Tag Archives: london 2012

Are you ready for some football?!

13 Aug

So the Olympics are over. All the Team GB paraphernalia was half-price at the grocery store this morning, and it made me feel a little sad inside. Seven plus years in the making, and just like that it’s passed.

On Saturday I went to my first (and only) official ticketed Olympic event — the men’s football final. We got our tickets way over a year ago, which is the inherit problem with the Olympics that I’m not quite sure how to fix. You have to buy your tickets way before you’ll know who’s playing, making it incredibly hard for people to actually root for their own countries. I think they should reserve a block of tickets and only sell them after the participating countries have been announced so superfans can have a chance. Otherwise you get stuck with a stadium 90% full of Team GB fans who don’t really care about Mexico or Brazil. That’s pretty much what happened in the football final. Whereas Team USA didn’t even qualify, Team GB had a chance, but got knocked out in the quarter finals. The Mexico and Brazil fans at Wembley on Saturday were few and far between. Actually I think the majority of them were British people who thought it would be fun to get drunk, put on a sombrero, and run up and down the aisles screaming, “Viva Mehico!” Yes, most of the excitement of the game did not take place on the field.

And now for the photos I took, because when the game gets boring, TAKE PICTURES. Here are the teams coming out onto the field, accompanied by children. I have no idea why.

They played both national anthems.

And then this happened:

This was on my seat when I arrived. I felt special to be one of the lucky 10,000. “I was there!”

And this is what it looked like, which was hard to tell being in the midst of it. It looks like a few spots are missing…

Because people like this Mexico fan thought it would be better to get a giant sausage than to “lift the athletes and fellow spectators.”

Can I just pause quickly to discuss Wembley Stadium food? My parents rarely let us get stadium food because it’s always ridiculously overpriced, but it always looked and smelled good — ice cream, giant pretzels, nachos, peanuts, hot dogs… Do you know what you can eat at Wembley? Giant sausages (not hot dogs) and meat pies. Meat pies. At a sporting event. They also offered crisps (a tiny container of Pringles) and Cadbury chocolate or wine gums, which are jelly candies that pull out your fillings. Naturally we got a bag of those, along with some cheese and onion Pringles, a watered down yet still not really cold fountain Diet Coke and a bottle of water. The cashier took the cap off the water before handing it to me, meaning I had to go the whole game afraid I was going to kick the bottle over. Stephen told me they take the caps so you can’t fill the bottles up and throw them. Good to know…

There was no bottle-throwing, but we did the wave many times. Can you spot it?

The game opened with a Mexican goal right off the bat, which was really exciting. And then nothing happened for the rest of the half. Here is a picture I took of a goalie. I don’t know which team he’s on because goalies don’t match the rest of the players. He’s wearing Brazilian blue but seems to have a Mexican flag on his chest.

Halftime (is it called halftime in soccer?) was a big disappointment. There were no cheerleaders, dancers or band. Just some reporter dude dancing with the ugly mascot, which they broadcast on the jumbotrons. I do enjoy the guy in the upper left of this photo holding up his scarf backwards. They sold souvenir scarves with both teams featured on them. I noticed many British fans folding them in half and holding up the Mexico side when Mexico was doing well, then switched to the Brasil size when Brazil almost made a goal. That’s what happens when Team GB doesn’t play.

There were a buttload of people there! And I bet they all took the Tube. I thought we were crazy for driving, but we had no problems leaving or arriving. I’m sure there are still a few people trying to get on the train out of Wembley.

Here’s another shot of players. I took many more, but I’ll spare you.

Mexico wins! 2 to 1. Brazil scored in the last few minutes of the game and things finally got exciting, but they weren’t able to tie it. You can see Brazil’s disappointment in this photo.

The London 2012 logo on the stadium.

Wembley and its ridiculous arch.

Never mind the gold medal on the line, the most exciting part of the afternoon was watching the antics of the people in front of us. The women two rows ahead was a real live Brazilian fan and would hop out of her seat with joy every time Brazil did something spectacular like get the ball. This would block the view of the guy in front of me. The first time his wife asked politely if the woman would sit down so they could see. She did, but sprang up again a minute later. Each time it happened the guy became less and less polite, until eventually he screamed “SIT DOWN!” and lightly slapped her on the back. Then she got angry because he touched her and shouted. I had my camera out, ready to capture a fight that could earn me some theoretical Internet dollars on Youtube. But alas, they both calmed down and were quiet the rest of the match.

It was a neat experience being part of history like that, but I’m sure it would have been more fun if USA or Team GB were playing. (Side note: I have never referred to England/Britain/the UK as “GB” before the Olympics, but it’s been shoved down my throat for 16 days straight.)

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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.

