12 Aug 2012

Life is beautiful

We were set on a mission to find a store full of Team USA gear. After getting sketchy directions to the store by someone that had just gone there and was wearing the apparel, we walked for nearly 30 minutes without a single sighting of the store.

We kept on walking, determined to find this place, until we came across a set of Olympic rings that we hadn’t seen before and no one had seen until August 5th. The Olympic rings were created out of paint cans and the rings looked as though paint was still spilling out of them.

The rings where actually part of a giant show put on by Mr. Brainwash, the artist.

As we walked around the giant converted office space, it was clear the artist had used the entire space as his canvas. Pop art was scattered all over the place. Pieces ranged from The Beatles theme to giant rubber tire sculptures.

Mr. Brainwash has had several big art shows in cities like Los Angeles, New York City and Miami. London is his first solo art show in Europe and what a perfect timing with the Olympic Games being here.

It was a wonderland with strange objects all around. We got a kick out of taking pictures with the pieces. My favorite was a giant boom box. Although it wasn’t functional, it was fun to pretend like you were turning up the music.

Though there was a wide range of mediums, there were two consistent themes that Mr. Brainwash expressed. “Follow your dreams” and  “Life is beautiful”— two perfect themes to play along with the Olympics.

Michael Kerkhoff  |  Sports Reporter

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12 Aug 2012

The Olympic flame lit a fire in me, too

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; as I sat on the plane to London two weeks ago, I wanted nothing to do with journalism. I was exhausted, burnt out. I was done.

For the past month, I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out what else I could do with my life. Go into business? PR or marketing? Set my sights on being a stay-at-home mom? Nothing felt right. I bided my time hoping something would jump into my path screaming, “Pick me!”

Three days into being in England, something did—journalism. For me, it was the thrill of talking to all these people from other countries and hearing their stories that made me fall in love again. It was the luck (or journalist’s instinct, as my editor here said) of picking out the right person in the crowd to get that one perfect interview (Kristin Armstrong’s family, in this case). It was trying to take a day off, yet seeing possible stories everywhere I turned.

And now, here I am, sitting in a London Starbucks down the road from Farringdon Station, nursing my last sips of coffee, preparing for the day’s possibilities, and all that surrounds me is journalism.

At the table behind, two men discuss their careers in journalism. To my left, a young woman is being interviewed for a job and talks about her skills in writing features and editorials.

I don’t usually believe in “signs,” but in this moment I do. Journalism is calling.

Lindsey Gelwicks  |  Features Reporter

@lbgelwicks

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12 Aug 2012

“Wrestling” my way into a Team USA event

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, I had the most fun I have had since arriving in London. I was lucky enough to attend the Team USA men’s freestyle wrestling practice and media day.

I used to wrestle—starting in the fourth or fifth grade and continued through my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the practice and media day.

While I was there, I got to interview and talk with many of wrestlers. Going in, I was most excited to talk with Sam Hazenwinkel, and I did just that. I talked to him for most of the media day. He was such a cool guy and had great stories to tell.

After talking with him for a while, we parted ways and I changed my focus to his roommate Tervel Dlagnev, the heavyweight. He was a fun guy to talk to as well. He had a great sense of humor, all the while keeping his seriousness at the forefront.

I traveled around the room for about 30 to 45 minutes, talking to as many wrestlers as I could before they started practicing. They began with a warm-up and then grabbed their wrestling partners and got to work.

Watching their practice made me miss wrestling and want to start back up again. In all reality, I probably won’t, but it was a nice thought at the time. I didn’t think I would miss wrestling that much after high school, but I do now. Getting back on the mat would be fun.

What may have not sounded fun to others was something I loved. I wish I could go back to more of their practices and media days. They were really cool guys and the atmosphere was awesome. It was easily the best day I have had during this trip.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter

@The8thKing

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12 Aug 2012

A bunting obsession

Bunting: Most commonly seen as strings of triangular pieces of fabric, plastic, paper, etc. with patriotic colors and flags. It was originally made to serve as signal flags for the British Royal Navy.

When I first got to England I didn’t know what it was or even paid much attention to it. Every English town we’ve visited, large or small, is decorated with it. From houses in the countryside to London streets, you can’t escape it.  Walking around Worcester, it’s everywhere. Strung across buildings, hung over streets and wound around lampposts. At first, I thought it was to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee but the event passed and it stayed up. Then I assumed it was the Queen’s visit to Worcester to open the library or in honor of the Olympic Games, but the decorations haven’t moved.

