Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Olympics Withdrawal

You know how it feels after Christmas when you take down the Christmas decorations and everything seems plain again?  That's how it feels this week.  The Olympics were a huge endorphin rush for all of London.  Everyone is praising the 70,000 volunteers (known as the "Games Makers") and the military who were called in to beef up security.  The volunteers may end up getting medals of some sort (or knighthood?).  I have to say they were the unexpected secret weapon of the Olympics.  The volunteers wore purple and orange uniforms and were the friendliest people I've encountered in the UK.  Almost like they transplanted a few Americans over here.

The Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge are coming down next Tuesday to make way for the emblem of the Paralympic Games.  Life is slowly getting back to normal without the 24/7 media attention.  Ryan and I finally watched the Closing Ceremony last night.  And everyone here is basking in the glow of a very memorable and successful two weeks.

Olympic Rings seen from behind (photo taken in the Olympic Park)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Last Day of the Olympics

Today Garett, Ryan and I watched wrestling on the final day of the Olympics and last night Ryan and I watched the final in women's volleyball (USA vs Brazil).  I can't believe how quickly time has flown by.  We enjoyed the entire experience and were really lucky to see 5 events in person. 

Our top 10 London Olympic Games memories:

1. Visiting the Olympic Park and seeing the Athletics Stadium and Orbit
2. Watching an American (Jacob Varner) win gold in wrestling and hearing the national anthem
3. Experiencing the most friendly and warm side of Londoners since we moved here
4. Getting drenched during the rowing competition at Eton Dorney
5. Feeling the positive buzz all around London because Team GB did so well in the medal count
6. Commuting into London on a transport system with no major chaos (because London was so quiet)
7. Seeing Olympic pink signage everywhere in and around London
8. Standing in a sea of people queueing for the Tube at Wembley Stadium (after Mexico vs Japan)
9. Listening to Chariots of Fire over and over (I think it will still be in my head months from now)
10. The boat trip down the Thames during the Opening Ceremony and passing beneath the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge

Plus one more: Watching Ryan's excitement and enthusiasm.  Russia and Brazil are next on his list.

Earls Court - Women's Volleyball (Aug 11th)

USA vs Brazil (USA took silver)

ExCel Centre - Men's Wrestling (Aug 12th)

Wrestling - USA won gold (men's 96kg)

Proud to be an American - last day of the Olympics
(and tomorrow a celebratory haircut for Ryan!)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Park

Ryan and I spent a day at the Olympic Park on Wednesday when we went to see BMX Cycling.  It was amazing to experience the Olympic Park in person and it was much bigger than I expected.  The Orbit (red twisty thing) was my favorite, but there were some other examples of interesting design too.  First stop for us was the world's biggest McDonald's.  I know, I know...but it was a special treat for Ryan.  He got a Wenlock mascot in his Happy Meal, so the day was off to a good start.

We wandered around the village for awhile and took some pictures before we went to the BMX Cycling time trials.  I have to admit BMX was better than I expected.  I didn't expect manicured grass berms (although this is England), tunnels or a DJ to spin the music, but they had it all.  There was a gigantic starting ramp the competitors went down, sort of like in downhill skiing.  And the race course featured lots of jumps, which the riders flew over to the pulsating music.

The architecture of the Olympic Park was diverse, from the white marshmallow arena (basketball) to the fluid copper-colored velodrome (cycling) to the BP mirrored pavilion. And of course, we also saw the athletics arena, the aquatics center and the Orbit.  We walked past the broadcast center and could see the temporary TV studios and bright lights, with newscasters perched above the crowds.  Speaking of crowds, sometimes it was challenging to stop and take a picture of Ryan without get mowed over (at one point I backed into a live news crew from Australia).  But everyone was in good spirits with lots of national pride on display.  We even went to the pin swap area where avid collectors had large collections on display.

I scooped up some last-minute tickets to the women's volleyball finals tonight and Ryan and I will watch USA vs. Brazil play for the gold medal.  Garett has the day off tomorrow so all three of us will see wrestling.  Hard to believe it all ends tomorrow!

