A real live Olympic event in real life

9 Aug

I woke up this morning to sun and blue sky and knew I had to go somewhere. I wasn’t sure where exactly — Oxford Street to shop? Tesco to buy grapes? I just wanted to walk. I checked my email and my handy London 2012 message informed me that Swimming: women’s marathon was “What’s on in London” and I could “watch the event without a ticket.” An Olympic event — for free! I quickly got dressed and left before I had a chance to talk myself out of walking three miles to Hyde Park to encounter all 1 million of London’s extra tourists in one spot.

The minute I got past the Oxford Street shops I could see the crowds gathering. We crossed the street as a giant amoeba and were herded towards BT London Live where we could watch real live Olympic sports on live TV. Except I wanted to watch a real live Olympic sport in real life. So I kept walking in what I thought was the direction of the Serpentine, the lake where the swim was taking place, despite the fact that 90 percent of the people were walking in the opposite direction of me. “They’re going to BT London Live!” I told myself. There was a giant wall around most of the park, which prevented me from figuring out where the heck I was. So I kept walking. And walking. Eventually the signs for BT London Live started pointing in a different direction, meaning I had gone so far it would now be quicker to continue going around the park to get back to the entrance than to turn around. Where were the massive amounts of people? Where was the freaking lake? And then I turned a corner, and bingo. A butt load of people and water.

I politely pushed my way through the crowd to see the lake. My first thought: is it gross to swim in a lake? I know plenty of people do, but lakes always make me feel kind of skeevy, like they are full of bacteria that salt water would kill. These women were swimming 10km in the Serpentine lake. That’s SIX miles! And I was hurting after walking three miles.

I kept standing on my tip toes to try to see swimmers, but all I saw were these giant inflatable barriers and a butt-ton of people.

… a butt-ton of people with cameras. This guy means business, even if he’s pointing his camera in the opposite direction of the action.

Eventually I heard a gradual cheer as the swimmers got closer. And then I had to fight with my camera to get it to focus on the swimmers, not the heads of the people in front of me.

I wonder what all the boats were for? In case somebody crapped out?

Apparently everyone else had the same “OMG must document that I saw some of the Olympics in real life” idea and then I couldn’t see the swimmers in real life anymore.

And then the swimmers were out of view so I decided to leave. You had to have a ticket to see the finish line and I figured someone else might want my wonderful spot behind a bunch of people’s heads. Here is a photo of a bunch of people standing around who also got tired of standing on their tip toes to see swimmers.

And these people just said “Screw it, I’m just going to enjoy the rare London sunshine” and spread out on the grass behind the lake.

Even though the race was still going on, a lot of people also decided to leave once they saw the swimmers go by. Here you see the stupid wall and the massive sign leading you towards London Live.

And here is the massive queue to get into London Live. As far as I know it’s just a place to watch live Olympics on a giant TV. I decided I’d go home and do that.

So that was my first experience at an Olympic event. As sore as my feet are from walking and as much as I hate crowds, I’m glad I went. Even though I had no idea which swimmer was which (everyone around me kept shouting “Look for a red cap!” because British swimmers wear red), it was easy to get caught up in the excitement as everyone erupted into a deafening cheer for the 30 seconds the swimmers were in view. Here’s hoping Saturday’s football final is just as exciting.

 

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