we had rain. I’ve been to enough  Manchester United and Manchester City parades in my time to realise how they work. People all try to crowd at the road side getting in the way of each other and seeing little. Given that the team would be on open too buses or the like, it’s best to stand back as you can still see in comfort. And, as it was raining, I headed for Kendal’s on Deansgate, where the marquee above the ground floor of this grand Art Deco department store provided shelter from the wet. So I could watch the parade and stay dry. The crowds were gratifyingly large. And the rain stopped for the parade.

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The Parade. First the lion that appears on the Team GB kit, trailing medals behind him…

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Some rather shiny, gold cars…

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An awful lot of athletes showing off an awful lot of medals. Apologies for the building in the green wrappings. Underneath is a very beautiful Victorian building that houses Waterstone’s book store and others. A long time ago it used to be part of Kendal’s across the street and you could get from one building to another by a tunnel under Deansgate linking the basements. Exciting stuff when you were 5…

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Some guys with light bulbs on their hats…

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More athletes with more medals, some only had one while others were weighed down with them…

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I’ve seen these ladies three times this summer. At the Chorley Flower Show in July, the Pride Parade back in August and now at the Olympic Parade. With tinsel on for Christmas?…

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A sort of disco, DJ booth bubble machine…

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It all went well. As the parade was reaching Albert Square I walked back along Deansgate to the tram station. They were already clearing away the barriers and cleaning the street, returning the city to its normal life. 

I watched part of the coverage on BBC last night. The city looked good. It’s always good to get some good coverage. Low point was Ore Odube, the BBCs morning sport reporter, referring to Manchester’s world famous Chetham’s School of Music in its medieval, 800 year old buildings as ‘derelict’. They’re having some tlc. He’s doing well in Strictly Come Dancing at the moment but I may have to think where my vote is going.

I was in the city centre this morning so thought I’d hang on into the afternoon to see the Team GB Olympic and Paralympic Parade through the city to celebrate their success in Rio over the summer. I hung about in St Peter’s Square for a while watching the trams come and go hoping to catch a glimpse and a picture of the golden tram that has been specially painted to mark the event. It was at Media City this morning so I thought it might be on the route to Piccadilly Station. It didn’t pass through while I was there but, doubtless, as soon as I’d left it turned up.

I went off for some lunch and a wander round the stores to see what was in them for Christmas. Harvey Nichols was doing their windows behind covers but Selfridges was already in full Christmas mode with fully decorated Christmas trees out in Exchange Square. And we haven’t had Halloween or Bonfire Night yet. In fact the leaves are only just beginning to change colour.

St Peter’s Square was a lot quieter than it has been. No 2 St Peter’s Square is about finished outside, they are up to the fitting out inside now. And they are putting the finishing touches to the tram station and the square itself. The tramline is about finished from St Peter’s to Exchange Square, they will be running test trams along it soon before it opens. It was calm all along the route. The people on this project will be moving onto the new line that’s being built from Pomona to the Trafford Centre via Manchester United’s stadium and the Imperial War Museum. That will open in 2020 and is out of the city centre so we’re all pleased about that. It’s been given permission and work starts this winter.

Back to the leaves. The trees in St Peter’s Square are just turning. Here are some pictures…. 

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Local artist, Dave Draws (I’m suspecting that’s not his real name, apologies if it is) has been doing a massive mural on a wall by the Exchange Square entrance of the Arndale Centre. He has a very distinctive style and does maps showing off local landmarks and businesses in, mostly, black and white. He started with Manchester city centre and then moved on to suburbs like Chorlton and Didsbury and areas like the N4. He’s done a Manchester City map (with added sky blue) and a Manchester United one (with red). You can buy the maps or have them on coasters, mugs, cushions and the like. It’s proved popular and, as his fame has grown, he’s done the same for Leeds, Liverpool, Chester and so on. I’ve seen one of New York as well.

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His work has become popular and bars, cafés, hotels and offices across the city have commissioned him to do something on their premises.

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The Arndale Centre Mall has got him to do a map of Manchester featuring all the Olympians and Paralympians, who live or are based in the city, who have won medals in Rio over the summer. There are a satisfying large number. Across the map, among the landmarks, you can find little figures involved in a sport with their names next to them. Some of the athletes have already been in and have added their signatures to the artwork.

