July 30, 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.
Today was the first sporting competition we were able to attend, and really made everything start to feel like the Olympics.
We came to London without any tickets in hand, but were planning to get them on the street. The secondary market has been very tightly controlled in London, and it has been virtually impossible to walk up to events and secure tickets. Despite that, Jeff, Barry and I have had pretty good luck finding tickets through friends of ours.
Today Jeff and I had tickets for tennis at Wimbledon. Tennis was one of the top tickets I wanted to secure for these Games, as I have always wanted to see Wimbledon. Like Augusta National and the Masters, the tradition at Wimbledon is unique and can’t be replicated anywhere else. So I was very excited when we were offered the tickets. Just being there was great and would have been all I had anticipated, but it turned out that our tickets were for Centre Court and the showcase match we were able to see featured Roger Federer against an overmatched Frenchman. The weather was great, the seats were ideal, and we had a fun afternoon. We did try to find some of their famous strawberries and cream, but the line was way too long.
Despite the Wimbledon atmosphere, the crowd was clearly an Olympic audience. During one change over between games, the crowd actually started the wave in the stands. It kept going so long that the two competitors had to wait to start the next game for a few moments. The flustered PA announcer kept saying in a calm voice, "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you.", hoping that would stop the wave. He was ignored, and it finally stopped of its own accord. I am quite confident that this is the first time the wave has ever been witnessed at staid old Wimbledon Centre Court.
The only issue that marred the trip to Wimbledon was that on the way there, I received a text from Barry that Jeff and I had locked him in the flat and he couldn’t get out. The flat has one of those old fashioned key hole locks. Jeff and I left early in the morning because we had breakfast planned with a friend on the Albania team that I met 8 years ago in Athens and have kept up with. We locked the flat door from the outside, not realizing that it could not be unlocked from the inside. So when Barry tried to leave later, he was stuck. He eventually crawled out the living room window to make his escape. Lucky for him, none of the neighbors saw him and called the police! He is a big guy, so that must have been quite a sight! Jeff and I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily Barry has a good temperament and took it all in stride, but just the same I was glad that we weren’t planning to see him for a few hours. When we asked him to re-create the window climb for the camera, he declined.
Much discussion has occurred about London’s security plans for the Games. Security is very visible but not at all oppressive or intrusive. There are lots of police and soldiers walking the Olympic Park and manning the tube stations and security checkpoints. But they give a sense of comfort, not oppression. All of the police we have talked with have been very helpful and friendly to chat with. One group that we have seen and talked with more than once in the last couple of days is shown in the picture below with Jeff, Barry and me. They have even started trading pins with us.
Yesterday we went into Olympic Park to walk around and go to the top of the Orbit. Olympic Park is where many of the event venues are, including the main stadium, swimming and other water sports, basketball, hockey and handball. Entry is very closely monitored by security, so entry takes a while, but once in you can go throughout the park with ease. It’s very big, probably a mile long or more so it takes lots of walking to see it all. Entrance is allowed with an event ticket; otherwise, a special park ticket is required; these were sold long ago like the event tickets were. We have been able to get park passes for each day.
The Orbit is London’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. Like the Eiffel Tower, the Orbit has a revolutionary design. To me it looks strange, like a roller coaster on steroids. It does have a good view from the top of the London skyline. It’s also the only way that a visitor can see the torch from outside the main stadium, because the torch is in the stadium and can’t be seen from the outside. That’s a shame, as the Olympic flame is such an iconic landmark for any Games and should be readily visible. I think the London committee missed the boat on this one.
It was fascinating to see into the stadium from the Orbit. They are actually tearing up the floor of the stadium to remake it in a few days for the track and field events. So right now it is full of earth moving equipment.
We also learned first-hand yesterday about the London weather. The day started out warm and sunny, so we left the flat without jackets or umbrellas. But by early afternoon, storms came rolling in with high wind and driving rain. The park has few places for shelter, unless you are attending an event, so we were stuck in the open. I left the park and went all the way back to our flat to get jackets and umbrellas for the three of us. But it was slow going, as everyone was leaving at once and the exits were wall to wall with people. I got soaked! But I accomplished my mission and made it back with the jackets. By the time I returned it was warm and sunny again, but later the rain came through again so were were glad to have them. From now one we will take umbrellas no matter how it looks when we leave in the morning.
Tomorrow promises to be another exciting day. We found tickets for swimming finals, so we will start the day with that and see what happens from there.