2012 Olympics in London
When London bid to host the 2012 Olympics, the use of high speed trains to access the Olympic park was part of the proposal. The projected location of the Olympic park was Stratford, located on the HS1 line which was then under construction between London St Pancras and the mouth of the Channel Tunnel near Folkestone in Kent.
The most prestigious trains on the new HS1 line would be the international Eurostar services, but there was also a plan for high speed domestic trains to run from St Pancras to Ashford in Kent as well. Trains would speed to Ashford and then continue on conventional lines to places like Dover and Folkestone. A tender had already been launched for these trains and it was proposed they would also be used for the Olympic shuttles between St Pancras and Stratford during the games.
London won the Olympic bid in 2005 and the HS1 line was opened in 2007 for the international Eurostar services. Japanese manufacturer Hitachi won the contract to build the domestic trains and based them partly on their successful shinkansen bullet trains. 29 trains were supplied and each one had 6 carriages. They were all built in Kasado, Yamaguchi, Japan and were first Japanese trains ever to run on UK rails.
The trains were introduced by operator Southeastern in 2009 and run, as planned, between St Pancras and towns in north and east Kent. They run at a top speed of 140mph along HS1 and are thus the fastest domestic trains in the UK (they will remain so until the opening of HS2 in 2026).
During both the Olympics and the Paralympics they ran an impressive intensive shuttle service between St Pancras and the Olympic park at Stratford.
Because of the Olympic connection the new trains (officially Class 395) were given the nickname “Javelin”. Each one was named after “a fast Briton” or a gold medalist from the 2012 Olympic or Paralympics. Amongst the names are: Kelly Holmes, Rebecca Adlington, Daley Thompson, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and David Weir.
When the time came I didn’t apply for any Olympic tickets in the lottery. I will be honest and say that it didn’t really interest me that much. The thing I was most interested in was the marathon and that was free to watch anyway.
But, like most people, I was captivated by Danny Boyle’s stunning opening ceremony. The very next day on a pre-planned trip to London, I diverted off my main course to join the crowds and watch the Men’s cyclists go past Harrods on their way up to Box Hill in Surrey.
I wandered around for the rest of the morning. I went in a few pubs and then into the large area they had kitted out with giant TV screens in Hyde Park. I went back to Harrods to watch Alexander Vinokourov from Kazakhstan win the cycling. The atmosphere in London that day was quite amazing.
The opening ceremony had provided a big boost to everyone. People you talked to in pubs freely admitted that it had changed their mindset from “this is going to be crap” to “this is going to be amazing”.
We went up to London twice more during the Olympics to watch the male and female marathons. London felt a really friendly place to be; everyone was smiling and chatting to each other and speculating about the games. The “games makers” volunteers were fantastic too and showed just how welcoming London can be when it tries.
I soon figured that it might be worth getting tickets for the Paralympics due to start at the end of August. I applied online on the second day of the Olympics and managed to secure a couple of tickets on the second Saturday. The tickets would get us into the Olympic park for an afternoon and then into the stadium for an evening of athletics.
The success of the Olympics had meant that the Paralympics was soon a sell-out too and the fantastic atmosphere of the first games was carried over into the second.
We travelled up to the stadium on the Javelin train from St Pancras and got into the Olympic park by about 2pm.
We had an afternoon wandering around…..
Looking at people dressed in all kinds of Union Jack outfits…
Watching the action on the relay screens…
Checking out the giant “pop-up” McDonald’s…
Checking out the games mascot “Mandeville”, named for the hospital where the games had been originated…
In the evening we entered the Olympic stadium and took our seats for 3 hours of wonderful athletics. The stadium was full to capacity and the atmosphere was electric.
We loved the little model Mini’s that sponsor BMW had provided to move the Javelins and other equipment around.
The races were interspersed with medal ceremonies from previous events. There were a lot of British golds and we did a lot of singing of the national anthem each time. It was all pretty impressive.
We watched Oscar Pistorious miss his chance…
A great evening was capped off when David Weir won gold in the wheelchair races.
Finally we filed out of the stadium and shuffled slowly past the Mittal “Orbit” artwork and out of the park.
Everyone seemed to be in a great mood and strangers were talking to each other. We even found that the District line was running normally!