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The ones that haven’t signed yet may be able to do so on Monday. On that day there will be a big parade through the city to officially welcome back all the medal winning athletes. I’m not sure of all the details but some of it will be along Deansgate. They had one of these parades in London back in 2012 but this year the honour has fallen to Manchester. Having Manchester City and United in town we are good at, and used to, these things. It’s going to be in the afternoon, the schools are closing early so people can attend. I have the day off so I’ll go in and see if I can snap an Olympian or two. Greg Rutherford, with his red hair, might be easy to spot unless he’s busy getting his dance right for Strictly Come Dancing. Likewise Claudia Fragapane, the cute little gymnast. It’s going to get colder over the weekend, so anyone thinking they might be seeing Tom Daley in his speedos is probably going to be disappointed. We did win a lot of medals coming second in the rankings for both parts of the Olympics so it will be an impressive show. 

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Both our Team GB Olympic athletes and our Paralympic Team have done astonishingly well over the summer in Rio. Both teams came second in the rankings behind the USA in the Olympics and behind China in the Paralympics. Both teams did better in Rio than they did in London as well. We like all this. And in a few weeks the homecoming parade will be in Manchester. Of course it doesn’t just happen. It has to start somewhere. And in Albert Square this evening there were lots of little kids competing against each other on a purpose built track in front of a pop up stadium to give them a taste of what it might be like for them in Tokyo 2020 or Paris/Budapest/Hamburg/Rome/Los Angeles 2024. 

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I keep doing my last Olympic post! This will probably, possibly be my last one. I’d taken a picture of the gold post box in Albert Square that was painted when the fist athlete from Manchester won gold back in Summer. I thought there was only the one in the city for ALL our gold winning athletes but I’m beginning to think it’s one post box per athlete. And when I went to see the Olympic athletes be welcomed back to the city officially there were about 60 on the stage by the end of the proceedings. So I’ve found 2 and 58 to go…..

This one was on Piccadilly Gardens. It’s unusual because its not the usual round shape that people recognise the world over and is one of the most iconic images of the UK. They are very substantial edifices these boxes, the one caught up in the IRA bomb in Manchester  survived with barely a scratch and the mail inside was untouched when it was finally retrieved. Other countries don’t see to have boxes as recognisable and I must apologise to the mail-men around Los Altos, south of San Francisco. For a while I was posting my litter in theirs because that’s what I thought they were for! This one in Piccadilly  Gardens is oval in shape and has two openings for mail. 

We have lost a lot of our distinctive red telephone boxes because everyone over 10 has a mobile phone now. It would be a shame if we lost these as well due to everyone sending emails.

I know I said I wasn’t going to put up any more posts about the Olympics. They were 6 years in the making and there was about 2 months of great fun and pride as TEAM GB performed way beyond expectations and we were the centre of the world’s attention for all the right reasons. For a few weeks, everyone in the UK was singing from the same hymn sheet and people said anything against the games at their peril. 

They gave the country the feel good factor and since the games we have had good economic news and the country has emerged from recession, the economy has started growing again, unemployment is down and inflation is down. The optimism caused by how well the Olympics went seems to have had a positive effect on the economy.

It’s all in the past now. But it would have bad if I didn’t post about the celebrations for the Manchester contingent of TEAM GB, both Olympians and Paralympians. It was held in Albert Square last night and it was a gratifyingly large number of athletes to be seen, many of them weighed down with medals of various hues. It was quite thrilling to see the athletes and  the medals in person. All were securely round their necks and none were being left lying about in Manchester bars, unlike what happened in London after the Buckingham Palace party the other night. One of the two that disappeared has been posted back to the owner anonymously, we are still waiting for the other to turn up.

There was a civic reception in the Town Hall for the athletes and then they came down into Albert Square to meet and greet the public. Then there was a firework display over Albert Square to celebrate their achievements.

