London 2012: my once-in-a-lifetime experience!

As a comper, ‘Win a once-in-a-lifetime experience!’ is one of the most common phrases I see on promotions. I’ve been lucky enough to win several of these – my own butler at Glastonbury Festival, a sherry-tasting trip to Jerez staying at the Harveys bodega, and a special ‘Lord of the Rings’ tour of New Zealand are just a few experiences I’m certain I’ll never have again!

On my winning email, Cadbury branded their VIP trip to the London 2012 Olympics as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it really was. I don’t honestly think we’ll appreciate how important these Olympics were for many years to come – and I feel honoured to have seen six different events in a week.

The timing of the Cadbury trip was perfect as we already had (bought!) family tickets to the handball that day, so were at the Olympic Park with Nana and Ry…


We had a wonderful time as a family, enjoying the gorgeous green spaces and the fabulous atmosphere. But that night, after Daddy had dropped Nana & Ry back home in Kent, our VIP experience began.

We checked in to the luxurious Hyatt Regency Churchill, received our tickets from the charming Thomas Cook reps, and were whisked away to the Bluebird Restaurant in Chelsea for a three course meal. Much to my delight, free wine was on the agenda. Hic!

We chatted to some of the other Cadbury winners (there were 23 winners on this particular trip). There were a few keen compers, who like me had won in the text competitions promoted at various supermarkets. There was a lady who had done a ‘good deed’ and stopped to help a cyclist (actually a Cadbury employee in disguise, who presented her with the prize!). One bubbly blogger Zoe had won a fun mini-Olympics at a Cadbury House PR event, whilst a couple had won on the Spots vs Stripes site last year. Mainly the winners had been lucky enough to find an ‘Unwrap Gold’ ticket in their chocolate bars though – a real Willy Wonka experience. I was impressed with the work that Cadbury had put into their promotions, and also grateful we didn’t have to sport the delightful purple branded outfits that many compers had to wear the previous weekend!

Our prize included three nights’ accommodation at the Hyatt, with a meal each day and tickets to four events in total, with coach travel provided. On Sunday morning we enjoyed the badminton bronze medal matches at Wembley, followed by a delicious lunch at Kensington Place restaurant with a bottomless glass of wine. In the afternoon we had a few hours to ourselves at Olympic Park, so spent time taking some photos and drinking expensive lager!

I loved the basketball arena – it was such a striking shape against the blue sky. Just after we posed with the Olympic rings, we watched Andy Murray win Gold on the Park Live giant TVs (the only time you’ll ever catch me watching tennis!) which was a wonderful experience as the crowd erupted.

The weather for our trip was incredible, sunglasses were definitely required and this dandy pair certainly looked the part!

A nice touch in the beautiful landscaped areas was the art installations of red phone boxes… and I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a silly photo with a banana.

In the evening we had £420 Category A tickets for the athletics so were just a few rows from the front. As it was the day after Super Saturday, we saw the medal presentations for Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah, and we also saw Christine Ohuruogu bag a speedy silver in the hurdles. The highlight of the evening – obviously – had to be Bolt winning the 100m. The silence as they got onto the starting blocks was incredible… 80,000 folk holding their breath!

 

At night the Park was magical – the Orbit looks a lot more impressive, and the changing colours of the basketball arena were just gorgeous.

We got back to the hotel at around 1am – and had to get back on the bus for 7.30am. How I would have liked to sleep in that 5 star bed for more than six hours a night! Still, we cheered Hungary on to win a great game of handball in the morning, then decided to do a slight detour on the Emirates cable car to the O2, where we were watching the gymnastics. Just before security I laughed as I saw a pair of cops handcuffing two young kids with their dad cheering them on (I don’t think the police had too much work to do at these events, judging by the amount of Mobots and Bolt poses I saw them striking…). At the gymnastics Beth Tweddle put in a stellar performance to win a bronze on the uneven bars. Had she landed well, I’ve no doubt it would have been a gold. The rings and vault men’s finals were amazing – what muscles!

The Cadbury trip was truly wonderful. I feel privileged to have seen all those events – and I must add a thankyou to Compers News Editor Steve, who told me all about the competition. Steve himself won a VIP trip with Powerade which sounded amazing too!

As well as the Cadbury trip I also bagged a prize with the Visa Instant Win online (using my usual trick of entering at 6am). I wanted to pass this on to my sister-in-law and niece but Visa said it wasn’t transferable, so decided to go along with them. We checked into the Novotel Waterloo on the penultimate day of the Games and collected tickets for yet more handball (I know a lot about handball now after watching three sessions!) plus a £200 prepaid card for our meals and expenses. Visa also provided a Time Out guide and goodybag stuffed with chocolate, games, ponchos and other essentials! Our tickets were to the women’s handball final in the basketball arena – we had really, really high seats and it was a brilliant atmosphere. My niece was paticularly delighted at the chance to be in a Mexican wave! Norway beat Montenegro in a closely fought match…

It took an age to get back to the hotel, but Ry had nodded off in the pushchair so it wasn’t too bad – apart from the drunken Irishman who squeezed onto the tube after the boxing finals and kept falling on top of him!

The next day after a fabulous breakfast (featuring an amazing highchair on wheels, which allowed me to push Ry alongside the breakfast buffet!) we walked along the Southbank, doing a couple of pitstops at ‘Rainbow Park’…


And, erm, a giant grassy armchair…

A bit further along, Target Stores had set up croquet and games, handing out free trilby hats and offered the chance to act out sports in front of a green screen. This was loads of fun, and we got photos to keep afterwards…

My time spent in London and at the Olympic events was amazing – people were genuinely excited to be there, and the enthusiasm and emotion was irresistible.
So, who’s going to join me in Rio for my next once-in-a-lifetime experience then?!

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