Olympics in Putney

I didn't really do the Olympics.

When the ticket sales were announced a year or so before the games, I was in scrooge mode. Money could be spent on better things, I thought. Exposure could be better given to other cities, I added, in noble generosity. And how the hell am I supposed to know if I'll feel like watching weightlifting or shotput eleven months next Tuesday?

So I didn't buy any tickets.

Of course, bloody Boyle went and ruined that with an opening ceremony that won over even the cynics like me (or at least the cynical Underworld fans like me, perhaps).

So I belatedly registered and trawled the listings mournfully, considering that yes, ok, now I would be prepared to pay £50 to watch some hurdles or something after all, but I'm still not prepared to pay £170 to watch some first-round-of-48 judo bouts at four in the morning, which seemed to be the sort of pickings left at this last minute.

So when, the Olympics rolled into Putney, courtesy of the Cycling Road Race course passing under a mile from my house, I obviously had to take the strenuous stroll down the hill to check it out.

Cycle road race on Upper Richmond Road Crowds at the bottom of Putney Hill

Warned by the hysterical internet to expect crowds ten deep by dawn, I arrived at the bottom of the hill maybe 90 minutes before the race was due through. I found a large inflatable mascot (I'm not sure which one) and, despite a reasonably large crowd milling about, it was still plenty possible to gently elbow your way into a space on the railings, right at the front.

Nonetheless, I fancied this area, immediately outside the station, stood a fair chance of getting intolerably crowded as the race approached, so I set off along Upper Richmond Road, arranging to meet friends at The Arab Boy pub.

Mascot at the bottom of Putney Hill Crowds at the bottom of Putney Hill

Half a mile up the road we convened, equipped ourselves with ciders and took up position on the roadside.

Whilst not a crush, the road was solidly lined with people, many waving or draped in flags. Besides the expected proliferation of Union Jacks, there were a noticeable array Aussie flags - no less expected, really, if you're familiar with South West London. (Come to think of it, one of the people I was meeting was an Aussie.)

Aussie supporters Crowds on Upper Richmond Road

Some in their fortuitous balcony grandstand seats, some beside the road, adorned with scrawled support for "WIGGO" and "CAV", we waiting and drank through a while of nothing, the odd police motorbike, more nothing, another bunch of motorbikes, another just-too-long stretch of nothing and then finally...

Crowds on Upper Richmond Road

... the leaders of the race were upon us, in a blur.

Cycle road race on Upper Richmond Road Cycle road race on Upper Richmond Road

Then the main pack...

Cycle road race on Upper Richmond Road Cycle road race on Upper Richmond Road

...stragglers...

Cycle road race on Upper Richmond Road

...and with a final flurry of support cars and police vehicles, the show was over.

If that coverage seems a little scanty for what was the biggest sporting event to hit the capital in however many decades, head on over to diamond geezer.

Support cars on Upper Richmond Road
London Borough of Wandsworth