Tuesday, July 31, 2012

London Calling

(I wonder how many times that song will be played at Olympic venues?)

We originally were planning on coming home in late June to give ourselves a full two months to get back into the swing of Vancouver life and do mundane things like figure out a place to live. London didn’t really hold a big appeal, as we had all been before. That all changed when we experienced the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We had such a good time that the idea of being so close to a Summer Olympics and not going seemed like a gigantic lost opportunity. Our Olympic dream was ultimately enabled by Heather’s cousin Sara, her husband David and son George, who very kindly let us invade their peaceful surroundings for the past few days.

Team GB's Biggest Fan
As we eagerly anticipate our upcoming 9 hour flight to the Big Apple from the cold, somewhat sterile confines of Frankfurt International, I thought it would be a good time to share some observations of our London and Olympic experience.

I know there are all sorts of “Olympics are bad/corrupt/evil” beliefs out there, but after now seeing two of them, I admit I am a big fan and would happily go again. Seeing so many very friendly people over the past few days from so many places made me realize that there is great value in how the event brings people from all over together in an friendly, social atmosphere.

Best Dressed GB Fan
It's always easy to spot the Dutch fans
A chance meeting with members of the Cuba track team
Aside from the Games we took time to search out a couple of unique British locations. The first part of Day 1 had us on a Harry Potter tour until we walked right into the Olympic torch route and decided to hang out. 

Heading into "Honeydukes"
Shopping in "Diagon Alley"
Chloe's off to catch the train to summer school
We also went in search of street art done by the renowned artist Banksy, who was featured in the Oscar-nominated film “Exit Through The Gift Shop.” His art pops up throughout London and while most pieces are destroyed some manage to stick around. While we were there he announced two Olympic-themed pieces online, although the locations were unknown. So we had to settle to try and find this one.

Looking up at the Falling Shopper
We landed in London without any event tickets since as a Canadian you can’t use the London 2012 ticket site. A slight bit of skullduggery enabled me access and we were fortunate enough to get tickets to a couple of events. We saw Women’s Hockey which featured an upset (I think) win by the Kiwi’s over the Aussies and an impressive display by the Dutch in handily beating Belgium. I wonder if New Zealand/Australia is our version of Canada/USA? That event also showed us the unpredictability of the London summer, as we started off in bright hot sun but before the hockey was over I would have to briefly flee the stands to escape the rain. 

The Dutch applying pressure
We also were fortunate to see Men’s Handball, which was just awesome (aside from spending one half right behind a TV camera operator). Fast, physical, lots of goals, and a rocking atmosphere (boy those Hungarians can be loud) made for a great time. Even if we really didn’t know the rules. 

Hungary for a goal?
We also saw the non-ticketed Men’s cycle road race. Just like the Tour de France - one second they are there and the next gone. At least it was easier to see who was from what country. 

A very crowded roadway
London volunteers were simply brilliant. Super nice and always wanting to help out. Sadly the London ticket site was the complete opposite. A couple of times I thought I was in for Men’s basketball (yep - the USA team) and Tennis at Wimbledon (an event that I am now convinced I need to add to my amended bucket list) but then got rejected at the last minute. There’s a simple fix London - if there are no tickets available, don’t have the event display as one that has tickets when a customer does an event search. Massive uproar here though on the scores of empty seats being shown on TV. Not good. They ended up releasing sponsor and other VIP seats - just sadly too late for our Games experience. 

Us and the Volunteers
On the topic of uproar (or lack thereof), we were very surprised to find out that people couldn’t go and see the Olympic flame. It is tucked away in the Stadium, which is not open until the Track & Field events next week. Apparently this is not a story here, which is way different than Vancouver two years ago and the fuss with the fences.

The Tower of London was very cool to see and walk at night. But I did think Vancouver (with its neon lit rings) did it better. 

We spent some quality time in the London Live site at Hyde Park. Very well set-up and with the four big screens it was easy to keep track of things, or have a quick nap in the sun. 

The mascot statues were all over town, and we quickly got into the habit of taking pictures with them. Of course - there were way more than we thought there would be. 

I think Heather can take him/her/it
BTW - Nothing gets you through a long Olympic day quite like the Starbucks Mocha Cookie Crumble frapachino. If I got drug tested for caffeine there is no way I would have passed.

To escape the rain at the Olympic Park between hockey and handball we hid out forst in the massive McDonalds. Since we were hiding out it felt only right to eat while we were there. We later found our way into the London 2012 Mega-Store, which even on Day 2 was getting picked clean by fans. I include myself in that group - I was so cold I ended up with a Team GB hoodie to go with my Canada t-shirt. We also searched in vain for a Canada flag for Chloe to wear. Lots of other countries flags available though. Like really - it’s Canada. Fellow Commonwealth nation. I know we don’t rock the Summer Games quite like the Winter ones, but no flags? Next time we don’t leave home without one.

And on that note it’s time to catch a plane for North America and officially complete our round the world tour with a few days in the Big Apple!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you've come around on the London score. PS. Paul, since you mentioned the mocha cookie crumble frapachino - thanks very much for introducing Simon to this monstrosity! It's now his go to drink above all else. In fact, all he wants for Christmas, yes, he's already told me, is a Starbucks gift card for $100!!!