 

Favourite BBC horse jumping commentator remark:

5 Aug

“Oh no, it appears the horse has run out of petrol!”

“It’s funny because Americans say ‘Run out of gas!'”

(The horse likely just thought to himself, “What am I doing here? This rain sucks and I couldn’t care less about a medal. Bail!”)

Rooting for two home teams …. and nappies

31 Jul

I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently who I’m rooting for in the Olympics. As an American, of course I root for Team USA, but when Team USA doesn’t perform, as the men’s gymnastics team faltered yesterday, I can’t help but root for the “home” team, Team GB. The BBC announcers make this so easy. I don’t know if it’s the accents, the witty banter or just that it’s refreshing to not have to listen to NBC’s commentators, but I’ve really been enjoying the British coverage of the games. They have 541 athletes since they’re the host nation, but they always seem to be the underdogs. While many countries — USA and China come to mind — have a “Go for the gold! 110%!” mentality, a lot of Team GB seems just happy to compete, and set a goal of just making it to the finals. And when they do medal — like when Rebecca Adlington won bronze in the 400m freestyle — the entire country collectively pees its pants. I’m only half joking there, but I have never seen announcers and fans go so crazy over a bronze medal. Adlington won gold in Beijing and that made her hometown so happy they named their swimming pool after her. I’m not kidding.

The post-event interviews are always funny, no matter who’s doing the interviewing. Most of the athletes are exhausted and in a state of shock, in no condition to talk to anyone, but a reporter shoves a microphone in their face. I feel like the typical response is usually, “I just gave it my all, it was a really great race.” But I’ve noticed on several occasions now that British athletes apologize. They actually say “I’m sorry,” like they care more that they’ve let their countrymen down instead of accomplishing their personal goal. While I’m sure Team GB fans are disappointed when their country doesn’t win, I also think they’re just excited for the experience too. I guess that’s why it’s so easy to get caught up in the “home” team excitement — I was literally on the edge of my seat yesterday when the British men’s gymnastics team had a shot at a medal. And I was crushed when Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield came in fourth in synchronized diving, even though the US came in third. The announcer kept referring to Daley and Waterfield as “our boys” and “our lads” — how could you not root for them?

I don’t know if you could tell, but I’m going for a world record in Olympics watching. I can’t stop. I have to force myself to take breaks in order to get some work done… I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to work the other way around. I’m still battling this virus and often the only thing I want to do is veg out in front of the TV. I’ve come to the point where my nose is so red and irritated it hurts to blow, but it also hurts if I don’t blow. I tried putting moisturizer on it but I think that did more harm than good. Then I realized the perfect solution — nappy rash cream! If it’s safe for a baby’s bottom, it’s gotta be safe for my nose, right? And now my nose feels better, and I got to use the word “nappy” in a blog post, which is my dad’s favourite British word. (Fun fact: Pamper’s nappies are the official nappy of the 2012 London Games. If you’re wondering why there is an official nappy of the Olympics, I am too.)

Don’t get your nappies in a bunch, Americans. You can have patriotic bums too:

Nobody cares about archery

29 Jul

As promised, yesterday I went for a walk around the neighborhood to check out the archery competition. As expected, there is absolutely no exciting Olympic vibe from my flat, except for the occasional hoots and hollers from the pub patrons across the street. If it weren’t for all the “London 2012” signs on televised competitions, I’d believe the Olympics were taking place in China again. Besides Lord’s in my neighborhood and the infamous Horse Guards Parade, most of the events take place in Olympic Park, way out in East London. I believe Dave Barry said it best in his recent Miami Herald humor column: ‘The East End is part of London in much the same way that Pittsburgh is part of New York City; it is a lonnngggg way from the city center.”

So while I couldn’t even see or hear the opening ceremonies fireworks from my flat, I can walk to where the archery competition is taking place. So I did. And it was slightly disappointing. I don’t know what I expected — a stray arrow to fly past me in the street? To hear some announcers or crowds cheering? I heard nothing. Lord’s is very isolated, surrounded by a high brick wall. I snapped this photo of people waiting around outside. I’m not sure what they were waiting for as this wasn’t even the entrance. Extra tickets? Security? A chance to meet the famous South Korean archers? (Remember when I saw them on the street and didn’t know if they were any good? Well apparently they are, one of them is half blind and still set a world record!) Considering all the warnings we received about avoiding venue areas because they’d be insanely crowded, it wasn’t bad at all. Apparently nobody cares about archery qualifiers.

I walked around the perimeter hoping to see more, but everything was so guarded. I took this photo of the official archery banners and a random green van:

I wonder how they decided the official colours of the Olympics this year would be hot pink? That’s probably the last color I think of when I think “London” (I think red or blue), but I guess it does stand out on the signs.

