As my group of BSU at the Games members stood around Serpentine Lake, surrounded by thousands of people watching the triathletes furiously swim in front of us, some fans around us began to turn around. They started pushing through the massive crowd of people until they reached a clearing, and then it was a full-on sprint to the other side of Hyde Park.
Jonathan Batuello, one of our group members, was among those hurrying away from the lake even though the swimming portion wasn’t over. I hurried after him, but he ran so fast from the crowd I lost track of him.
At that point, it didn’t take long to figure out what everyone was running toward.
As the triathletes pulled themselves out of the water and onto their bikes, fans were racing over to the cycling track to get the best possible view of the next portion of the race.
It was funny to see how the rows of people next to the street worked itself out. Those who ran fast enough and knew they had to leave the swimming portion early earned the ultimate prize of getting great photos. Those of us who didn’t had to deal with photos that had heads and cameras in the way of the shot.
Our group learned from the first run through the park and made it over to the running track after the cycling was halfway finished. No running was necessary this time, and after a half hour of waiting, we were able to get a decent view of the triathletes sprinting by us.
For the first Olympic sport I’ve ever seen in-person, the women’s triathlon is memorable just for getting me out of a seat. That’s not something I’m used to as a football and basketball fan.
Still, the next time I sit down to comfortably watch a sport with a hot dog in one hand and a drink in the other, I know I won’t take it for granted.
Andrew Mishler | Sports Reporter
Since the start of the Olympic Games, BSU at the Games has been working relentlessly. Don’t get me wrong—every long day and all-nighter has been more than worth it. But every now and then, our advisors tell us to take a day off just to be tourists in London.
Last Sunday, I did just that. Although I already had spent a weekend in London before the Games started as part of a study-abroad program, it was not nearly enough time to see everything I want to see. So I made my way over to the Tower of London with a few other students.
I wouldn’t usually consider myself a history buff, but since I’ve been in England, I’ve really come to appreciate history. Because America is such a young country, it’s hard for me to fathom how a castle that was founded in 1066 can still be standing.
We literally could’ve spent the entire day at the Tower of London because there’s so much to see. Every building has a different exhibit, and some even have places to eat. Complete with a reenactment of thieves who once tried to steal the Crown Jewels, we had endless entertainment.
I think my favorite exhibit, aside from the Crown Jewels of course, was “Royal Beasts” because I learned so much. I had no idea that before London had a zoo, the royals kept exotic animals in the Tower of London. Between monkeys, elephants, lions and more, they had a full house.
There were also multiple exhibits about medieval torture that one of my friends really enjoyed. It was a bit morbid for me, but interesting nonetheless. I did enjoy the murder mysteries, though.
After leaving the Tower, I enjoyed a Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream cone, which was the perfect end to my day as a tourist. Even without the Olympic Games, there’s so much to do and see in London. It’s a truly beautiful city, and I’m thankful to be able to spend so much time in it—even if it does rain nearly everyday here.
Emily Thompson | Features Reporter
Sports culture differs vastly depending on the sport, team or region, but watching abroad seems like a paradigm shift. Fanaticism in America amounts to Red Sox and Yankees fans hating each other, painting faces, decorating rooms for college football game days and tailgating in parking lots. The media and venues drive much of the fanaticism in the United States, with ESPN constantly reporting on the Miami Heat and stadiums’ P.A. systems encouraging the crowds to collectively chant specific phrases.
I’ve noticed things are radically different in England. Attending the USA women’s soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester drastically changed my outlook on British sports. The venue offered nostalgia for old stadiums like Wrigley Field and Fenway. Temporary video boards light up the corners of the stadium for spectators to watch the game unfold. As soon as the match started I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
The only P.A. announcements after the national anthems were for the four substitutions in the match. Not a single promotion. Not a single pump-up chant. No music. No organist. No fun.
The communal atmosphere of collective cheers and chants disappeared, in their place sporadic and short USA chants. The British arena didn’t accommodate the American crowd.
When English Premier League’s Manchester United plays, Old Trafford is a different atmosphere, with constant chants and songs from the crowd. Football requires some form of audience entertainment during slow periods of play. The American crowd hadn’t been together years and years to learn team songs or chants. As a member of the crowd, I wanted an organist, similar to baseball games, to play “Charge,” “Defense” or even “Olé Olé” to build a better atmosphere in the crowd.
A silent baseball game best describes the atmosphere. Every fan remained seated except when a team attacked the net. Most of the crowd noise consisted of murmurs from conversation.
Maybe if the venue allowed alcohol into the stands the atmosphere would have changed the feeling. Alcohol is only permitted on the concourse. There are no beer-men or carts around the stadium. What fan wants to go drink hidden from the action during a match? This caused a mass exodus during halftime of the crowd disappearing into the bowels of the stadium for a drink or two.
The game was fun, don’t get me wrong, but the chasm between crowd and players widened more than I have ever witnessed as a sports fan. Without audience participation, the match wasn’t worth the extorted prices LOCOG and the IOC charge. I love England’s culture and atmosphere, but the presentation of sport is deeply disappointing for a nation so rich in sports heritage. Or I should be sure to come back when United plays.
