Ola, from Madrid!
Day 1 – It has been a long and tiring day for us, the spectators who have travelled to Madrid for the ECA Cup competition. It started for some at around 5am, with early Squeezy Jet flights leaving London for this Iberian centre of excellence.
Many miles later (and having introduced Glenn the Photo to the perils of public transport – boy, did he grumble), we arrived at the hotel at Principe Pio, which appears to be a good location for the squads, et al. For the girls, and Ross Martin, there is an excellent shopping centre across the road from the hotel, which houses (among other delights) MacDonalds, KFC and some sort of Chinese eatery. Dinner was early today, as the opening ceremony for the tournament was to be held at 7.00pm. The less said about that the better.
Us hardy spectators gathered in the lobby at 5.15, for the hike from the hotel to the venue. It looks easy on the map, but to get there entailed travelling two stops on the Metro (PP to Moncloa) then the bus. It helps enormously if you can communicate with the bus driver. We identified where we would like to go. The driver acknowledged this, but put us off two stops past our destination. Unlike the UK, the distance between stops is nearer one kilometre in Spain (such a rural place)!
For the younger people, this would not have been a problem, but for us oldies, with a temperature in the extremely high thirties (a damn sight hotter than London), it was a long walk back.
We finally arrived at the venue, at about 6.45, in time (unfortunately) for the Grand Opening of the Competition. At the start of the ceremony, the flags of the competing nations were paraded, and for GB, the flag was carried by birthday boy Pete Neal. There is no shade at the venue, and it was still very warm by the time that the opening remarks were made – at least, we think they were opening remarks – but the speaker system hadn’t been tested, and we lost most of the speeches. However, Albert Woods (we think) managed to say hello to us all, and is already looking forward to the final, and counting the spectators.
For the Spanish, the main speaker was an Olympian lady, again, I didn’t get her name, but she was very good looking, and expecting a special event of her own very soon!
Following the speeches, we were treated to an aeronautical display by the infamous Grey Pigeons, with squadron leader dove (the dove from above) taking off from the spraydeck of a kayaker.
Unluckily, the birds flew away from us, so we were not treated to a bombing run. But Jack, Dan and Aimee’s mum was grateful for that – she thought the end of the world had come (she has a bird phobia – but I saw her eating chicken earlier. And now – the true highlight, the main event of the evening……….
Flamenco guitar playing (but with no maracas) accompanied by a diva (or diver) who commandeered the mike, and sang dirges of cultural significance to us! Unfortunately, the mike for the guitar player was broke, while the mike for the singer was not. You should have seen the crowd go…..and go……and go. Following the ceremony, the squads gathered for a variety of photo shoots, before everyone left the venue. We went for a beer then home to the hotel, and ready for the early morning start tomorrow.
The GB Spectators