Islington residents hail London 2012 as 'greatest Olympics ever'
By poppy_smith | Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 20:59
âA have-a-go-hero, a tenants' champion and a boxing ambassador are among 209 Islington residents who have praised Islington Council's Community Heroes Olympic Tickets scheme - giving them coveted access to Olympic and Paralympic Games Events.
The ticket holders, nominated by residents, have all given exceptional service to their communities, raised the profile of sport or inspired others through acts or bravery.
Boxing ambassador Sam Hadfield, 49, of N4, who won tickets to the Paralympic Opening Ceremony on 29 August took to Twitter to let everyone know he'd had a "wonderful night."
Mr Hadfield runs Caris Boxing Club, providing free sports tuition and mentoring for young homeless and rough sleepers.
Thanking Islington Council for the chance to attend 'The Greatest Show On Earth' he commented: "The paralympic Opening Ceremony was unbelievable, emotional and pure joy. I am so glad I won the tickets as it was an experience you would never get on tv."
Islington Council leader Cllr Catherine West said:
"Commentators have called London 2012 'The Best Ever Games' and I am delighted we seized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get over 200 residents into Olympic events for free.
"The reaction of our Community Heroes ticket holders vindicates our decision to purchase seats for our exceptional residents when other councils declined them.
"Local businesses generously picked up the tab so not a penny of taxpayer money was spent at a time of government cuts."
In February 2011, all London authorities were given the option of purchasing 100 tickets by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Ltd (LOCOG).
Despite government cuts, Islington Council wanted to make sure its allocation was secured and reached residents who had made distinctive and - in some cases - lifechanging contributions to the borough.
The result was Islington's Council's 'Community Heroes' Olympic ticket awards.
209 special residents - from teenagers to pensioners - were chosen by their peers to attend Games events.
Among the winners was 'have-a-go-hero' Tim Smits, 33, of N1, nominated for his brave defence of two pensioners from a knife-wielding yob on a bus.
Mr Smits said:
"The Olympic Closing Ceremony was awesome! I've never seen anything quite like it.
"In my opinion you had to be there - watching the tv coverage later on the internet didn't do it justice."
"I shed a few tears thinking about how I got to be there but I also feel inspired and so thankful to have been given the opportunity."
Jan Tucker, 61, of N19, won 2 tickets to see Usain Bolt's blistering 100m Men's Final. She was nominated for championing residents on the Palmer Estate in Archway.
She said: "The atmosphere inside the stadium was great. We had seats overlooking the starting line and could see everything.
"The Community Heroes scheme was a wonderful idea and together with the torch relay through the borough really raised the excitement around the Olympics in Islington.
"It's inspired my grandkids who now want to play ice hockey
in the Winter Olympics! So we've booked a skating session at the Sobell."
The Community Heroes Olympic Ticket scheme is part of Islington Council's sporting summer of celebration - which included a free community sports day on Highbury Fields to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic Torch on 26 July.
Islington Council is supporting numerous other sport, art and cultural events related to London 2012, including diverting GLA 'bunting money' into suporting the Olympic-themed Angel Canal Festival, 2 September.
Paralympic athletics ticket winner Bonnie Branton, 78, received her tickets for helping older and more vulnerable residents in N1.
The former Islington Council worker said: "I'm really looking forward to going to the Olympic Stadium on 8 September.
"The Paralympic athletes don't get as much profile as the able bodied but if anything these people are even more worthy of our support."
"The Community Heroes Olympic Tickets scheme was fantastic - whoever organised that deserves a gold medal!"