Thursday, 25 August 2016

Visiting the London Stadium did feel special

Some fans have already described visiting the London Stadium like going to Wembley and I can see why that is said, even though it is slightly different experience. You have the long walk up to the stadium and it emerges from the London skyline, like some majestic football paradise with the claret colours splendidly adorned around the stadium's sides, which I can tell you takes some time to walk right around.
Walking up towards the Olympic Park.
With throngs of people walking up to the stadium from the overland rail station and Westfield Shopping precinct, it was like being on a big pilgrimage. Most of the fans were in good humour and expectant of a good game. The programme sellers were keen to call you over with the cellophane wrapped programmes in hand too, all ready for the special day.

The flag seller is doing good business.
We had to make a special diversion to the section between gates J and K as our tickets from AFCB had not arrived in the post before the game. But, true to their word, there was a ticket issuing area at the part of the stadium where we were directed to and an envelope was all prepared with my name on it and the tickets inside. There was not much time to take in all the outside views but having seen the funfair and managing not to trip over all the West ham fans busily looking down at the ground, to see if their names have been set in stone on the floor, we managed to find a father and two sons who we interviewed for the blog before going into the stadium.

Great view.
The vast size of the arena was very apparent when you had passed through the electronic ticket gate and enter the hall, where AFCB fans were already sampling the refreshments on offer. We caught up some friends before heading out to the seating area. It was a good walk and there was an intermediate area that had a big canvas hoarding draped over rows of seats that slid away to where the athletics track was hidden, beneath the temporary seating which is where we would be. Looking back up to the top of the stand really gave you an appreciation of the enormity of the ground. We were so glad we had booked seats just behind the goal in the lower tier.
The floodlights and the structures behind that keep the sound in.
As the ground filled up and the players came out to warm up I got going taking pictures and talking to fans. There was plenty of room between the seats and both sets of fans could make a good deal of noise with the transparent roof structure above the floodlights holding a lot of the sound in. The big screen allowed for both logos and team sheets to be visible and the atmosphere really started to build when the bubble machines were turned on and the teams were led out.
AFCB getting down to work.
Getting near to kick off.
While there was nothing in terms of half time entertainment the fans busied themselves in and around the drinks area with plenty of information about not taking alcohol back to seats and no standing, the latter was certainly ignored. West Ham threatened fans with eviction for standing and yet I could hardly see anybody seated.
AFCB fill out their ticket allocation.
Bubbles at the ready.
Not the best of scores.
While the result was disappointing it was an away experience that was worth the trip. We were less pleased with the route back home though as the crowds were held by marshals just before the underground, and people were moved into two different lines with one moving far faster than the other. It was a shepherding exercise that was not particularly pleasant, but while it may have helped the through through the public stations it frustrated the majority in the queues. Goodness knows how some fans of big Premier League clubs will react when they are faced with that - I see trouble ahead. Indeed, even unbeknown to us some AFCB and West Ham fans had skirmishes after the game. I guess the stadium is christened now!

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