So no big exciting “the Olympics are in my neighborhood!” stories. I’ll be catching today’s action from the comfort of my couch, since I’m still feeling under the weather. Looking forward to watching the women’s gymnastics qualifiers soon. Hopefully since the US is in the same group as Britain they’ll air it on BBC 1 or 3.

Corgis!! And other thoughts on the opening ceremonies

28 Jul

I think we can all agree that this was the best part of the opening ceremonies last night:

No, not James Bond! This:

CORGIS!!!

After the amazing spectacle Beijing put on four years ago, I thought there was no way London could follow that. But they held their own, mostly because of corgis. And OK, James Bond. And Mr. Bean. And David Beckham.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was how not confusing the opening ceremonies were. Normally there’s at least one aspect of it that makes you wonder how high the artistic director was, but I thought this year’s were pretty easy to understand. Well done, Danny Boyle.

I also have to say I really enjoyed the British commentary. They knew when to shut up and had interesting things to say about each country processing in. And when they didn’t really know what to say, they just talked about the weather in typical British fashion. (“It rained a little earlier but I’m glad it’s held off.” “Yes, but it is getting quite chilly, isn’t it?”) And of course the accents make them more pleasant to listen to.

I have somehow managed to catch a cold in July. I guess the timing isn’t exactly bad, because it makes me feel less guilty just vegging out in front of the TV. I’ve spent all morning watching swimming and men’s gymnastic qualifying rounds. You know what else is weird about watching BBC’s Olympic coverage? There are no commercials! I watched the opening ceremonies for four hours straight last night, no breaks. It was like watching the Super Bowl — I had to wait until the parade of nations to run to the bathroom.

I’m debating whether I want to go for a walk this afternoon to check out the excitement at Lord’s. I’ll have to wait for my Sudafed to kick in first.

The Olympics are one day away! So I bought dumplings

26 Jul

Tomorrow the Olympics begin, so naturally I decided today would be the day to buy Chinese dumplings. I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve been meaning to go to the Chinatown supermarket for a while now, and I figured I’d combine it with some last minute tourism. I was feeling a little guilty because I missed the Olympic torch this morning. I know it’s a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” but it was at 6:45. In the morning. There are three things in life I really don’t like — waking up early, standing in crowds, and heat. Seeing the torch would at least involve the first two with a hint of the third, so I decided not to go. But I felt like I needed to get into the Olympic spirit somehow. I love our neighborhood, but it’s so quiet and secluded, sometimes I just have to go see Big Ben to remind myself that I live in London.


And the tourists always remind me why I love our secluded neighborhood.


The crowds were out in full-force and I was asked multiple times to take photos of people in front of Big Ben.

These signs were everywhere:

I was trying to be artistic here but the sun was a little too bright. I never thought I’d say that about London weather.

I started walking towards Trafalgar’s Square. There were a butt-ton of people hanging out outside of 10 Downing Street, where the prime minister lives.

The massive amounts of swarming tourists everywhere wasn’t that surprising, as that’s rather common in London. What was surprising was this:

No cars! Only buses and taxis are allowed to drive around central London now. It felt a little eery.

This was a checkpoint. If you weren’t a bus or taxi you had to turn left, you couldn’t go straight. I think cyclists were allowed, but I’m not sure.

Remember when I saw all the signs for Horse Guards Parade a couple weeks ago? Like a typical American, I thought it involved guards on horses parading around and throwing candy to crowds of kids (the candy bit was wishful thinking.) Well, there are no clowns or elephants in Piccadilly Circus, and Horse Guards Parade is not a processional, but rather a large parade ground. I’ve had my photo taken with the horses that stand outside several times and had no idea what the building was for. Well now it will be the site of beach volleyball. Hooray, I saw an Olympic venue!

I finally made it to Trafalgar’s Square to see the official Olympics countdown. I love this pensive dude in purple.

There were little signs in the fountain telling you not to swim or drink from it. I definitely saw a toddler wading in it.

This German clock was going off and tourists were loving it.

Signs!

I was surprised Chinatown was so well decorated.

Love the alternating British and Chinese flags.

Wait, what is that at the top of the gate?

It’s the queen! Who cares if the Jubilee was almost two months ago, it was probably hard to get that up there and would be disrespectful to take it down. Right?

More Chinatown festiveness.

And now some final photos of all the flags of the participating countries displayed around Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street:

On the bus ride home I saw the South Korean archery team walking down the street near Lord’s cricket grounds, where they’re holding the archery events. Everyone on the bus pointed them out and got excited. I don’t know anything about archery, yet alone South Korean archery, but it was still exciting to see some real live athletes.

I may have missed the Olympic torch, but I saw Korean archers, an Olympic venue, and a London without cars. I also got my Chinese dumplings, hoisin sauce and edamame. Not a bad day.