What the London 2012 Olympics means to me
By Matt Preston
The London 2012 Olympics are finally here after 7 long years of preparations. A lot has happened in the UK in those 7 years and a lot has happened in our lives too. It’s at this chapter in our history and our business that I’m taking time to reflect on what we’ve achieved and what is still to come.
So first the facts. Back in 2005 when London won the Olympic bid life was very different. I had a stable but dull job and an unstable relationship. I’d only travelled to the usual suspects except a big trip to New Zealand in 2001. When I met my wife, life changed immeasurably and my hunger to travel increased over the years.
Meanwhile the Olympics was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Original estimated budgets were revised, then revised again. We were told the budget was around 4 Billion dollars. The total figure now is closer to 15 billion. Never-the-less the Olympics would go ahead and stadiums began to be built. It all seemed so far off. Family and friends started to have children, then more children and we pondered what life would be like 7 years later when London 2012 would finally happen.
Well here we are and looking back we’ve achieved a staggering amount since then. Our travels became ever more elaborate. First long weekends in Boston and 10 days in Asia, then epic travels in Japan before getting married in Hawaii and Honeymooning in Canada. We flew to Greece and got trains all the way back to England. We had well and truly caught the travel bug.
The Beijing Olympics
In 2008 the Beijing Olympics took place and I watched an impressive amount of random sports I never usually take any notice of. Diving, cycling, archery, gymnastics and athletics. I remember the opening ceremony very well, watching the tens of thousands of performers in perfect unison. Quite a memorably sight and one I wondered if us Brits could ever compete with. Boris Johnson’s bumbling speech at the closing ceremony didn’t fill me with confidence.
And while the Olympic venues were running massively over budget, but on thankfully on schedule, my wife Deborah and I decided we’d change our lives even further. Both leaving good jobs, wonderful friends, loving families and the awesome city of Brighton we called home, we packed a couple of backpacks and spent 3 months in Asia before pursuing a new career and life in Sydney, Australia. We really had no idea how long we’d be out there, or exactly what we’d do when we got there.
Our business was born
From a seed grew an idea, some chance meetings, some lucky breaks and after a couple of months of organising and development we launched this very website, although with a very different design back then. Looking back it’s strange that we were location independent before we knew what location independence was! We had an amazing time in Sydney but knew that to grow the business quicker we needed to be back in England, near London and wanted to see family once more. It was definitely the right move. Life moved quickly, spending a year back in Brighton, the business grew and we ran some highly successful meetups in London for Travel Bloggers and PR. We went on press trips with easyJet and Orient Express, we went to conferences and networked at the World Travel Market.
Meanwhile the London 2012 Olympics was often talked about, but never very favourably. Us Brits love to moan about things, mocking for our own amusement. Most people said they didn’t care about the Olympics and when the ticket system was announced it angered most people. Only able to purchase with a Visa card (no mastercard or American Express) and you had to apply and register for events in a lottery style system. We failed the first round (when all the cool events were snapped up!) but succeeded at all 3 of the events we applied for in the 2nd round (where the less cool events slowly sold out). The countdown clock in Trafalgar Square stopped counting down, transport unions threatened strikes and we all wondered if we’d actually be able to pull this off.
Off we go again
After a year back in the UK we had seriously itchy feet. So off we set again back to South East Asia and our beloved Singapore, pretty much our 2nd home now. Originally planning to settle there while I worked full-time on the site and Deborah worked in the city, life has a funny way of showing you a new path sometimes and our business became successful much quicker than anticipated. So we both worked full-time on it, allowing us to achieve much more in a short space, build business contacts and become truly location independent.
We lived in Penang, Malaysia, meeting some wonderful people there that we can now call our good friends. We went to the islands of the Philippines and swam with Whale Sharks. We partied in Borocay, did a home stay in real rural village and even experienced our very first Earthquake!
We met my parents in Cambodia and gave them a guided tour of Angkor Wat, we lived in Chiang Mai for 2 months, meeting some great people and like-minded bloggers. We celebrated Songkran with Wild Junket in Bangkok, one of the coolest days of my life! We even visited many sites in Myanmar (Burma) at a time when elections were all anybody talked about.
Counting down the days to the Olympics
So while we were sunning ourselves in Bali, a well deserved holiday from work, London was busy preparing itself for the mother of all sporting events. 7 years in the making, winning the bid while I was just meeting my wife for the first time. Now we’re here, married, working together on our amazing business, watching from afar as the days to the Olympics count down.
It’s been quite a ride for us and the London 2012 Olympics organisers. And while everyone used to mock and dismiss the over-budget and hugely imposing event, attitudes changed with every day we knocked off the calendar. Hearing the excitement from friends and family as the Olympic torch relay passed through their town or city. With each day passing the buzz increased in our home nation. It made us very excited to finally be returning home after 11 months in Asia.
The Olympics are finally here
I’m writing this with just hours to go before the opening ceremony. Here in Singapore they don’t start until 4am, but we don’t care. This is the only Olympics in my home country that’ll ever see. It would be a shame to miss it. The opening ceremony marks not just the beginning of something that has taken 7 years to bring to fruition, it celebrates the end of our travels in Asia, the beginning of another chapter in our lives and this wonderful opportunity to look back at those years and smile.
What a ride…
We’ll be reporting back from 3 Olympics sports over 2 days and sampling some of the wonderful special events happening across the city and indeed the country. Follow us on twitter and Like us on Facebook for all the latest photos, videos and blog posts.