August 4, 2012
Scott Reed and his son Jeff have traveled from Lilburn to London to attend the 2012 Olympics. Scott Reed is attending his fifth Olympic Games this summer and will blog about his experiences for the Daily Post. His 19-year-old son Jeff, a Killian Hill Christian graduate and Reinhardt University student, will provide photos for the blog. The two will blog throughout the Olympics.
We have finally been able to get caught up on our rest the last couple of days. There is always so much going on at the Olympics that it’s impossible to do it all, but it’s tempting to try. It feels like you’re wasting time if you take a break and slow down at all. But the Olympics are a 17 day marathon, not a sprint. We had been sprinting ever since we arrived last Thursday and it finally began to catch up with us.
Our days have been long and full. Monday was a good example. We got to bed Sunday night after midnight, and had to get up at 6:00 AM Monday to get ready and go to a breakfast downtown with a friend of mine from the Albania Olympic Committee. Breakfast ended about 9:00. Jeff and I explored downtown a little and rode the London Eye, the huge Ferris wheel type structure that gives a panoramic view of London. From there we took the tube to Wimbledon to watch the tennis events. We ate lunch there and then enjoyed tennis for the majority of the afternoon. Wimbledon is in Southwest London and the Olympic Park and our flat are in Northeast London, so it was a long ride back after tennis. We had some passes to get into Olympic Park, so even though we were pretty tired, we decided to go to the park. We intended to stay just an hour or two, but between running into friends and pin trading, we didn’t leave the park until after 8:00. We ate dinner in the mall, which was packed with Olympic visitors. Dinner took forever and was finally over about 10:00. We got back to the flat about 10:30 and did some laundry, sorted sorted out pictures to use for this blog, wrote a blog update, and checked e mail. By the time all that was done, I was finally made it to bed after 1:00 AM. We had originally planned to sleep late Tuesday, but we were able to acquire swimming tickets for Tuesday so we had to get up early for that. On Wednesday we had to get up early to go across town for badminton. We knew we needed to slow down some when Jeff and I both nodded off during the badminton action. So when we were able to sleep in a little on Thursday, the break was welcome!
We took time Thursday to explore more of London. We took one of those double decker bus tours of downtown. We finished up at Hyde Park and walked to Buckingham Palace.
It’s amazing how small the crowds are in London once we get away from the Olympic Park. People who are here for the Olympics congregate near the Olympic events and don’t tend to spend much time elsewhere. Regular tourists stay away during the Olympics. The end result is that normally busy tourist areas are virtually empty. Hyde Park felt deserted. Hyde Park has lots of exhibits set up for Olympic visitors, such as music venues and sponsor exhibits. But the visitors haven’t followed. Talking to vendors in the park, some are talking about shutting down during the Games. They are really hurting financially.
For dinner last night a group of us decided to go to a traditional English pub for dinner. The moment the 5 of us walked in, a couple of the patrons started clapping for us and chanting “USA!”. So much for being inconspicuous. When we sat down the two patrons came over and started talking with us and insisted on buying us a round of drinks (they didn’t mind that Jeff and I don’t drink and thus ordered Cokes). They loved our pins so we gave them some. Ian put his on like he is supposed to, but his friend didn’t understand pins and didn’t know what to do with his. Ian told him it was an earring, so his friend tried to stick it in his ear lobe. We finally took pity on him before drew blood and showed him how to pin it to his shirt.
One of our friends from Atlanta told a story at dinner about he and his son trying to order dinner the night before. Randy and Kenny went to a restaurant that advertised gourmet burgers. So Kenny ordered a hamburger. The waitress replied that they don't serve hamburgers. Kenny said, "But your sign says burgers." She replied, "Sir, we serve chicken burgers and turkey burgers and beef burgers, but we don't serve ham burgers!"
The Olympic Park was busier today than it has been all week. Athletics started today, so two sessions of 80,000 people each were added to the normal park attendance. It truly made the park crowded and reminded me for the first time of the crowds at their peak during the Atlanta Games. It was amusing to watch the Olympic volunteers try to manage crowd control. Guides with megaphones kept shouting “Keep to your left! Keep to your left!” That was ridiculous since the park is several hundred yards wide with open areas and people were moving about in all directions. It was like herding 100,000 cats. But they had their instructions, so they kept trying.
When we were leaving the park, a volunteer with a megaphone kept shouting for everyone to keep moving. As I walked past him, he saw my pins, lowered his megaphone, and asked me if I would trade pins with him. We stood there trading pins while people backed up behind us. When we were done and I starting walking again, he got back on his megaphone and told everyone to keep moving.
I have learned to completely ignore signs and directions in London. We were trying to find the Coke center in Hyde Park and followed a sign that pointed to the right. We went 15 minutes that way until we hit a dead end. When we retraced our steps, we saw that our destination was just a short distance to the left. Someone had evidently been told to put the sign up, but wasn’t told which direction it should point. So he just guessed. When we were taking the tube to Wimbledon, we followed Wimbledon Olympic signs to a particular station. But the signs were wrong; Wimbledon was about 8 stops and two transfers away. Someone must have had the signs and not known where they went, so they just guessed. They weren’t even close. All you can do is shrug and go with the flow.
Tomorrow is the event I have most been looking forward to: Soccer at Wembley Stadium!