These couple of days have been incredible! From news and chat shows in the Manchester BBC studios… to celebrating, on floats and stages in Manchester and London, the success and the support TeamGB have experienced regarding the Olympics… to meeting The Royal Family in Buckingham Palace… these are two days I will definitely never forget!
MANCHESTER : BBC Studios & Victoria Derbyshire Olympic Special
It was a relatively early start, but we were all buzzing to be involved with the BBC breakfast shows. We arrived in their Manchester studios and were taken to the stairs, where we would settle for the cameras when on air, then between shows the volume levels would rises and we would catch up with everyone, some who we haven’t seen since the Games.
Personally, I had an amazing time. I loved hearing what everyone had been up to and congratulating those who I hadn’t seen after their competition in the Olympics/Paralympics. It was interesting to hear what people were planning to do post-games as well – how many would continue competing and what adventures athletes who are retiring have chosen to pursue.
The Victoria Derbyshire Show was awesome too – getting to listen to other Olympians and fans talk about their memories of the Rio Olympics and sport in general. There was so much shared pride in the room, it felt very special. At times, some of the hockey girls showed their emotions and there were a few happy tears shed. There were a few tears shed watching Lutalo Muhammad’s emotional interview after his Taekwondo final fight. It was so heartbreaking hearing him say how devastated he was and thinking he had let everyone down. What was really special, was seeing how all the fans in the show showed their support, and the incredible cheering and positive reaction from the huge crowd when he stood on stage after the Parade. It just goes to show there is so much more to life and more to sport than winning. For me, his reaction after his final fight was so real and honest people couldn’t help but want to pick him back up, support him and say “you know what?..you have done us so proud whatever”!! Being there live to see this, to be part of this, really pulled my heart strings!
The morning sunshine had given us hope that it would be a sunny day, and I was feeling confident the sun would stay out….until that dreaded moment when an interviewer jinxed it by saying what a lovely day it was to have a parade! 😀 The moment we got onto the floats, it began to spit raindrops. We quickly put on our (extremely flattering) ponchos to save our GB kit from getting soaked and off we went, waving to the cheering crowds and reading all their messages on speech bubble cards. So many people turned up to show their support and we were so grateful of the response to our Olympics! I enjoyed waving to the crowds and spotting people watching from their office windows or on tops of roofs. At a few points when the crowd was close enough, I could lean out of the float and high-five down the line of people – which was pretty cool!
Halfway through the parade, the rain just went crazy and starting chucking it down! We were getting drenched and wrinkly wet hands. But as Nathan (Bailey) said sincerely to me ‘This is perfect. It is so British!’ – I couldn’t agree more. The rain actually made the parade better! It was funny and I thought it became more real and interactive with the crowd. They were like oh no poor Olympians stuck on these floats getting completely soaked whilst we can hide inside – or they were joining us and committing to staying outside getting drenched – either way, I was laughing at the situation and felt the whole situation became less formal or at least more funny!
We left our floats and were introduced onto a stage in front of a HUGE crowd! Again, I was able to watch first-hand the audience celebrate various athletes successes and feel their pride of the whole team. I somehow managed to spot my parents too which resulted in some very enthusiastic waving and thumbs up from both parties 😀 Rebecca Ferguson sang Heroes by David Bowie, which I thought was perfect and as a David Bowie fan, found it emotional.
Following a bang of confetti, with our soggy socks and shoes, we squelched our way off the stage, away from the crowded streets and into an incredible building for a reception where Theresa May & Seb Coe, among others, would give speeches celebrating TeamGB’s success at the Rio Olympics and the support we have received from the Nation.
We then danced the night away.
Another early start, we travelled to London via a Charter Train completely filled with Olympians and their Olympic coaches or support staff. There were even double decker buses inside the train station for us to transfer to Trafalgar Square. Our bus driver was Mo Farrah’s doppelganger – was so cool!
The Trafalgar Square celebrations on stage were, again, fantastic. They spoke with some of the Olympians on stage about their experiences of Rio, with Katherine Grainger (Rowing) and Dina Asher-Smith (4x100m relay) holding back the tears as they got emotional with joy remembering back to what their Olympic Medal Moments meant to them. I really felt their happiness and began to feel emotional as my eyes filled with tears too. The organisers celebrated women in sport by showing the audience a video clip of of female Olympic medal winners; when I heard my name announced through the loud speakers, along with commentary from my Olympic Final, I couldn’t hold back tears streaming down my face as it sunk in that little bit for the first time since the Games that I actually achieved my dream of becoming an Olympian, representing my country at an Olympic Games, and coming home with an Olympic Medal. It’s so much to process! Nathan and Amy were sat next to me and Nathan gave me a little ‘well done’ shoulder nudge and jokingly suggested I put my sunglasses on to hide my crying eyes.
The Vamps played their music live on stage to finish the show and during the last song, one athlete went to the front of the stage and eventually got all of us to join him and dance on stage, which made the experience even better!
Oh wow! Buckingham Palace is beautiful and so is every member of the Royal Family. It was such an honour to be invited and there was no way I would pass up an opportunity like this. I was a very keen bean to meet the Queen. As we were waiting for the busses to transfer us, David Florence and his group had noticed that my name tag had a little blue dot next to it and they assumed it meant something special – perhaps I really would meet the Queen!
The blue dot turned out to mean I would be part of one of three ‘mingling groups’ to present ourselves to Royal Family members before they entered the main reception rooms with all the other athletes. Perhaps they overheard my excitement! I was so surprised and felt extremely privileged to be among these ‘blue-dotted’ name tags including members of the Gold-Medal-winning Ladies Hockey Team, Helen Glover & Heather Stanning Olympic Rowing pair Champions, Joe Joyce and Giles Scott. We were briefed by Buckingham Palace staff how to introduce ourselves to the Queen and any Royal Family members, should the opportunity arise and all of a sudden I got very nervous! People walked by with drinks and canapés of food – of which I had to try one of everything! I had a sip of champagne just to say I tried it, I had a glass of orange juice and a glass of apple juice. I tried the blazed nut covered soft cheese; the caramelised onion and lettuce wrap bites; the anchovies, pesto and sundried tomato pastries; the duck terrine; the cheese quiche, the smoked salmon served with one shred of ginger and leaf cress; these yellow jelly tots; and a piece of dark chocolate with Buckingham Palace’s homemade honey filled inside. A lady came round and offered us a plate of “Spinach and courgette…..umm….let’s be honest, they’re pastys” – to which we all found amusing and loved this fact she was so honest with us. So when the next lady walked by to offer us the same dish and introduced it with “Spinach and courgette” , we asked what they were and she also couldn’t remember what they were called and replied with an errrmmm… Again we all loved this.
Then the Queen entered the room and came to our group and my heart raced as I shook her hand and curtsied. She spoke to us so politely and she was immaculately beautiful. Her Majesty asked me what sport I was involved with and spoke with us all for a short while, followed by Prince Phillip, and then Prince William & Kate Middleton, who spoke with us for a little longer, asking us about our motivation for the next four years and if we strive for perfection in other areas of our life. The Duchess of Cambridge spoke about her experience with sailing and they were all so pleasant and engaging.
Our group was then able to mingle in the main reception rooms where Prince Harry and Princess Ann later joined and I was able to meet and speak with. At this time I was chatting with Spencer Wilson (Dressage) who I had met in Ascot on Saturday and met Natasha Baker (Dressage) and Vicky Holland (Triathlon). Harry offered us to sleep in Buckingham Palace in a sleeping bag 😀 and I was able to ask what Princess Ann thought about before she competed in her Olympics.
The whole evening was spiffingly marvelous and One had a wonderful time!