I wandered through the square in the afternoon when they were putting the finishing touches to the temporary stage for the festivities…

When I returned the square was full and the and the stage was already full of various athletes being interviewed and watching their exploits over the summer…

At the front of the crowd, closest to the stage, were the ‘gamesmakers’ in a place of honour. These were the people who volunteered to work for free for the Olympics, doing all kinds of jobs across the various venues. Without them the games would not have been as successful and would have been a lot more expensive. The London Olympics were overwhelmed with applicants to work with the games. It was, of course, an idea they borrowed from the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, where 1000s of Manchester people (including yours truly)  gave up their time to work for free to make that event run smoothly.  The Olympic committee looked at the Manchester games and they were one of the factors that swung the decision London’s way. Here they are in their uniforms. I imagine that these volunteers must have been working around Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium for the football and in the city centre directing people about the city…..

The athletes were brought onto the stage in batches according to their discipline…

Possible the coolest hair cut of any Olympian/Paralympian…

The last group to come up were the TEAM GB Cycling team, the most successful cycling team in the world. They are based at the Manchester velodrome (built for the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002), known locally as ‘The Medal Factory,’ so successful has the team been while it has been based here. Manchester is very proud of having the team based in the city and wants it to stay here. There have been worries about it relocating to the stunning Olympic venue in London or to the even newer velodrome that has just opened in Glasgow, but Manchester has spent a lot of money on redeveloping the velodrome area, adding all kinds of new facilities so it looks like the team will stay in the city.

Nearly all the cycling team were here. Sadly Bradley Wiggins, who won the Tour de France this year, then gold in London was cycling somewhere else. And Victoria Pendleton, who won a lot of gold, had to be in London where she is appearing in the BBC’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing.’ Sadly she not taking to dancing with the same success as she did to cycling and is being out shone by Louis Smith, a bemedalled gymnast from Team GB whose natural grace, agility, good looks and killer, toned, athletic body has meant he’s taken to dancing like a duck to water and the country has taken to him (not to mention Darcey, Bruno and Craig on the judging panel, all of who are smitten by him).

In this first picture you can see one of our Paralympians with her seeing eyes dog. She was a medal winning cyclist! I am in awe of these guys…

Three athletes weighed down with medals…

The disappointment of not seeing Bradley and Victoria here, I was delighted and more than a little star struck when I found my self within a long jump of Sir Chris Hoy. He is one of our cyclists and, possibly the most medalled athlete in TEAM GB history. He’d just been up in Glasgow where the new velodrome was being named in his honour. This one has been built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games that will be held in that city. Sir Chris is from Edinburgh. Sir Chris is second from the left in the picture…

Boris has been relatively quiet over the Olympic period, his role in the events being limited to whizzing about supporting various athletes, sitting near the Queen at various ceremonies and some impressive flag waving in the stadium at the end of it all. And he did get stuck on a high wire for an hour once in a park in East London but he had a flag so he did some useful flag waving while he was up there. He has been very vocal on TWITTER though if you follow him. If you don’t, he’s worth following.

As Mayor of London, he has been very supportive of the London Olympics of course. Some one said that if Lord Coe was the father of the Olympics, Boris was its tipsy uncle! Yesterday was the parade through the city of the Olympic medal winning athletes and Paralympians. Because of the success of both parts of TEAM GB, it was a gratifyingly huge parade working its way through the city from St. Paul’s to Buckingham Palace.

At the palace there were speeches. Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister, made an effusive, politician’s speech with carefully guarded words that was received with polite applause. Having said that, he has realised how much the success of the games in London has had on the country generally and all the money that the Olympic teams have enjoyed up until London 2012 is guaranteed for Rio in 2016.

Then it was Boris’s turn. He appeared to have notes which he occasionally glanced at but you had the feeling he was winging it as he was going along. And what we got was wonderful. A real heartfelt response to the Games that reflected how the country feels about the summer we have gone through from the Diamond Jubilee to the end of the Paralympics. There were swipes at France, Germany, Australia and if any other country felt left out, he pointed out that TEAM GB had out played every country on the planet when you factored in size of population. And then he said ‘not only have you inspired a generation you have probably created a generation on the nation’s sofas!’ ‘Can I get away with that?’ he asked. Too late Boris! It was already said! The huge audience roared and Mr. Cameron had a ‘will someone please get him off for ***** sake!’ look on his face.

