Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cycling in the Rain

Day 2 of the Olympics found us along Fulham Road to catch the Women's Cycling Marathon. These guys were ready for any "crowd management" should it be needed,

but things were rather calm as we waited for the ladies to pass by. It was easy to keep up with their progress 

as we peeked into a local pub and watched their TV. In a 140 kilometer race which started and ended at the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace, there was plenty of time for excitement along the way.

Unfortunately, as the bikers got closer, it began to rain. The streets became a treacherous surface and contributed to several crashes along the way.

The riders were clumped in about 4 groups rather scattered apart. The winner at a time of 3:35:29
was Marianne Vos from the Netherlands.

Each group was accompanied by support cars for any spare parts needed.

The riders flew by us in a flash, but the big news here in Britain was that the silver medal was awarded to Lizzie Armistead who took the honor of winning the very first medal for Great Britain. Pretty good for a 23 year old woman who started racing as a teenager to avoid math lessons!!

Best wishes to Team GB in their quest for medals (as long as they aren't up against our USA teams!) The quest for a gold medal so far still alludes them, but there's always tomorrow!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Chick Basketball

Hubby and I had our second opportunity to cheer in this year's Olympics when Saturday we headed to the Olympic Park again to watch some women's basketball.

The basketball arena is one of the largest temporary structures in the Olympic Park, and one of this event's busiest. There has even been discussion of using it in Brazil's Olympics, but that has yet to be decided.

Our ticket included two games--the first between Turkey and Angola, with Turkey easily taking the lead.

Then our USA girls were out in their sharp looking uniforms (important to the gals, right?) to play Croatia.

It was an entertaining game, watching our gals, all who play in the WNBA, beat Croatia 81-56.

Not only are they an experienced team who play well together after so few practices as a team, but they are T-A-L-L! Most of the gals are over 6', with Sylvia Fowles topping out at 6'9".

The game was made more exciting sharing it with these delightful gals and our new friends. We were honored to be sitting just in front of the USA Women's Basketball support team and families. From left to right, DeLaine Emmert who was sitting with her husband Mark, the NCAA president, then Renee Brown, the current chief of basketball operations for the WNBA, who was involved in the selection of this unique team and recruits year round for the WNBA, and last of all Chris Dailey, the associate head coach at University of Connecticut for 27 seasons, who had coached 6 of the players in her program. Chris was so cute--she couldn't help but "coach" the girls through the game. Renee knows everyone in the entire WNBA program and introduced us around to some of  her fellow supporters.

They were a wealth of information. For example, did you know that the men's and women's Olympic basketball teams never stay in the Olympic village, because they more or less have a "rock star" image and they would get very little rest or peace during the games?

Did you know that the women's team is going for its fifth gold medal in a row? There are 3 former gold medal winners subbing this year--that's how deep their talent is.

Their biggest challenges will be Australia and Russia.

Commenting on the games and giving our new friends a shout-out was Ann Meyers Drysdale,

and Chris Sager.

Cheering on the team was so much fun, and we found a few other Americans there joining in the celebration! As I write this, we're watching the USA women play Angola on the television.

It's looking good!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Size Birthday Party

I've had some special birthdays in my life, but I'm not sure if there will ever be another party like the one  this year.

Thanks to friends who kicked off the evening with cupcakes and my very own gold medal, my birthday celebration started in style and ended with a bang.

As spectators of the Opening Ceremonies, we were asked to be in our seats an hour and a half before the show started at 9 P.M. 

During that time, we were given our "participants' directions" and treated to some blissful English countryside scenes,

made even more authentic with chirping birds, and 95 different animals--

some of my favorites being the geese who obviously had benefited from many hours of rehearsal.

As the "rain clouds" circled the stadium, so did the ones overhead and just before the show was to start, the clouds broke open up with rain and threatened to spoil the party. But it typical British fashion, it was over soon after it started, and it was time for the party to begin.

A flyover of jets down the River Thames and over the stadium sent the crowds into a frenzy,

and the recently crowned Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, rang the world's largest harmonically tuned bell to mark the official opening of the 30th Olympiad.

After over 200 hours of rehearsals, (many of them in the summer rain) with 7500 volunteer performers and a budget less than half of what Beijing spent, it was time for the "greatest show on earth."

And what a show it was!

I've never been to an event with such sensory overload--there were so many things happening above us, below us, around us, that we couldn't keep up with it all. I'm so anxious to view it on TV to catch all the things I might have missed, that I'm just now reading about in the papers.

After such a pastoral start, we were jolted in our seats by thousands of drummers moving us to the next chapter of Britain's history, the Industrial Revolution.

Giant, bellowing chimneys rose from beneath the stadium floor. I've later learned that the chimneys were inflatables which rose from a height of 3 and a half meters to 30 meters high.

The transformation from such an idyllic country life to the dark, threatening mills of the Industrial Revolution was an amazing feat. It was one of the many breathtaking, hair-raising, goose bump moments of a night that kept astonishing us with one spectacle after another.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when the golden rings descended from above to

join with the ring that had been forged in the steel mill, to form the Olympic Rings.

Absolutely incredible acoustics, coupled with cutting edge lighting

provided us with a light show unlike any other. Over 70,000 digital paddles were attached to the seats,

and some of the lighting tricks were manipulated by us, the spectators!

In a tribute to Britain's NHS system and the country's children, several characters made a special appearance, including Harry Potter's 40 foot Lord Voldemort,

but not to fear, for up from above, a team of 30 Mary Poppins

descended to save the day.

Honoring the children in this segment was another special moment of the night to add to my favorite moments--the Queen's entrance by helicopter with James Bond, and Mr. Bean's contribution to the crowd-favorite music of Chariots of Fire.

The Queen really surprised us all with that one! Danny Boyle, the show's director praised her by saying "The Queen made herself more accessible than ever before."

And finally, it was time for us to honor the reason we were all there:

the athletes from around the world. We were especially proud to cheer for our USA athletes, but also honored

to salute the efforts and ambitions of athletes from around the world.

In a program that was full of spectacle and awe,

the show's directors can be most congratulated for giving us an event with great "heart."

As the 204 copper "petals" that were carried in by each country were lit and began to ascend

into one flame, our pride and gratitude for our adopted country and the show they offered the world brought tears to my eyes.

We're so proud to be a part of this country's welcome to the world of one of the greatest events on earth.


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Torch Passes Through

A few American friends and I headed out in some warm London sunshine yesterday to catch a view

of the Olympic torch passing through our neighborhood of Chelsea. We chose to view it alongside the Royal Chelsea Hospital with some of our favorite guys--the Chelsea Pensioners.

More Olympic spirit would be harder to find than with these guys

who have all served their country honorably, and who now live together at the Royal Chelsea Hospital as their pension.

First came the sponsors, of course, as the crowds gathered,

and the streets took on a carnival atmosphere. 8000 different torchbearers have carried the torch over a 70 day period throughout England.

The Pensioners formed a royal guard to greet their very own

Jim Anderson, a 75 year old pensioner,

who is a regular marathon and 10k runner. 

And in a flash, he was gone! Another memory etched in our minds of a wonderful chapter in British history.

Today, July 27th, the torch is currently making its way down the Thames River from Hampton Court to end up at the Olympic Park this evening,
where we'll be kicking off the celebrations along with some 80,000 people at the Opening Ceremonies.

Let the Games Begin!