Now I never want them too. I’m in love.

I don’t know if it’s the unique British history or the cheerful colors and designs, but bunting makes me wish I hadn’t spent a penny on anything else since I’ve been here. Doesn’t matter if it’s waving proudly in the wind or hanging limply on a rainy day, it never fails to brighten my mood.

At first I only wanted to buy it. I saw some in Bath made of fabric with embroidered union jacks and crowns, but I couldn’t afford it. Shops in Worcester have it zigzagging across their ceilings and it slowly breaks down my willpower to resist every time I look in.

Then I realized I could make my own and the possibilities were endless.  It can be sewn, knitted, or crocheted out of anything imaginable. I don’t think I’ll even make it home from the airport without a stop at Hobby Lobby to buy supplies.

Sarah Ellis | Designer

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12 Aug 2012

Scoring gold medal tickets

Soccer, a popular sport around the world, generally doesn’t peak my interest.

But it was the Olympic Games. It’s Team USA and Canada with each team vying for a spot in the gold medal match.

The conclusion to this particular match, one of the few matches I’ve watched from start to finish, was unreal. Every time Canada scored, the U.S. came right back to even the contest. The same was true when the U.S. scored. Canada wouldn’t go away.

But it was the U.S. who triumphed 4-3 in extra time, forcing a re-match of last summer’s World Cup final with Japan for the gold medal in London.

The thought of buying tickets never crossed my mind. Everything is so expensive here.

As I departed Worcester for London, I pondered the possibility of getting tickets. Once I arrived at our London flat, I took out my laptop and began browsing the ads on Craigslist.

I came across one particular post, which read: “Four Tickets to Women’s Football Gold Medal Match; CAT A; First Row; Section 144.”

After pulling up the seating chart for Wembley Stadium, I realized these seats were right at midfield.

I replied to the listing and texted the number provided on the ad, “Are those football tix still available for gold medal match?”

Shortly thereafter, my phone lit up with a response, “So far, yes, but many people are calling.”

The asking price was 250 pounds per ticket. The first words out of my mouth were, “Holy cow. That’s outrageous.”

I got a call from, Remi Padoin, the scalper who posted the ad on Craigslist. I told him I was from the United States and wanted to see my country play in the gold medal match. I told him I’d get back to him shortly as I needed to round up three colleagues to go with me.

After asking around for nearly an hour, I was in luck. Alix Sappington, Jena Levy and Sara Schaefer agreed to go with me.

I rushed to my phone, punched in Padoin’s number and told him we’d buy them.

Having no idea who this man was, my stomach started churning. Scalping is illegal and I wanted to make sure we didn’t get caught.

Padoin told me to meet him at the Tottenham Court Road tube station at 7 p.m., roughly an hour from the time I spoke to him.

I hung up the phone and began recruiting volunteers to go with me to pick up the tickets. After another extensive search, Alix and Jena joined me, and we were off to the Farringdon tube station.

Upon arriving at the Tottenham station, I received another text from Padoin, “Hoping on the tube now. There in 15ish. Look for ridiculously long flag pole with Norway flag.”

As Alix, Jena and I made our way toward the exit and walked up the stairs, there was no sign of a long flagpole with a Norway flag.

We decided to go into Burger King for a final count of our money. It was all there.

We came out of Burger King and I couldn’t believe my eyes. A giant Norway flag was swaying through the air right across the street. Padoin was holding the flagpole, draped in a Norway flag while wearing a Norwegian Viking helmet with horns shooting out of both sides.

After being so nervous about making this transaction, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was an entertaining site to see.

The three of us approached Padoin. He greeted us with a smile, shook our hands and showed us the tickets.

He even asked me if I’d like to wear his Viking helmet. I couldn’t resist. All three of us posed for a picture with our newest friend.

Minutes later, I was holding four Olympic women’s football gold medal match tickets in my hand.

It was the strangest of occurrences, but it turned out to be one of the finest moments of this trip to the Olympic Games.

Tyler Poslosky  |   Sports Reporter

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11 Aug 2012

BSU at the Games at the gold medal women’s soccer match

A big group from the BSU at the Games team abandoned being journalists for a night in favor of being spectators. They headed to Wembley Stadium, decked out in patriotic gear, to cheer on the women’s soccer team as they competed for a gold medal against Japan. It was a World Cup rematch, and everyone was excited to see Team USA bring home the Olympic gold.

