Posts tagged "Culture"

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

Chasm between sports cultures

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

@ajkartman

You don’t need tickets to watch the Games in good company

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

Photo of the day: Team Poland super fan

A polish fan sits at Piccadilly Circus with a group of friends. Though they were not able to see any events, they were still enjoying London and showing their support.

Photo by Corey Ohlenkamp.

American barbecue presence grows in London

By Jack Meyer | BSU at the Games

Pit Cue Co. food truck in London

Passing customers stop to order some of Pit Cue Co.’s beef brisket. The American-style pulled pork barbecue sold out before closing on Sunday evening.

Jamie Berger stuck his head out of his metallic food truck parked on the South Bank of the Thames Sunday night, selling the last of his American-style barbecue to passing Olympic goers and London natives.

Berger is just one of a number of entrepreneurs cashing in on London’s desire for such fare, which Berger says has been growing in recent years.

“When we started there were really not very many at all,” Berger said. “There’s certainly been an interest in barbecue in places like New York and on the East Coast, so it’s kind of a natural progression for it to come over here.”

Berger, a Georgia-born American who has lived much of his life in London, started his business, Pit Cue Co., two years ago with a single food truck parked just a few minutes’ walk from the London Eye. Since then Berger has opened shop in a permanent space in London’s SoHo and plans to open a second, larger restaurant at the beginning of 2013.

Two Londoners sat between Berger’s truck and the Thames Sunday afternoon munching on some of the last of the day’s beef brisket, which is served the American way with sides of pickles and coleslaw.

“I’ve had it before, and it’s really good. Proper American barbecue,” said London native Niiamu Swaniker. “I’ve been to America a lot, so I’ve had it over there. It isn’t represented really well here, so it’s nice to find a place that does it really well.”

Berger said his business model doesn’t involve trying to make a direct copy of the pit-style fare that is well know, in the southern Unites States.

“We’re not trying to replicate any one regional kind of barbecue,” Berger said. “We’re seeking to take the best of American techniques and marry them to old rare-breed English pigs and cows to create something rather unique.”

Although Berger is selling barbecue in England’s capital, he said many of his customers are Americans who are familiar with his product but are often surprised to see it across the Atlantic.

“Often they are very surprised and somewhat incredulous,” Berger said. “They are also rather, ‘How can you have pulled pork over here?’ Then we kind of have to explain the story and then they try it and realize it’s very delicious.”

Jack Meyer is a senior news journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Jack and the BSU team at @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Fans share their thoughts on Olympic Games, host city

By Charlotte Dunlap  |  BSU at the Games

Everyone has their favorite sports, their favorite places to dine, to shop, to grab a drink and some sort of bucket list of things to accomplish when we travel.

The streets of London are full of eager bodies attempting to tackle all the hot spots and must-sees in their spare time. Any good traveler knows having some type of game plan is the only way to make the most of a trip. That plan can consist of a to-do list, an itinerary or, as some people call it, “winging it”.

Regardless of their approach, how has London met their expectations?

“I am very surprised with how orderly everything has been arranged,” said second time London-goer Chakri Munipalle from South India, who wanted to show his son “

“There is no traffic jams, no rush anywhere with travel. It’s been very nice,” he said. “We have seen the Opening Ceremonies and it was fantastic. Wasn’t it, son?”

“It was amazing” said Mudrach, Munipalle’s 8-year-old boy.

Embracing her boyfriend as they walked down the windy dock, Georgina Dunn, a London native, was en route to see an art show at the Tate Modern.

“I think it’s been great so far. It has been quite touristy, but that’s not a bad thing,” said Dunn. “But everyone is just so positive, in really nice spirit; we’ve enjoyed it so far.

“And the transports—not too horrendous, which is a good thing.”

Likewise Liverpool resident Alex Turner said he hadn’t had a hard time navigating all the increased pedestrian traffic.

“It seems really really well organized. It seems really friendly. London is always busy, but it has gotten more noticeably busy,” he said.

Turner and his friends were attending multiple events and were very pleased with their trip thus far.

“We went to see the boxing last night and that was really good … and just getting to see the Olympics, that they are actually here ” said Turner.

He went on to share his personal advice to anyone planning on making the excursion.

“Bring your credit card,” he laughed. “It’s expensive!”

Festive and energetic fans lined the wall overlooking the Thames, where the remarkable, not to mention giant Olympic rings were to be found. Decorated in their country-of-choice’s memorabilia, people placed themselves precisely in the right position for their picture to be taken with the rings.

Among them, a British ex-pat named Maryanne, visiting from her home in Canada, was enjoying the general spectacle.

“I think it started off with the Diamond Jubilee earlier on in the year, in June, and now it’s moved over to the Olympics,” she said. “I think people are proud to be part of Britain and enjoying showing the world what Britain’s all about.”

