Archive | August 2012

For the Love of the Games

I am a fan of the Olympics.  They are a time of great endeavors & national pride.  They are a few weeks chock full of excitement, during which years of training may or may not come to fruition for thousands of athletes.  They are simply awesome!

Living in the host country of the 30th Olympiad had some serious perks.  Back home in the States, you generally catch the highlights in the evenings.  The most popular events are played for you with dramatic commentaries and the iconic trumpeting of the theme song – so good!  However, the BBC went all out for coverage of London 2012 with 24 channels (48 total if you HD & non) literally labelled “BBC Olympics 1 HD” and so on.  These channels would be dedicated to whatever sport was happening with non-stop coverage…no commercials!  If there weren’t 24 sports happening at a certain time, the higher channels would play a never-ending loop of the day’s coming schedule with it’s own fantastically dramatic song.  You could watch every single heat, match, or round of whatever you like.  Also, our Sky coverage let us push a certain button on our remote that took us to an interactive menu for the Olympics – fancy!  What this basically boils down to is that I got very little accomplished in the way of productivity for two & a half weeks.

I did miss the Olympic fanfare & the excitable commentators of NBC.  The BBC would usually get someone reputable to commentate the sports (like Michael Johnson for athletics), but sometimes the UK perspective was just too much for me, or too little.  They would openly cheer for their athletes instead of keeping up with the action, or once the results were in they would focus on the British athlete who did not win instead of the actual winner, and something about their attitude towards the US athletes sometimes would rub me the wrong way, sort of like how it feels to be a Razorback on Fox Sports.  (I’m probably just being sensitive since all I wanted to know about was how awesomely we were dominating the Games, and they weren’t too keen on that.  I pretty much stalked the London 2012 website every day to track our medal standings – China had me worried quite a few times there, but we pulled it out in the end, or crushed it you could say with our 104 medals!  Yes, I am an obnoxiously proud American; I’m aware that it’s stereotypical.)  And sometimes they were just boring … but seriously, you can’t beat being able to surf 24 channels of all Olympics, so my overall impression is very positive.

The other A-mazing perk of living in the host country is actually getting to attend Olympic events – check that one off the Bucket List!  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am extremely grateful for it.  I got to go to 3 events: gymnastics, beach volleyball, & wrestling.  Most of our tickets came from friends already living here who were then able to enter the tickets lottery over a year ago.  We were able to buy some re-released tickets once we were living here as well.

In order to attend the events in London, we drove to our nearest outlying underground station & used the travel passes that came with the tickets to get to our venues.  Good call #1 for the London planners – a day pass included with each ticket that covered all public transit within London.  This encouraged people to use the abundant transport resources of London without dealing with tons of people having to figure out buying their own passes & such.  Actually there were a lot of points on which I was thoroughly impressed at how logistics were being handled.  The flow of traffic was shockingly smooth throughout our experiences.  Lots of things aided this including but not limited to: an extensive planning & marketing campaign to prepare locals for the increased numbers, excessive signage (England is always very good with signage – check back with my driving post for more proof), and an army of volunteers directing visitors at all of their steps along the way that included actual Army personnel, police, & civilians.  Every tube station had police officers which was a good move for security as well (some bobbies even had guns which is not standard practice here).  As you exited the tube & at all areas around Olympic venues, there were volunteers with vests & ID tags & the polo/khaki combo denoting themselves to visitors & giving assistance without even being asked most of the time; they kept up a steady stream of general instructions & information.  There would even be volunteers on raised chairs like lifeguards with megaphones directing traffic with useful information, like “Please stay to the right if you are proceeding to the Olympic Park.”  Even more amazing was the general attitude of the volunteers which was light & happy that made you feel very welcome.  They weren’t all stressed out & barking orders; they were joking around & smiling at you.  One lifeguard chair guy was even jovially welcoming people over his megaphone.  It  was pretty great!  Oh, I forgot about the Army members running the security checkpoints that were also friendly & at ease – maybe a little too much because I got hit-on a couple of times by the uniformed gents.

The atmosphere was energetic & thrilling.  All around were people dressed brightly in the colors of their country.  Everything from t-shirts, scarves, & hats to the cape-like wearing of flags to face-paint or full spandex body suits.  Not to mention the matching track suits of the team members!  For one trip into the city, we ate lunch at a place in the shopping center located just outside the entrance to the Olympic Park, and our entertainment was “Spot the Athlete.”  They were there, just mixed in with all the other people trying to get place to place.  From our different trips, we got to get a picture with a US boxer named Jose Ramirez, & I got a shot with gold medalist wrestler Jordan Burroughs.

Quick rundown of the events I got to see: First, Women’s Gymnastic Team Finals at the North Greenwich Arena, my friend, Katie, lucked out with these tickets from the lottery & took a group of us to revel in the amazing performances of the Fierce Five.  It was a surreal experience to be there, watching the US girls solidly take home the gold.  You almost need the repeat of performances in slow motion three times like on TV to cope with the awesomeness of what just happened.  In real-life, it happens almost too fast to take it all in!

Look at all of our pride!  Next, I watched a couple of Beach Volleyball matches at HorseGuards Parade with Tina.  We caught men’s Norway v. Latvia & women’s Netherlands v. Brazil on a beautiful sunny day.  These tickets Sam & I purchased a few weeks prior, but he ended up being unable to attend.  Luckily, Tina could come, & she is more than enough fun to make up for my missing hubs.

Check out our awesome headgear!  The neat thing is that I went home & watched the television coverage of our match to catch some screen shots of us in the background:

Awesome!  Lastly, Sam & I got to go watch some Freestyle Wrestling finals, including seeing Jake Varner win the gold at the ExCel Centre.  We learned a lot about the sport & had a blast finally going to London together.

It was truly remarkable getting to attend these Olympic Events, but I have to stop talking about them because I’ve run out of adjectives & cannot let myself use amazing one more time.  Luckily, I’ve already got some tickets lined up for Paralympic Athletics for a chance to get inside the Olympic Park finally & see the astounding efforts of people who have not let physical disability keep them from aspiring for greatness.  If Olympic athletes impress you at all, I dare you to not be inspired by Paralympians.  Read up on the history of the Paralympics & get yourself psyched up for some more great sport!  Otherwise, we’ve got a long countdown until the next Olympics, brought to you by Casa Brasil: