Tag Archives: Olympics

Γεια σαυ Αθήνα

It could appear that I’ve been keeping our final summer holiday destination close to my chest, but hopefully the title of this post will have given you some idea of where we headed to get a healthy dose of natural vitamin D and a much-needed complete break from it all. We decided to head somewhere that the children had never been and a country that Mike and I had last visited close to 17 years ago: Greece.

For those of you not yet fluent in the Greek alphabet and language, the above words say “Hello Athens” and that was how we chose to top and tail our trip to this beautiful Mediterranean country, with a few days spent soaking up the history in the capital city. Our early flight from Gatwick meant that we had reached our hotel by mid-morning and were soon ready to get started on our explorations. We stayed at the centrally located Athens Backpackers hostel, which was only a few minutes walk from both the Acropolis and the Plaka. The double set of bunk beds in the bedroom might not be every family’s idea of a great start to a holiday, but we wanted something that gave us easy access to all we were hoping to see in Athens and were delighted with our choice. With a spacious living area, small, but well equipped kitchen and the all-important air-conditioning, this family studio apartment was everything we could have wanted to start off our holiday.

Following in the tried and tested footsteps of previous holidays, our first destination was to buy tickets for the Athens City Sightseeing bus tour and having stopped to grab a quick lunch, with mediocre success meeting the allergy needs of G and M, we set off around this ancient city to pinpoint exactly where we wanted to visit over the next couple of days. One of the highlights of our city stay was, without a doubt, the Panathenaic Stadium, site of a simple racetrack for the original Panathenaic games and latterly home of the first modern Olympics in 1896. It somehow felt fitting to visit this Olympic stadium following so shortly after our trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London for the 2017 IAAF World Championships and M in particular was keen to soak up the history by listening to their comprehensive audio tour. One of the hidden gems there for me was the small museum that housed a number of posters, artefacts and torches from several Olympic Games over the last 120 years. G and I took our time walking around this single room housing numerous treasures and delighted in spotting the posters and torches from all 3 London Olympics Games: 1908, 1948 and 2012.

The children also enjoyed our stop at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square, where we watched the changing of the Hellenic parliament guard, who are known as the Evzones. This ceremony is impressive to watch, not only for the incredible historic costume, but also the slow, careful and measured movements that the soldiers make as they take up their official posts for the next 60 minutes.

Travelling to Greece in August had its advantages. Not only did we enjoy constant sunshine and temperatures that could sometimes be stifling in the city, but most Athenians have also gone on holiday and so the queues and crowds were not as big as they might otherwise have been. The one downside was that our holiday coincided with the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 and we were warned that many shops would be closed on the day. However, we planned our day carefully by having a good supply of food in our apartment for lunch and fulfilled M’s desire to visit a local playground, which we found quietly hidden in the beautiful National Gardens located just behind the Parliament buildings.

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Being a part of history

August didn’t just mean the school summer holidays for our household. but also some much-needed time away from work for both Mike and me. We started our 2 week stint with a drive to London and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home to the 2017 IAAF World Championships. We’ve long enjoyed watching the athletics on TV and ever since our visit to the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics have been waiting for the next opportunity to watch the sports live arrive. The announcement that this year’s World Championships was to be held in London caused great excitement and last August I joined the thousands of others hoping to be successful in the ballot and be offered tickets to the events of their choice. We were lucky enough to get both sessions that we had chosen, which then dictated the rest of our plans for our summer break.

Our start perhaps didn’t quite go according to plan, with packing for our trip abroad, accidents on the motorway and a necessary, but lengthy detour hampering the relaxed beginning we were hoping for. However, we got there in the end and with time enough to park our car and unload our suitcases into our Stratford hotel room before heading to the park itself. We had allowed enough time to explore Hero village, which was filled with athletic-themed activities, events, sponsor displays and the obligatory souvenir stands and I’m so glad that we had. The children had great fun competing against each other in triathlon themed challenges, trying their hand on a wheelchair obstacle course and racing the 100m sprint against Mike. It could have been so easy to have bypassed the village completely in favour of just heading into the stadium itself, but we all enjoyed the opportunity to soak up some of the Championships spirit and really immerse ourselves in all the glory of the event.

The Friday evening session was fantastic and we had the most amazing seats, which allowed us to watch the women’s long jump final with ease. The evening was filled with a great mix of field and track events including the hurdles, the hammer throw and the women’s steeplechase final, a race neither G or M knew anything about and found fascinating to watch, especially when 1 competitor forgot to go through the water jump on the second circuit of the track. However, as brilliant as that evening was, the best was yet to come and I’d be hard pressed to say who was more excited to be a part of what would become a truly historic occasion.