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11 Aug 2012

I’ve seen a lot of places, but London trumps them all

This is not my first time being out of the country. In fact, this is about the fifth country I have been to in the past year and a half.

But London is the best so far, and all due to the Olympic atmosphere.

I thought my three months living on the beach in Australia was the best vacation I would ever have, but the best part is that I am only 21, leaving so much time to see more. I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef, island-hopped on jet skis in Fiji, driven across the countryside in New Zealand and spear fished in the Bahamas, but so far, London is my favorite.

This is actually my second time being in London. The first time, I came on a whim in the middle of my third semester at Ball State. I traveled here with my two best friends and it was a blast, but much of that time was spent pub-crawling and not actually seeing the sites and taking in the culture.

Seeing that the Olympic Games are being held here, I can’t think of a better time to come back. I’ve seen so much that I missed the first time I was here, such as Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.

Another thing that I have found entertaining was randomly finding the very first pub I went to when I was here before with my friends. I was walking down the street and started to recognize the area. Then three minutes later, I ran straight into the George. I immediately took a picture and shared it with my friends back at home.

I have traveled many places, but I have never been back to them. There is something different about London, though. It’s a city that, in the end, I can’t seem to get away from.

Michael Kerkhoff  |  Sports Reporter

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11 Aug 2012

How do you get a coffee date with a sports-writing legend? You ask

Wednesday morning, on the eve of the women’s soccer final between the U.S. and Japan, I had an opportunity to have coffee in a London Starbucks with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.

How did I manage this? The power of Twitter.

I sent a tweet last week saying how cool it would be to get to meet some professional journalists currently in England doing Olympic coverage and included his Twitter handle in it. Less than an hour later, he replied back saying he was getting into London on Aug. 7 and would be happy to meet for coffee. When the alert came on my phone, I had to read it over several times to make certain my phone wasn’t playing a trick on me.

It wasn’t. And after a few tweets back and forth, we had arranged to meet Wednesday morning in Russell Square.

For those who don’t know who Wahl is, I suggest you look him up. He’s perhaps one of the most established senior writers at Sports Illustrated. He’s been a senior soccer writer for SI since 2000 and covers World Cups, the Euro Championships and the Olympic Games. His biography on SI.com says he’s written 31 cover stories for the magazine. And he has more than 230,000 followers on Twitter. Getting the chance to meet and talk sports journalism with him is something I couldn’t pass up.

After getting our coffees, Wahl and I sat at one of the tables and he asked me a few questions about myself. I explained to him what BSU at the Games is and what we’re doing, and he was impressed with what we’ve been able to produce despite not having credentials to events. I also got to tell Wahl what I do for the Ball State Daily News and other events I’ve covered in my short career.

But I was more interested in learning about how he got to SI. He said after his internship at The Miami Herald, he received an offer from SI to be a fact-checker. Having just graduated from college, he said it was too good an offer not to accept. After doing some writing on college basketball and soccer on the side, ESPN offered him a position to be a full-time soccer writer. SI matched the offer, and he’s held the position since then.

The best piece of advice he gave me for trying to land a job after I leave Ball State is to have something on a résumé that makes you stand out. He laughed and said my experience for BSU at the Games will be the thing that makes me stand out on mine.

We talked more on how sports is becoming a big player in social media, especially on Twitter, and his experiences covering some of the major soccer events in the world. The biggest thing he is working on at SI is making sure he is being as efficient as possible because of the costs to send him around the world.

We wrapped up our conversation after about an hour, as he had to get in touch with his bosses and prepare for the women’s soccer final. I left the Starbucks inspired to work my way to Wahl’s level. Being able to cover soccer matches around the world, on its biggest stages, would definitely be a dream job.

Having more than 230,000 followers on Twitter would be pretty cool too.

Mat Mikesell | Sports Reporter

@MatMikesell

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09 Aug 2012

From my Grandmother’s backyard … To yours

We seem to think we always have to be on the go—our mindset programmed to fast forward. Living a life set on fast forward may be good for some, but when I remember to take a minute and press the pause button, I am overwhelmed by an indescribable feeling.

