Monday, 20 August 2012

Watching the London Olympics from the UK Part One

All of this post's photos were taken by myself, as always, and my mum, just not on DSLR or manual settings
The Olympic hangover has lifted, the jetlag has passed, and I'm back to my country of residence, munching on pretzels and savoring the cool air con breeze. I did a little skip and a jump through immigration at both ends: Benefit of having a Green Card is being able to travel through the 'Citizen' line at both ends of my transatlantic travelling.

Watching the Olympics in my new home country was pride-inducing enough, but being there in person was a positively giddy experience. I've never seen Brits so animated with national pride as the "jolly helpful people", AKA the Gamesmakers, or the army of Olympics volunteers. It definitely got the red, white and blue blood cells pumping.

During the infamous UK Olympics tickets lottery, my mum and I hedged our bets on events we reckoned other Brits wouldn't want to go to. Ergo, we got tickets for the Women's Football/Soccer Final, Men's Freestyle Wrestling, and Women's Mountain Biking. I was super-psyched and US husband was super-envious.
Olympic Womens' Soccer Final: Fans, Wembley, Hope Solo, US Victory, record-breaking crowds.
As a Brit, I'm predisposed to prefer to support the underdog. In ordinary circumstances nobody would call Team USA the underdog, but this was going to be a close game against Japan, and I was proud to wave my little stars n' stripes. We were directly behind the goal when Team USA scored their first of two - you can see the ball fly into the net in one of the photos above. In the second half we saw Hope Solo do some of her best work of the whole Games.

A defining moment of the match was beating the world record for audience numbers at a women's soccer game: 80,203 fans and an almost packed out Wembley. 80,203 fans that booed loudly during the announcement that Seb Blatter, President of Fifa, would be handing out the medals to the US, Japanese and Canadian champs. A chap from San Francisco sat behind us was audibly shocked:

San Fran: Oh my God, why is everyone booing?
Glad Mum: They're booing Seb Blatter, head of Fifa. 
San Fran: But why?
Glad Mum: He's not very popular. I called my last Fantasy Football team Weak Blatter Control.
San Fran: Wow, that's obviously something you feel strongly about! I can't believe all these crazy Brits booed.

The next day we had Freestyle Wrestling at the Excel center/centre. This included a rather handy introduction to the sport and the moves to look out for: They knew their audience, and most Brits aren't clued up on the minutiae of Freestyle Wrestling. This was much to the chagrin of my Pennsylvanian husband who was shocked to discover I knew very little about the sport. He was very proud that we thoroughly enjoyed the day though, especially as he missed out on seeing another US gold medal broadcast live. He did, however, get the Women's soccer final live on TV, along with the super-boo.

This is an illustration of what wrestling is all about:
Freestyle Wrestling: None of this looks very comfortable.
Women's Mountain Biking was no less gruelling. I couldn't have walked the track without breaking a sweat. 

We picked this sport because it took place at Hadleigh Farm, in Essex, not far from my birthtown. Once again I got to witness USA grab a medal (bronze), amidst a fun festival atmosphere. Team GB cyclist Annie Last did not live up to her name, and came a respectable 8th. 

The biggest cheer, however, was reserved for Candice Neethling of South Africa. She came last. A British audience does like an underdog, after all. But at only 20 years old, she's an inspiration to anyone riding a tough track with the odds stacked against them: Keep on pushing on at whatever you do. You can read Candice Neethling's reflections after her tough Olympic race here.
Gold Medal winner Julie Bresset on the right, and the young Candice Neethling, who came last, on the left.
I don't think we could have had a more enjoyable trio of sporting adventure. It was jolly good fun.


  1. Savoring? SAVORING?! What's happened to you?

  2. It's a condition of the Green Card - "must use US English" ;)

    Truthfully, I switched to US English when I moved here, just in case employers etc check out my blog.