Since international athletics superstar, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt announced his retirement from the track following the 2017 IAAF Championships, I had been keeping my fingers tightly crossed that he would complete as part of the 4x100m relay team during the competition. Our second session was on Saturday morning and was due to include several more of the decathlon events as well as the round 1 races for all of the relay races –  men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m. M in particular was incredibly excited that he might get see to his athletic hero race and the atmosphere was absolutely buzzing in the stadium that morning. It quickly become evident that we were witness to something spectacular and the whole family eagerly cheered the British teams who performed with enthusiasm and secured well-deserved places in all 4 finals. What wasn’t obvious at the time, but became sadly apparent at the finals that evening, was that we had seen not just some impressive races, but also what would turn out to be Bolt’s final track appearance as he sadly crashed out of the final with a heart-breaking injury that not only devastated him, but the watching world too. It was a great privilege to be to watch this inspirational man race and something we will all remember for a long time.

What we’ve learned from Rio 2016

2cfc75d26f32e6608791a5263d92e52b-rio-2016-olympic-logo-vectorBack in 2012, we spent hours glued to our TV screen as London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games. We were lucky enough to be able to take the children to see some of the sports at both events and I reflected then on the need for EGID and food allergy heroes to help inspire G and M to be the very best they can be without letting their health issues get in the way of their dreams. Four years on and it’s the 2016 Olympics in the much more exotic, though sometimes equally wet, location of Rio and our family is just as absorbed in watching as much as we can, even with the added challenge of the time difference to negotiate. I have enjoyed seeing the children cheering their favourites on, but even more I have loved the emerging stories of some of those competitors which have really struck a resounding chord with me. We are not surprised by the tales of amazing fortitude that are revealed during the Paralympics, but these are individuals who have beaten the odds and are competing at the highest level against fellow athletes who do not have to battle against health challenges in the Olympics.

SMOCOur first inspirational athlete is British swimmer, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, who won silver in the 200m individual medley at the Rio games. Not only did she win a silver medal, but she also broke the British record and all that whilst living with the effects of Ulcerative Colitis on her body. Siobhan-Marie was diagnosed with this inflammatory bowel disease following London 2012 and that diagnosis has resulted in the right medication and improved health helping her to succeed in her training and getting her to the Olympics this year. This has a particular resonance for me as UC is not dissimilar to M’s Eosinophilic Colitis as it causes inflammation to the colon, although with UC tiny ulcers develop on the lining of the rectum and the colon as well. To push her body beyond the pain and fatigue that I know will be plaguing her during flares in order to achieve excellence in her sport requires a determination and positivity that is truly remarkable.

AMHaving read about Siobhan-Marie’s success whilst living with Ulcerative Colitis, I thought I had found a potential candidate for a role model for both M and G; and then I saw an article about the Italian fencer, Aldo Montano, who is living with a severe and potentially life-threatening dairy allergy. Aldo was diagnosed with this allergy as a baby and has learned to adapt to his environment and to make food choices that will keep him healthy and keep anaphylaxis at bay. His lifestyle as an athlete does not, perhaps, easily lend itself to living with an allergy, but Aldo is clear that he does not let this allergy define him “…It is easy to get scared. I understand the fear of not trusting anyone and not wanting to eat anywhere other than at home. But I have had to figure it out — because my life choice is to compete and I have to travel…” I don’t know that either child will ever aspire to be Olympic fencing champions, but if they can adopt Aldo’s attitude that “…my secret is the same as Superman’s: stay away from kryptonite. If I stay clear of dairy, I am super strong. My secret is to stay away from it, and be positive…” then I am certain they will see success in their chosen field.

These are not the only amazing stories of these games, but they are both inspirations to our family in particular and there are so many other athletes who have overcome struggles that make their achievement in reaching Rio all the more sweet too such as British gold-medal diver, Chris Mears, who has beaten unbelievable problems to become a British record-maker in 2016. There have also been those who have suffered shocking accidents in pursuit of their dreams whilst there and are already on the road to recovery and focusing on their next goal; Dutch cyclist Van Vluten comes to mind. As for what we’ve learned from Rio 2016, well really it’s simple: that focus, determination and a desire to succeed can beat physical injury and serious health problems every time, so don’t let your chronic illness define who you are or dictate what you can become.