Looking up at the Orbit

Ryan in the middle of the action (Orbit and Athletics Stadium in background

Edge of the Marshmallow Building - Basketball Arena

 Lots of wildflowers were carefully planted over the last 2 years for the wildflower meadow

BP Mirrored Pavilion - a trick of the eye

 BP mirrored building from another angle - can you spot us at the bottom center?

Velodrome - where Team GB struck gold in Cycling

Entering the BMX Cycling track

Start ramp at the top of the picture and finish line at the bottom

Great seats!

Shelly & Ryan at the BMX track

Go Team USA!

Ryan loved it - goodbye!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Big Crowds at Wembley Stadium

Yesterday evening Garett, Ryan and I watched Mexico beat Japan in the men's football semi-finals.  It was the first time we experienced delays with transportation on the way to an Olympic event.  The match was held at Wembley Stadium, which is only one Tube stop north of where we live.  But it took three attempts to get on a crowded train.  We could have body surfed Ryan into the train...

The crowd at Wembley was friendly and polite, with lots of families in attendance.  There wasn't the usual rowdy chanting and singing you see at English football matches.  Security was overkill.  In fact, throughout the Olympics security has been tight.  We've been through metal detectors, pat downs and had our bags searched (to be expected).

Our seats were in Row 3 near one of the goals.  This was completely random since I wasn't able to choose our seats when I bought the tickets in the lottery last year.  In the second half of the match we saw quite a bit of action near our end, but Ryan would have preferred something a little higher up with a better view of the pitch.

It rained in the latter half of the match, which didn't affect us at all.  The nice thing about London stadiums is that they are partially when it rains the audience stays dry and only the football players get wet!

The queue for the Tube on the way home was UNBELIEVABLE.  See the picture at the bottom of this post.

Mexico vs Japan (Mexico won 3-1)

Shelly and Ryan outside Wembley Stadium

View from our seats (Team Japan player)

See the security (in orange)? They ringed the entire stadium

Garett and Ryan inside Wembley

 Queue for the Tube (seriously, I am NOT kidding)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

British Rowing Weather

1. It was cloudy
2. It was windy
3. It drizzled
4. It rained
5. It poured
6. It was sunny
7. It was sunnier
8. It was cloudy
9. It drizzled
10. It rained

= perfect British rowing weather!

Ryan and I went to our first Olympic event today - the men's and women's rowing finals.  After taking the Tube to Paddington Station, a train to Slough, an Olympic bus to Eton Dorney and then walking (for what seemed like forever), we finally made it to the venue.  Our tickets were for "Standing" so we were part of the crowd along the shore.

The weather was finicky.  Sun, rain and wind.  A particularly black cloud appeared over Dorney Lake and the skies opened up.  Ryan and I got thoroughly soaked (umbrellas were no protection) for about 20-30 minutes.  We cheered for the Americans 3 times and Team USA won bronze in the men's four. But the crowd was hugely partisan and there was a tremendous roar for all of the Team GB rowing teams.  They took two golds and a silver in the medal events.

The entire event was extremely well organized and all of the staff and volunteers were fun and friendly.  It felt like Disney World at the Olympics.  Ryan was particularly happy that he appeared on the BBC during one of the segments between races.

London 2012 Olympic Games!
Rowing Finals

Ryan, Shelly & Wenlock

A storm approaches the racecourse

Go Team USA!

Our view of the racecourse

Ryan & Wenlock

Team GB fans

More Team GB fans

Ryan's 5 minutes of fame on the BBC

Thursday, August 2, 2012

God Save the Queen('s Corgis)

Team GB is in good spirits after rocketing up the leader board in the medals count.  However, 5 golds versus Team USA with 18 just isn't a fair comparison.

Life in London during the Games is amazingly quiet.  There were actually seats available on the Tube tonight when I came home.  Never happens!  When Ryan and I were forced to brave Oxford Street (the busiest shopping street in all of London) on Saturday to go to the dentist, we couldn't believe how empty it was.  Restaurants, shops and taxi drivers are complaining that the officials have scared everyone away with their predictions of horrendous congestion everywhere.  Y2K all over again.

After the Queen's corgis showed their royal personalities in the Opening Ceremony, I thought I would share this picture from one of the store windows at Selfridges.  We'll post more pictures after Ryan and I see the rowing competition on Saturday at Eton Dorney.