It’s hard to believe I’ve been in London for four days. Let me tell you, it’s been a whirlwind! After my British Airways flight to Gatwick I found my way to my host’s home in Kent, then it was off to collect my Gamesmaker uniform. It was great to see so many fellow Gamesmakers! The whole process took about an hour, and while waiting, I met some people who will be judging the badminton competition, since officials were at the center to pick up their uniforms, too.
My first two days were unusually warm in London- about 80-degrees- so I felt right at home! I’ve found Londoners to be exceptionally friendly and helpful – especially the man who carried my suitcase down the platform at the rail station! He must have sensed my tiredness and took pity on me. People are also happy to give directions get get you on the right train or Tube.
When the mayor of London said Olympic fever was contagious, he wasn’t kidding. On Friday, the official start of the Games, it seemed everyone was taking about Opening Ceremonies. Among the questions- who would be included, and who would carry the torch?
I spent Friday afternoon getting credentials and checking out the London Media Centre, which has been set up for broadcast journalists in the heart of London, just a few blocks from Parliament and 10 Downing Street. When I got off the Tube at Westminster and saw and heard Big Ben chime, I couldn’t help but smile and think how lucky I am to be in London!
After my first British lunch of Fish & Chips, and a pint of London Pride, it was off to Victoria Park to meet a group of fellow Gamesmakers from Ellie’s Elite, a Facebook group I joined about 6 months ago. We met at the BT Live Opening Ceremonies party – a massive open air event that was being held in several London Parks. With so many people in town, it took nearly two hours of searching and standing in line, but eventually I found these new friends and had a blast! There was a London Eye replica to ride, a great performance art group who danced on these platforms that went up and down several feet into the air. Everyone was in a celebratory mood and the Union Jack was everywhere – painted on people’s faces, on their clothes and shirts or temporarily tattooed on faces and arms.
Before the ceremonies started, there was a fly over by the Red Arrows (the UK version of the Blue Angels) and an appearance by the University of Florida Marching Band, which was a nice reminder of home.
The weather Friday was great, sunny and not too hot — except for the brief rain shower about 30 minutes before the ceremonies started. After several days of sunshine and heat, I think it was the Universe’s way of reminding everyone that we were in London, after all! Thankfully, it was over in about 10 minutes.
Around 9pm, the three massive screens throughout the park aired the BBC’s live coverage of the Opening Ceremonies. What a fantastic way to enjoy the show! I LOVED the James Bond/Daniel Craig bit with Queen Elizabeth. There was a huge cheer when the Queen turned around on screen and said, “Good Evening, Mr. Bond.” It was wildly unexpected, but appreciated by the crowd. I wonder who got the job of asking Her Majesty to do that bit. Can you imagine how that conversation went??
Everyone in the crowd seemed to truly enjoy the show. People stood up and danced during the tribute to British music and sang along with the songs, even the football and rugby anthems. Now, the ceremony was very British, so there was some national history that needed interpretation for an American like me. For instance, I had no idea everyone was singing football songs – I just thought they were patriotic songs Britons learn the same way Americans learn, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Thankfully, Mandee,the Gamesmaker sitting next to me, was there to clue me in on all the inside info I needed to understand.
It was great to see Britons so excited about the Games and really proud of being Olympic hosts. I had to leave the event early to catch the train home (otherwise, I would have been sleeping in the park!), but I’m sure there was an unbelievable cheer when Team GB was shown entering the stadium!
With a lot of bus and Tube changes because of the Opening Ceremonies, I was very lucky to strike up a conversation with a family traveling the same way I was. Thank God for them, because I would have been totally lost without them! We watched the rest of the ceremonies on the BBC’s live app on an iPhone – at least what we could when we weren’t underground. It wasn’t how I imagined viewing the rest of the Ceremonies, and I was so sad not to see Team USA, but what do you do? At least I got to see David Beckham on the boat heading into the stadium and some of the young sport athletes carrying the torch.
By the time I got home, it was 1am (to put it in perspective, I left the park at about 10:30 or 11pm), and had one of my Gamesmakers shift at 7am the next day (boy, I can’t survive on 3 hours sleep like I used to!). So I hit the hay and smiled at London’s shining moment. Brits really do know how to throw a party!