It was one of the best speeches ever. People genuinely warm to him and his exposure over the Olympic period has done him no harm in the rest of the country either. He is connected to the present government but isn’t worried about telling his pals in Westminster exactly what he thinks if something they are doing is going to adversely affect London like over London airport. He has been cheered at his appearances at the Olympics while people like George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (looks after the nation’s finances) have been roundly booed. This hasn’t been lost on the politicians and people are thinking about having Boris as Prime Minister. It would doubtlessly be fun but I can’t help thinking we will spend most of the time apologising to all those countries he will upset!

It’s not the last parade of the Olympians and Paralympians. There will be a smaller parade in Manchester in October for all the athletes who live in or are based in the city. By small, I predict something along the lines of Manchester City or Manchester United returning to the city after winning some great tournament with 100s of 1000s of people lining the streets to cheer them. It will also send a very strong message to the GB Olympic Committee who might be harbouring any ideas of moving the TEAM GB Cycling Team from the velodrome in Manchester to the beautiful new one in East London. Hands off….

Here’s the speech in full….

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19549553

As I’m posting I have just heard that TEAM GB has won the gold in the men’s wheelchair marathon in the Paralympic Games in London. This evening is the closing ceremony and it will all be finished and will be packed off to Rio. It will be sad. The Olympics were wonderful with it all going extremely well. London didn’t grind to a halt because they scared everyone else from going.  The weather played along and TEAM GB exceeded all our expectations.

If anything the Paralympics have been even better. The events were sold out. The sun shone. And Paralympic TEAM GB did even better than the regular one exceeding what we expected they would achieve as well. I know the Paralympians want to be treated equally to the regular Olympians and they should be. I was prepared to be amazed at the way Usian Bolt covers the ground or how Sir. Chris Hoy can shift a bicycle in the velodrome. But I was in awe of the German guy who won bronze in the first race of the the Paralympics, cycling like the wind around the velodrome but with only one leg. Or the Chinese guy who twitched dreadfully on the starting block but took gold in the swimming pool where all signs of his disability seemed to disappear as he focused on the race. Sadly I can’t remember their names but the members of TEAM GB have become household names  over the last few days. I’m sure they will be recognised by their own countries.

Exchange Square in Manchester, was busy yesterday with people sitting in the sun enjoying the games on the big screen. It has been packed everyday of both games when the weather allowed. We are watching the wheelchair basket ball here. But the game that has really captured public imagination is the wheelchair rugby which has been named MURDERBALL so vicious and physical is it. Totally absorbing to watch and every vicious thrust and push apparently legal in the game. We were surprised there wern’t fatalities.

So after 6 years of preparation, building, some controversy, a 2012 of anticipation and 6 weeks of wonderful sports and wondering what Boris might do next, it is all, sadly, over.

One sad note. It was reported in the papers today that one of the corgi dogs, Monty, that appeared with the Queen and James Bond in her wonderful parachute jump into the arena, has sadly died.

 

We are in an hiatus between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. The country is finding it difficult to give the Olympics up. The papers are still full of it and the TV stations are running stories on how the Olympic Park is being changed to accommodate the Paralympians. People seem to have got behind this part of the games as well, with most of the tickets for them sold and the few remaining are going fast. It could be that the London 2012 Paralympic Games could be the first ever to sell out. So the Paralympians will be able to perform in front of full stadiums. I don’t think anything is happening in Manchester. There is football but it will be on a special surface on the hockey pitch in the Olympic Village. Both Manchester United and Manchester City have reoccupied their respective stadiums and probably don’t want the grass covered and the Paralympics is a smaller event that the Olypics so the venues in the village will cope.

The country is expecting great things from the Paralympians of TEAM GB. We were 2nd in Beijing. We may not get to 1st but we are expecting more golds and a rash of gold postboxes across the country. Some people have been upset that the silver and bronze medal winners have been ignored in the painting of boxes and have taken to painting boxes in places where these medal winners live in silver and bronze. The post office isn’t happy about this guerrilla post box painting and has told us to leave them alone. I think the post office should have bought some silver and bronze paint and done them as well.

The ducks are leaving up their decorations in support of the TEAM GB Paralympic Squad so we have been in a state of red, white and blue national fervour since before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!

A new duck arrived today courtesy of eBay. It’s the Olympic Tennis Rubber Duck. hes decked out in green and purple which are the colours of the Wimbledon Tennis Club flag where the Olympic tennis and the great tournament in the summer takes place. He has a racquet under his wing in case Andy Murray needs some help in the doubles.