On the eve of the Paralympics, I figured it’s finally time to share about the Olympic events I attended. Better late than never, right?
Things started off even before the Games opened. As most of you know (and I think as I can safely say now), I’m dancing in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony as part of the mass volunteer cast. That’s all I can say. One of the perks of participation, however, was that we were each given a ticket to attend a dress rehearsal of the Olympic Opening Ceremony the Wednesday before show day.
The now-classic Mr. Bean moment, the Queen and Bond, and of course the cauldron lighting were all kept secret even during the dress rehearsal, but the atmosphere of the rest definitely made it a different experience from watching it on TV a couple days later. Most notably, this Industrial Revolution segment was incredible in person, with the drums’ reverberations and the “forging of the rings” creating a really inspirational moment despite the rather non-romantic “let’s tear down pastoral England and build factories” theme.
That Thursday, my friend Nat and I took a quick trip down to Oxford Street to see the torch (and only the torch) run past. Suffering the disadvantage of late, short people, we can’t tell you who was holding the torch, but we can at least say we saw it.
Finally, that Friday, a rather large group from our hall watched the real deal Ceremony on TV in the common room. The biggest laughs? Mr. Bean, the Queen and Bond, and the Queen ignoring Team GB’s march-in to pick at her nails. The biggest cheer? Team Kazakhstan – the unique experience of watching in a group of international students.
Saturday, I went to my first event – men’s gymnastics prelims, including Japan and the U.S. I was very excited, not only to see Olympic gymnastics, but also because my brother went up the Junior Olympic ranks with some of our guys. I have no personal connection with them, but it’s nice to root for someone you’ve at least seen at meets. I also met Sam Mikulak’s mom beforehand – my family definitely remembers seeing a much-younger Sam being called up to the award stand for winning everything.
As it turns out, it’s a good thing I saw their prelims…the one time they ended up on top of the standings. Sadly, the team didn’t do as well in finals (although host Team GB did amazingly to get the bronze at home), so I ended up seeing the best of the team when I went. I’m thinking I might need another gymnastics-related blog post, so I’ll end my commentary there for now.
Sunday, I met up with my visiting friends, Juliana and John, walking through east London with Juliana and ending up in the Olympic Park to see basketball. This is the Stratford Gate to the Park and apocalypse clouds in the background. Yes, we got rained on spectacularly on our walk. Welcome to London. Go world.
We actually got to see two games – U.S. v. France and Spain v. China. The first was rather one-sided, although it was fun to watch all the NBA players in person, not only from the U.S. (Kobe, LeBron, etc.) but also the ones from France that I had forgotten (Ronny Turiaf, Tony Parker). Spain v. China was a bit more exciting and also included the Gasol brothers, Ibaka, and Yi Jianlian. Pau and Yi carried their respective countries’ flags in the Opening, another bit of trivia.
We had fun watching the games; participating in the “Mexican wave,” as it’s called here; eating ice cream from the waffle-less waffle bar; getting Cadbury chocolates; and seeing Michelle Obama cheering on the team.
Later in the week, I went with Nat for my last event, judo in the ExCeL. Neither of us knew much about judo, but we picked up the bare basics pretty quickly.
We got to see men’s -100kg and women’s -78kg to the quarterfinals, including the amazing run of Team GB’s Gemma Gibbons, who went on to take the silver behind Kayla Harrison of the U.S. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of either of them, but here’s the Team GB guy on the nearer mat.
One of the most entertaining parts was observing the fans. We were in the middle of a Brazil section, thanks to CoSport’s allocating us Brazil’s tickets, but it was fun to be in a section waving flags and cheering. Although I must say, the Netherlands (dressed in bright orange), Team GB (of course), and Georgia (drums and chants) were probably all more boisterous.
While I had no more tickets to actual venues, I had no intention of stopping the fun. BBC’s online streaming allowed my hall friends and me to watch multiple sports on our multiple laptops in our rooms, and I visited both the Hyde Park and Victoria Park London Live sites, where they had giant screens up. Here’s Sam being announced for vault finals on the Hyde Park screen where I watched with my friend Jess.
For more pictures of the Olympic weeks (including a museum visit, having fun with cousins, and more Olympic stuff), see my Facebook. Some final Olympic moments for which I have no pictures:
– Even though we watched it on a little laptop screen, Mo Farah’s racing was quite exciting. And the BBC commentators were going absolutely crazy while we watched his second gold in the 5,000m.
– David Boudia is my new favorite non-gymnastics U.S. Olympian. The 10m platform final was ridiculous, and he totally nailed it! He and Tom Daley were both really cute when they realized they’d won medals. Poor Qiu Bo looked understandably reserved compared to them.
– We watched the Closing Ceremony on a laptop in our multi-laptop hallway, which provided the convenient function of “mute and switch to YouTube on another computer” when things like George Michael being on too long happened. If you haven’t seen the YouTube video (and even if you have), this is what we switched to. Back to the Ceremony itself, I think Spice Girls provided the most nostalgia of the evening for us. One Direction probably provided the most hilarity/horror.
– In general, BBC commentary and coverage was so much better than my years of watching NBC. Part of it was probably because I kept laughing at commentators saying things like, “That’ll do, lad, that’ll do!” and, “That was MASSIVE.”
And so it’s time for the Paralympics – I will have lots to say after the Opening!