This was the first day of Open Weekend 2011, when all twenty of our Live Sites around the UK became focal points for celebrations of all kinds. Next year they will be the meeting places for the whole nation to catch the live sporting action and the atmosphere of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They’ll be there for years to come, as new facilities sharing international events and community activity.
The interactive games proved a big hit with people all over the UK
It certainly looks like Swindon are getting it right. Their big screen is right in the heart of the town, bustling with shoppers and overlooking a well manicured public square. For Wimbledon fortnight, they put up tennis courts and served strawberries and cream. For a unique Royal Opera House relay – as part of the Cultural Olympiad– hundreds of people enjoyed Madam Butterfly in deck chairs. And for Open Weekend, there were gymnastic displays, top notch wheelchair rugby, and interactive games for children to enjoy.
The big gaming hit in Swindon was 'Swim Wenlock Swim'. In this game, the more actively you 'swam' in front of the screen, the faster our Olympic mascot progressed on a virtual journey around the nation!
The next stop was Coventry. Their brand new, state of the art, London 2012 big screen is housed on the outside of the city’s impressive transport museum, commanding a view over a new public space under the Frank Whittle Arch. Street theatre turned the UK’s unique culture of queuing into a sort of urban ballet, while there was a reception for the region’s great Olympians past. We all then wallowed in the wonderful Olympic film that is Chariots of Fire.
The mood in Victoria Square, Birmingham was altogether more colourful. The city’s Live Site was hosting a Jamaican Festival, and it felt like most of the 70,000 Jamaican community in the city were present. Their home-grown Olympic hero Dave Moorcroft was on hand to take notes, and I suspect his next message to the Caribbean will be to assure their athletes that Birmingham is looking forward to welcoming the Jamaican Olympic and Paralympic teams next summer.
Sunday morning in Leicester was markedly more mellow, but the city’s children discovered that the London 2012 Live Site was the place to be for highly active computer gaming. Four teenage boys were determined to get Leicester on the UK leaderboard by kicking virtual beach balls, spinning giant records and wiping the virtual custard off the screen (yes, really...).
These interactive games, along with community sports events, live music, mascot appearances and street theatre at the London 2012 Live Sites have shared the Olympic and Paralympic spirit with many thousands of people all around the UK over Open Weekend. And in taking part in the fun, we’ve all enjoyed just a taste of the amazing festival coming our way next year...