The London 2012 Olympics was a celebration unlike any I have attended. People from all corners of the world crowded into the stands, rode the tube, and competed at the different venues. British folks we chatted with are unabashedly proud of the UK, Team GB, and the way London stepped up to host the world’s elite athletes. I heard on the radio that Team GB won more gold at these games than the past 4 or 5 games combined. The only complaint I heard about the UK ticket allocation system: Londoners felt it was not well executed, and it was very difficult for locals to buy tickets.
About a year ago we snagged tickets for 3 events through the American ticket lottery: Medal rounds for Roman-Greco and Freestyle wrestling, and a semifinal for men’s football (soccer). Unfortunately our tickets didn’t allow us to get into the Olympic Village, which was a bit of a bummer. We showed up at the Village and learned from a very nice lady that we were out of luck.
Perhaps you have seen the movie “Family Vacation”? Suzanne & I had the flashback to the moment when the Griswalds show up at Wallyworld (after an epic journey across middle America in a station wagon), only to find that Wallyworld is closed!
Instead of the Olympic Village, we ended up in TGI Friday in a huge shopping mall munching on hamburgers and trying to guess which of the people around us were Olympic athletes. Later we head that we didn’t miss much in the Village and that when Track & Field (they call it Athletics here) and swimming were going it was very crowded. Good riddance! We didn’t need to see the darned Olympic Village anyway.
Later we discovered that Hyde Park had 6 huge video screens running real-time feeds from different venues where we watched Jordan Burroughs qualify for the gold medal match. After our first evening of Roman-Greco wrestling, it wasn’t easy to get Suzanne and Alex to watch any more wrestling. I made my case that Freestyle wrestling is more fun to watch than Roman-Greco – they were skeptical until we watched the gold medal match that evening.
Overall, the logistics of the games and the helpfulness of the volunteers in pink vests stationed outside every tube station significantly reduced the stress of moving around London with the huge crowds. (I heard an unconfirmed rumor that the Olympic volunteers were trained by McDonald’s)
Suzanne coordinated a meet-up with friends from home at their hotel in London. It was very nice to spend some time with folks from home and catch up on their travels over a nice pint of British beer. The kids especially appreciated an afternoon with friends from home.
We discovered from our friends that the only place to buy Team USA Olympic schwag was at the USA house where many of the American athletes stayed. We navigated our way to the USA house, cleared security, and flashed our American ID to gain entry. It took about an hour to pick out the perfect shirts and hats to show our support of Team USA. We were thrilled to spot Apolo Ohno shaking hands and taking pictures inside the shop.
The football (soccer) semifinal was a good game and Wembly Stadium is a great venue. Mexico pretty much dominated Japan. However, our Olympic highlight was when Jordan Burroughs won gold in freestyle wrestling (74 Kilogram weight class) against an Iranian wrestler. The crowd went wild when he won, and it was moving for all of us when the stars and stripes was raised and US National Anthem played. To top it all off, Patrick fought his way through the crowd of Iranian wrestling fans to get Jordan’s autograph on a new Team USA Olympic hat!