Alex Kartman | Adviser
As I walked out of Westfield Shopping Centre near the grounds of Olympic Park, I was awestruck by the view.
The biggest set of Olympic rings I’d ever seen were right in front of me, plastered on the northeast wall of the Aquatics Centre.
There were countless fences and security tents to get through before I reached the massive building, but the sheer size of it made it look close enough to touch.
Unfortunately, the whole scene was just a tease for two and a half hours because I was denied access with my guest pass.
The whole park was on lockdown, but when I was finally escorted through, all the frustration became worth the wait.
Every direction I looked, there were thousands upon thousands of people walking around the venues and fighting their way into shops. It was the never-ending madhouse that usually gets me annoyed and angry, but this time it was different. The row of stadiums made me feel like I was at the heart of Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago sports all at once.
It was then I had my first real moment of disbelief—these were the Olympic Games and I was actually there.
Connor Hockett | Sports Reporter
With no tickets to an Olympic event or even to the Olympic Park, I assumed that I would just be watching the Games from the comfort of my own flat. Well, you know what they say about those who assume… I was wrong.
Many parks in downtown London are projecting the Olympic events on multiple 20-foot screens, Hyde Park included. They are airing the same BBC channels that I could watch in my flat, but somehow being outside with a crowd full of spirited fans makes watching Olympic television that much better.
On a typical Tuesday afternoon in London, if any day during the Olympic Games could be considered typical, I ventured out in hopes to watch women’s gymnastics in the park. Seeing that I was accompanied by one of BSU at the Game’s videographers, who had brought along a large camera, I began to get nervous that we would not be allowed inside the gates.
We finally had reached the security officer at the bag check. A bottle of water was thrown away, a shopping bag searched, a laptop scanned and then there was the camera. The officer eyed it for a moment, causing Charlotte and I to hold our breath, and then placed it back into her bag, giving us the OK to enter.
After grabbing a cider and finding seats on the mulched lawn amongst the crowd, our hopes to watch women’s gymnastics were gratified. About half an hour had passed when a man walked on the stage with a microphone. Hyde Park has been hosting concerts every night since the Opening Ceremony and will continue until the Closing Ceremony on Aug. 12.
On Tuesday, Rebecca Ferguson, followed by Cover Drive, performed on the main stage. Rebecca, with a sound similar to Adele’s, won the crowd over with her soothing love tunes. Cover Drive sang more upbeat and energetic melodies. Not recognizing either performer, I was hesitant during their first few songs. I quickly learned to “never judge a band by their first song,” as Cover Drive has become one of my favorite groups.
It was the perfect evening under the stars—enjoying live music and watching the Olympic Games. What more could two girls have asked for?
Needless to say, if you need to find Charlotte and me in the early night, chances are we will be having another perfect evening in Hyde Park.
Samantha Ashworth | Public Relations
I don’t know about everyone else, but I was SO excited to see real-live royalty in person. Everyone lined up along the barricades were craning their necks to see the first sign of the royal car turn the bend. Even the skies were awaiting her arrival; the rain clouds cleared and bright sun shone down just as the car appeared.
When Her Majesty stepped out of the car, supported by the arm of her dashing husband Prince Phillip, I almost swooned. She was everything I pictured! Petite and adorable in her pink skirt-and-jacket combo, looking just like someone’s cute little grandma (or “nan” as they call them here)—the kind of grandma who always remembers birthdays and never burns cookies.
Yes, these were the thoughts going through my head as I photographed the Queen’s 15-second walk from the royal car into the Hive, as the new library is called. As I sorted through the photos later in the day, I was struck with the thought that someday, 50 years from now, this photo will probably be framed on my wall and I’ll look at it and be instantly taken back to that spot on the side of the street where I was a mere 15 feet from the Queen of England.
And that is exactly why I love photography, because photographs have the power to transcend time and distances and immediately take you back to a moment that will never happen again.
Valerie Carnevale | Photographer
After a confusing and frustrating run-around by the Olympic staff, I was finally about to see a field-hockey game in one of the arenas.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do today when I woke up. I knew a couple of the other reporters wanted to go to the Olympic Park to check out the media press center and wander around to find stories. I couldn’t wait to walk around though, so I broke off from the group to find my own adventure.
This is how I ended up at the recycle ticket sales booth. I saw a line and someone saying that the second session of field hockey was going to be easy to get into for people who didn’t have tickets. For me it was the only way I was going to get tickets, since I was not a U.K. citizen.
For this opportunity I paid a hefty price. It was an hour-and-a-half wait in the line to get to the end. By the time I paid my 5 quid, it was already 4:45 p.m. and I had only eaten a muffin all day. But I had my ticket.
I then sprinted to Riverbank Arena to catch the end of the match. Luckily I got there for the last 25 minutes of it. It was a good amount of time for the money I spent, the teams that were in the match (Germany and South Africa) and just the atmosphere of an arena in Olympic Park.