Charlotte Dunlap is a senior telecommunications major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@charr_mariee@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Opening Ceremony helps one Londoner feel at home

By Jack Meyer  |  BSU at the Games

On the evening of July 27, Eileen Hsieh stood with 1,400 fellow dancers ready to storm the floor of Olympic Stadium on London’s east side.

“Once we heard that music going, we all were just pumping and yelling in the back,” Hsieh said. “We were underneath all the seats so no one could see us. Then all of a sudden we just ran onto the field, and cheering to the crowd, and the crowd was cheering us on too.”

Hsieh, a Taiwanese international journalist and Indiana University graduate, knew she wanted to participate in the Olympic Games since last year, when she left a reporting and producing job at CNN in London to pursue the opportunity.

“That was my goal. I wanted to participate in the Olympics, and there was no way I could do it fully unless I quit my job, so I did that,” Hsieh said. “I auditioned before Christmas for the Opening Ceremony to find out which position they were going to put me in.”

After two auditions, Hsieh was chosen as a volunteer performer during the portion of the Opening Ceremony showcasing English music and honoring Britain’s Tim Berners, who created the World Wide Web.

Hsieh began practice with her group in April, spending time receiving instruction from professional dance coaches, as well as Danny Boyle, the English filmmaker who directed the ceremony.

But without previous dancing experience, Hsieh said she spent extra hours perfecting her performance outside organized rehearsal.

“I would just gather with some of my fellow dancers who felt the same way as me, who weren’t as confident, and we would just rehearse in our own time,” Hsieh said. “We would go into the studio and just practice in front of the mirror.”

Hsieh has worked as a freelance journalist for Reuters in London since leaving CNN, a position that allowed her to keep more flexible hours preparing for the ceremony.

As a dancer and reporter in London this summer, Hsieh has gotten the unique opportunity of seeing London’s Olympic Games from the inside and out.

“I wanted to participate and wanted to make sure I did everything I could to get my feet in there somehow,” Hsieh said. “It takes so much effort and so much good will to actually make it happen.”

Hsieh has spent portions of her life living in Taiwan, Morgan Town, W. Va., and London, but she says participating in the Opening Ceremony has made her feel at home in the city where she lives now.

“It means that I am integrated to the city already. I feel like I’m a true Londoner because it is really a London event, and I’m part of it,” Hsieh said. “If they asked us to do it again tomorrow, we all would.”

Jack Meyer is a senior news journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Jack and the BSU team at @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Rental bikes offer fast, easy way to get around Olympic city

By Katelynn Thys  |  BSU at the Games

There I was, the wind blowing through my hair, a giant smile on my face, riding a rental bike to Tower Bridge in London. I thought I was safe on the bicycle path, even though cars were flying by only a few feet away from me—at least until I head a loud “hooooonk” right behind me. I turned around and my heart dropped as I saw a doubledecker bus heading straight for me.

I was unsure if I was going to live to see another day.

For the first time since arriving in England more than six weeks ago, I felt a wave of uncertainty rush over me. I felt my eyes might pop out of my head when I saw the gigantic bus hovering over me like Tower Bridge itself. I can only imagine the laughter of the people watching as I scurried to peddle as fast as I could to get out of the way.

I wasn’t exactly peddling towards safety, though, as the rest of traffic was zipping by. How was I supposed to know that the bike lanes in London share the same space as the buses? Merging in and out of traffic was difficult, and every time I would signal to get in front of a vehicle or turn right I would hold my breath. Because breathing would cause a distraction, right?

If the cost to travel through this magnificent city wasn’t so high, I never would have had this heart-racing, mind-blowing excursion—all thanks to 1-pound rental bike from Barclays.

I had a few reservations from the beginning. The past month in England, I have learned the English are fast-paced, even when they drive. Watching traffic in London makes downtown Chicago, at rush hour, look like a piece of cake.

Normally, I drive on the right-hand side of the road, but if you didn’t know already, in England they drive on the left At first I only took left-hand turns because I was too scared to even try and attempt to turn right, but after an hour I started to feel a little bit more brave. I mean I couldn’t keep turning left forever when I could be missing out on something that could be … right.

I observed other bicyclers so I would have an idea on what hand motions to make when turning or stopping and simply how to bike through a city that has more traffic than I have ever witnessed in my life. There just doesn’t seem to be any bicycle rules here. I could cut through stopped traffic and ride right between the cars waiting at stop-lights to get to the front of the line, where there is a specific portion of road marked off with a bicycle on it so we could go first.

Riding a bike through London is not something you want to do if you want to have a good hair day. By the end of my four-hour bike ride, my hair had been whipped in every direction and the resulting knots that consumed my head were insanely noticeable. On the positive side, I did get to ride over Tower Bridge, see Big Ben and the London Eye, go down Fleet Street and anywhere else I wanted in the city.

