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Paul Vale Headshot

Visit to an Olympic Planet

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The all-access, media accredited Olympic pass - sought after, hunted, desired - a tablet-sized piece of laminate that you wouldn't swap for a Jacuzzi session with Jessica Ennis.

From the opening ceremony onwards, this picture frame medal with lanyard has dangled limply around my neck like Flavor Flav's massive clock.

I did say 'clock' there, didn't I?

Every event, every building, every track, sandpit and poolside seat is open to me. In the most heavily restricted and security-conscious gathering on the planet, I can go anywhere I like. I am a God among men - like Jesus, The Queen or Piers Morgan.

Except it isn't quite that simple. When you can go anywhere, you invariably end up going nowhere.

On Wednesday I strolled to the Aquatic Centre for an evening watching the finals of the swimming competition... only to be abruptly stopped at the door.

"No ticket," said the gatekeeper barring my path.

"Look here sweet-cheeks," I said, alerting them to the size of my laminate appendage.

Perhaps it was the name he didn't like, but I wasn't getting in. Something to do with pre-booking for major events at the media desk...

Scrambling for an alternative, I sparked up the iPhone and scanned for a rival sport. Of course - the basketball. What's more, the Americans were about to hit the court.

The swimmers could sink - I was off to see LeBron.

After a 20-minute hike to the other side of the Olympic Park I was ready for the hoops. It wasn't until I took my place in the media section that I realised I hadn't quite scored three points. The US team was playing all right. It was just the US women's basketball team.

LeBron James? At that point I would have taken Clive James. Or even Sid James... with Hawtrey on point and Bresslaw on pivot. Carry On Up The Olympics...

But of course I stayed and, like so much of London 2012, it turned out brilliantly. A great game and a febrile crowd, allied to the collective knowledge that we - everyone in the building - were the focus of much of the world's attention. The United States versus Turkey at women's basketball on a Wednesday night in grotty suburb a mile east of Hackney - perfect.

And that I suppose sums up my first week at the Olympic Games. I've seen Italians play handball, a Frenchman fence and a man from Singapore win at tennis table. I've seen Nigerians shoot baskets, a Romanian judo champion and a girl from Greenwich set a new British record at weightlifting. I've even sat in the freezing cold watching Argentina play hockey at 9pm at night - it was magnificent. And now I've seen the Turkish women's basketball team.

In the past few years, I've managed to talk my way into attending two World Cups and now the Olympics. The former is an event based around a country rather than a city. Once you've watched a match, you either wait a few days or jump on a train. At the Olympics, everything is not only in the same city but also (mostly) on same site, affording you the chance to see sports and sports people you'd rarely witness.

Former Champion Carl Lewis said he always took time out at the Olympics to watch two sports he knew nothing about. Maybe that's the beauty of the modern Games - enjoying sports you know nothing about, regardless of issues of sponsorship, empty seats or corporations.

That's not to say it has been easy. It means long days and a lot of work. No doubt by the end of the fortnight my Olympic pass will be sitting around my neck like scrofula. But for now, there are few places in the world I'd rather be. Perhaps that Jacuzzi...