The 25 minutes I saw was enough to experience what everyone else probably was feeling that whole time. Even though Germany was already winning, there were close shots that looked promising for South Africa to come back, and even shots where Germany could have further divided the final score. People were still on the edge of their seats.
Putting aside the frustration and the long wait, I participated in a crowd wave that made it around the arena twice. It was an awesome day.
Michael Kerkhoff | Sports Reporter
Traveling throughout England the past two weeks has made me feel alienated and welcomed at the same time. People go out of their way to help you if you ask, but I still feel I’m a tourist, never able to fully fit into the culture. I’ve chatted with locals about linguistic differences and the cuisines native to Britain. Finally I took in their sport.
I journeyed to Manchester with a group of three other guys to attend the USA vs. North Korea women’s football match. As the day progressed from London to Manchester, I began to feel more and more at home, beginning with an American couple waiting for the train with us.
They asked if we were joining them on the journey to the match, which we obviously were, decked out in full USA gear. They told us this is the only event they had tickets to before coming to England, yet they have managed to get tickets to several events since arriving. They taught me the valuable lesson of interacting with locals more than just passing glances. Many Londoners have extra tickets they are willing to give away to waiting foreigners, but without any contact you have no chance at nabbing admission.
The travel to Manchester was uneventful on the train, with half the group passing out after a long night. Arriving in Manchester brought more frenzied crowds of Americans completing the same pilgrimage as us. While waiting for the Metrolink (the city’s local street-car rail service) a pair of Brits approached us and told us not to buy tickets for the ride. They saved us a few pounds by telling us our game tickets are valid transport tickets also.
Not only did they help us save money, one of them wore an Alex Morgan jersey in support of USA Soccer. The American Invasion was almost complete. The jersey-wearer spoke of her excitement to finally see one of the world’s elite women’s football teams. Only Great Britain as an opponent would have stopped her from rooting for the USA women.
Arriving in the stadium is an experience, with nearly century-old entry gates adding to the history of the venue. Experiencing this with an American dominated crowd felt like an afternoon at Wrigley Field. Four out of five fans spoke with American accents. Never did I think I would hear more voices from home in England. For two glorious hours of football, it sounded and felt like a home match.
The greatest moment of the match was the National Anthem. In my career working baseball with the Fort Wayne TinCaps I have heard a couple hundred live renditions of our anthem. Never had I sung along or felt the impact of the words until hearing “The Star Spangled Banner” play gloriously in Old Trafford. I had chills up and down my body, and I proudly sung every word. Chants of U-S-A throughout the match and the wave circling the stadium completed the picture perfect American sporting event.
Returning home finished out my American day, when we sat next to four people who follow @BSUattheGames on twitter, and most of whom live in Indianapolis. The group shared stories with us about their adventures in London, while we shared our fun, including having a local offer us free tickets while eating lunch (again it’s all about interaction and being in the right place at the somewhat right time). They made the entire experience of doing journalism around the games worthwhile, by telling us they follow our posts closely, checking up on our latest tweets.
I don’t know what adventures await me, but wherever I go I will make sure I say hello or strike up conversations with sports fans of all nationalities.
Alex Kartman | Adviser
I’m the faculty advisor to the features team. I was a newspaper features writer for years, and Ryan and I used to work at papers together. So these long nights, long meetings, long periods of simultaneous exhaustion and exhilaration we’re experiencing here with our 40 students at the Olympic Games seem sort of warmly familiar to me. It reminds me of my early newsrooms, of being 20-something with other 20-somethings who just wanted to do good work and see their names in black-and-white print somewhere.
What has surprised me is how it feels to be 39 and watching it happen from the outside—how it feels to help nudge the process forward, to initiate young people into what has to be one of the most demanding, difficult and wonderful jobs anyone can have.
Working through the night of the Opening Ceremony, with dawn starting to soak through the curtains of my London flat, I looked around at all the students staring down into laptops, complaining, laughing, passing a bag of chips, arguing about ledes, and I found myself thinking of Marilyn Young. She was my best and favorite editor in that period of my life. (She’s at the Jacksonville Times-Union now.) A word from her, positive or negative, could make or destroy my day.
Suddenly I saw myself as she must have seen me then, with my lazy streak, my stubbornness, my flashes of anger and occasional petulance, my imagination, my passionate energy, my bursts of insight and raw talent. I must have annoyed the crap out of her sometimes. I must have delighted her when I did something right.
Marilyn made me a better writer, and she trained me in a job that is also a calling. She overlooked my periodic 20-something dumbassery because she believed in my potential.
Now my little team of features writers is wandering around London getting cussed out in multiple languages, struck down with food poisoning and lost on the Tube, and I’m trying to channel Marilyn. I’m petting, cajoling and threatening them as the situation seems to require.
And when they do something right—for example, when a once-shy girl brought home the perfect interview, and another saw her work published in the Huffington Post—I am proud. I am as proud as if I saw my own name there.
I am hopeful I have given a little of what I received.