While I was riding across the Tower Bridge I thought to myself, this is a perfect place to take a video on my iPhone so I can show my family back home the exciting things I am doing. So riding down one of the busiest roads/bridges in London, without a helmet, at 5 p.m. when traffic is heaviest, I whipped out my phone and took a 20-second video of myself with the most goofy smile on my face, whooping and hollering because I’m on a bike, on a bridge, in London.

While I was out, I met Pam and Ian Wilson from Chelsea, a small town outside London, who were taking their friends visiting from France, Delphine and Philip Shockey, around the city to show off all the changes that have been done to it since they last visited.

“It’s just so much fun to be able to ride through this great city with my friends,” Pam said. “Especially since there’s loads of people here and some roads are closed, this just seems to be the easiest route.”

To get my rental bike, I just walked up to one of the many big, blue pillars that say “Barclays Bike Hire” and inserted my credit card, with no idea the adventure I was about to begin. On the screen it asked if I wanted to rent a bike for a day, which would cost a pound, or seven days for 5 pounds. Not knowing this would be something I would want to do again, I chose one day, and a little piece of paper printed out a five-digit access code I would need to unlock the bike. Then I just typed in the code, pulled the bike out of the lock and began a day that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Even if it included the scariest moment of my trip.

Katelynn Thys is a junior telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Katelynn and the BSU team at@skyismylimit_kt@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Just another normal summer on the streets of London

By Charlotte Dunlap  |  BSU at the Games

Swiftly walking down the strip of South Bank, it didn’t matter if you didn’t have a clue where to go or what to do, because the immense crowds of spirited people were the decision holders. The rush of traffic left people standing in line for the London Eye or down the path of the notorious street entertainers.

The variety of acts seemed to make park goers very intrigued on what was on display. There is someone—or something—to watch for any age. Words of reactions weren’t needed; the facial expressions of people said it all. Some screamed excitement, others content, a few disgust but most were energetic and eager to see more.

The beats from blaring music carried down the path of entertainers until crowds began to deplete from the one-man-band acts. It was the last act on the block, and they call themselves One Motion.

“We’re all from London, been dancing here for a while. But we do have some guys who are from other places … Korea, Japan, some French guys, but basically London is our central place,” Ude said, leader of One Motion Dance Crew.

As the sonorous beats continued, space to spectate became limited. The amorphous break-dance moves fed loose change to the bins imperfectly placed around the checkered dance mat.

“I like the fact that the work that you do here is up to you. Whether you want to work or not, you’re your own boss, you get to work with friends, you get to meet a lot of interesting people, it’s a nice lively place to work, its really good fun,” Ude said.

Children gazed as the team’s routine seemed like nothing they had witnessed before.

“The dream of the crew is to just keep dancing. To get young people to join in, to train other people up to do the things that we do, and to do better … to do more,” Ude said.

The flashing of camera lights, the in-sync clapping and the roaring of the crowds gently faded as the crew called it a day.

Sometimes words aren’t needed to deliver a feeling, and for One Motion Dance Crew, their ineffable dancing does all the talking.

Charlotte Dunlap is a senior telecommunications major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@charr_mariee@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Actually, the Brits think we Americans are quite nice

By Jessica Pettengill  |  BSU at the Games

American tourists are often portrayed in pop culture as being fat, inattentive and loud. But among the reported 500,000 extra tourists visiting London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, many Londoners haven’t found these stereotypes to be true.

While American tourists may stick out in some instances, the Brits differ on what exactly an American tourist looks like.

Matthew Gowan and Anneka Blake, both of whom work in a ticket office for some of the major London attractions, say the shirts are the first thing to give away Americans. Neon colors or sports logos and fanny-paks are the big perpetrators.

However, some Brits think Americans try to blend in too much.

“You’re not as brash or uncommon as most countries are,” Pat Lines said, a cashier at County Hall Souvenir Shop, located right by the London Eye.

Connor Byrnt, a bartender at the County Hall Arms pub, said he doesn’t really notice one American trait that stands out, except for their generosity in pubs.

“All Americans leave me great tips.”

Part of this is due to American pubs being a service industry, but it might have another reason as well. One common theme of Americans in the minds of Britons is our congeniality.

“They’re all just so friendly,” Shelby Toussaint said, a supervisor at the CBS arcade along the River Thames. “If you’re on the train, British people just like to sit in cocoons, whereas Americans will just strike up a conversation.”

Gowan, Blake, Lines, and Byrnt all agree that there’s a certain approachability to American tourists that they don’t find in any other nationality.

“I love America mainly because of how friendly they are. I always have great conversations with my American customers,” Blake said.

Byrnt described a time at the pub when a group of young American guys on their “stag night” came through.

“The pub was fairly empty so when they came up to order they just started chatting with me for three hours. They were great,” he said.

Maybe the lack of a language barrier and a shared history is what makes Britons and Americans so chummy. Regardless of the reason, American tourists should start using their talkative charms to their advantage.

Jessica Pettengill is a junior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Jessica and the BSU team at @jmpetty10@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.