Working on stories, my body had been cemented to the kitchen chair for what felt like only five minutes, but in reality was tiptoeing on six hours. The emptiness in my stomach turned into a nauseating feeling taking over my concentration. When I finally succumbed to the growling noises in my stomach at 10 p.m., my flatmate and I went out in search of dinner.

Our decision was easily made for us as we approached the last restaurant on the strip of South Bank, “Giraffe”. The faultless scenery and perfect weather added to our very European dinner of nachos and bruschetta.

It was while we were waiting on our check I had unknowingly pressed my own pause button.  A serene feeling came over my body, and it was then when I finally allowed myself to be in the moment.

Our waiter seemed to enjoy chatting with us and didn’t hesitate to point out that we weren’t from Europe. He began to talk about his childhood of growing up in Peru and the memories he had as a child. For a minute, I thought that I was in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, too.

“Every morning, I would wake up and go sit outside on a swing my grandmother had in her backyard. The sunrises in Peru are unforgettable,” our waiter said. The picture he began to paint felt as if it was just yesterday morning he had been there.

“Sitting on the swing, the sun resting on my face every morning, I will never forget it. I miss it,” he said.

Not only was I living in a “pause” moment, our waiter was too. This moment is a universal place everyone around the world visits—the place we go in our heads that makes us feel at home.

The options of what to do in London at night are endless, and that’s why my flatmate and I decided to do nothing at all after dinner.  As we walked home, our conversations subsided and the serendipitous evening we had just had became one of the best moments I have had in London.

Charlotte Dunlap | Features Reporter

@charr_mariee

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09 Aug 2012

An unexpected day

While in London, I never expected to go to Olympic Park or the Main Press Center. That changed when I was told I was picked to receive a guest credential pass. I would tour the center and walk around Olympic Park.

I left the flat early in the morning to meet up with our contact, Peggy Manter, that was getting me in. On my way from one tube to the other, I ran into my first problem of the day — the tube I needed was down, so I had to take a train to Olympic Park. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t the case. I only knew where to go through the tube stations and the stops made on the above ground train are not the same. So, now, I am someone who does not know London very well trying to get to Olympic Park. It was very frustrating until I finally asked for help from the people who work for the trains.

I finally arrived at the proper station and got off the crowded train. I walked through the crowd of people, making my way to the area where I would get our guest passes. After about six minutes of battling traffic I got to the proper place.  I walked in and received my pass without any problems. I headed to security where I was told I could not go any further without an escort. I spent the next hour frantically trying to get a hold of Peggy. It was the most frustrating part of the whole trip because we had no WiFi outside Olympic Park. Whose idea was that? WiFi outside the park would have made too much sense. So, I had to keep returning to the crowded mall, which was a three or four minute walk, which I had to do almost 100 times. Peggy finally emails me and said she will not pick us up but someone named Nikki would.

Nikki finally showed up about 30 minutes later and took me through the park. She was my ticket to get through security. She walked us through the park, stopping and letting me take pictures of all the amazingly big complexes. I wanted to go inside all of them and watch what was going on. I arrived at the Media Center and was told I could go to a press conference being held.

Snapping a picture with Jorge Posada, former New York Yankees catcher

I knew there was one with Team USA Track & Field, but didn’t know if I could get in. Finally, I get in and I get a big rush as I realize I am a journalist covering the Olympic Games. It was an amazing feeling, making me for sure know this is the career field I want to get into. I sat and listened while other journalist shot questions at the Olympians. It was an amazing experience as I gathered material to write my own stories. The press conference is the best and most enjoyable thing I have been to this whole Olympics.

After the press conference we went to the official Olympic store. It was full of people trying to find the perfect gifts. I found a T-shirt for my younger sister and I got my younger brother, who is about to get his drivers license, an Olympic key chain. As we made our way through the mall, a fellow BSU at the Games student spotted a former New York Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. I am a huge Yankee fan, so I was star struck. I wanted to go get a picture with him didn’t want to bother him. After thinking it over, I was convinced to go and talk to him because what was the worst we could do? Say no and then we just keep on our merry way? So I walked up to him and shook his hand as I said I am a huge Yankees fan and he was one of my favorites. I then asked for a picture and he said he would. When he said yes I could not stop smiling.

I felt like I was on top of the world.

So, what started out as a rough morning of delayed tubes and not knowing who was coming to get me, ended with a great story to share with people and a picture with one of my favorite athletes.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter

@The8thKing

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