Posts tagged "Emily Thompson"

Many sites, from playhouses to train platforms, inspire pilgrimages in the Olympic host city

This package was compiled by writers from BSU at the Games.

Pilgrimage (n): “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion … as to pay homage.”—

The word pilgrimage often inspires images of religious relics and trips to the Holy Land. However, pilgrimages take many forms.

Many of the thousands of fans filling Olympic stadiums in London have stolen time from gold medals and world records to visit other, less obvious places in England’s capital city. You see them everywhere, trying to push a cart through a wall in King’s Cross station, or walking in single file across busy Abbey Road, or standing for the duration of a three-hour Shakespeare play.

They have traveled thousands of miles and parted with unknown sums for this—a photo, a feeling, a moment. And not because guidebooks told them to (though many do), not because their travel companions or the folks at home necessarily understand.

Their reasons are both highly personal and comfortingly communal. They are pilgrims. They are geeks.

And everyone is a geek about something.

—Kait Buck


Hanging out with dead people at the most haunted place in London

By Kait Buck

The famous White Tower at the Tower of London. The tower was originially built as a palace by William the Conquerer with the rest of the grounds being built over time to protect the central palace. Photo by Bobby Ellis.

Thirty-two pounds. It’s the equivalent of 52 U.S. dollars. Fifty-two dollars could buy a girl a lot of things.

What did it buy this girl? Entrance into the Tower of London—twice.

I’m not your typical tourist. I eat, sleep and breathe history, and Great Britain just happens to be home to my favorite time period. Medieval monarchs are my calling. I’ve indulged in countless books on the Tudor dynasty and their early predecessors.

And the Tower of London is a central landmark in these historical tales, as the site of coronation processions, mysterious disappearances and unprecedented executions.

At the Tower, I stood before the unmarked graves of 1,000 headless “traitors.” I examined graffiti carved into the palace walls by prisoners from my history books. I walked through the rooms where King Henry VI and the little York princes were murdered. I passed the Traitor’s Gate where Queen Anne Boleyn was brought for her coronation and later her execution. I studied the armor worn by the infamous King Henry VIII (and almost hyperventilated from excitement).

You see, these landmarks in the Tower are more than signs to read or the butt of witty jokes by a tour guide. People I’ve admired, respected and hated walked the ground beneath my feet. So rather than “tourist,” I’d say I’m a pilgrim—one who journeys a long distance to see a place she holds sacred.

My pilgrimage ended at Tower Green, a site where three queens and a dozen other noblemen lost their lives. Here a monument was erected in their honor, and the description engraved captures the motives of my journey beautifully:

“Gentle visitor pause awhile. Where you stand, death cut away the light of many days. Here jeweled names were broken from the vivid thread of life. May they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage under these restless skies.”



Shakespeare enthusiasts go for the ‘groundling’ experience

By Emily Thompson

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a popular tourist attraction. This modern recreation of the Globe was opened in 1997. Photo by Valerie Carnevale.

Along the River Thames in the midst of the modern architecture of Central London, Shakespeare fans step out of the 21st century and into a bit of the medieval world.

Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, which was built in 1599 by the playing company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It’s set up just like the original Globe, with a ground level, seats that span the circle shape of the theatre and an open roof. The Globe is both a tribute to Shakespeare and a venue for performances of his work.

Just outside the venue, “groundlings” queue for nearly two hours before the play begins. They only pay 5 pounds for a presale ticket, but that also means standing for the duration of the three-hour performance.

Clare Eanes was the very first person in the groundling line to see “Richard III” Wednesday night.

“Part of the fun of being a groundling is all atmospheric: the groundling community, and you get to chat with people in the queue,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to sit in the seats.”

Eanes is studying Shakespeare for her master’s degree at the University of Birmingham. “Richard III” was the only Shakespeare play she had not yet seen.

Admitting to being a diehard Shakespeare fan, her eyes lit up as she talked about why she loves seeing his plays.

“All of my focus through my study has been how you take Shakespeare’s language and then put it on the stage, and how that works when you have an actor performing it and an audience understanding it,” she said. “All his words bring his characters to life.”

A few people down the line, Lesley Jones waited patiently for the perfect standing spot. She had been to five shows at the Globe. This was her second play at the Globe that day; she saw “Henry V” in the afternoon.

She sat in line for over an hour and a half but said that it’s well worth the wait.

“It’s the first time that I’ve been able to get right to the front, which was really exciting this afternoon,” she said. “So I want to do it again.”

The line finally started moving, and the groundlings filed into the theatre.

Nikita Nemygin found his spot up against the stage. Even through intermission, he held his ground so no one could take his prime location.

This was his fourth time seeing “Richard III” but his first time seeing it at the Globe.

“It’s very interesting to see how the history evolves in Shakespeare [plays],” he said. “I’ve found that ‘Richard III’ is one of the best histories of Shakespeare.”

He’s no stranger to the Globe, though, as he saw every play last season and hopes to see all of this season’s.

“I enjoy that it’s 5 pounds,” he said. “I enjoy standing here, and the atmosphere is very homey. And it’s not really touristy.”

During the performance, most audience members seem to forget they’re living in the modern world and become entranced by the story unfolding on the stage. Aside from a few jets that fly over the open roof and act as a reminder of the world outside, the atmosphere holds true to the Elizabethan era.

“I just the love the way that you can come along and be surrounded by all these people in the queue,” Eanes said. “Some of them will be Shakespeare academics; some of them will be tourists that have never seen Shakespeare before.

“And they’re all going to leave having something different from it. Some of them will understand all the complex references; some of them will just love the spectacle. That’s what I really love, is how many different people his words can touch and the different ways that [Shakespeare] does that.”



For Harry Potter lovers, Platform 9 ¾ is the London landmark they must see

By Jack Meyer

Patricia Boal gets her photograph taken with a dolley at the fictional Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. The area stands next to a store that sells “Harry Potter” souveniers. Photo by Bobby Ellis.

Laughter rang through London’s King’s Cross-St. Pancras train station Tuesday as children, teens, 20-somethings and parents took turns having their pictures taken attempting to walk through one of the station’s solid brick walls into the magical world of Harry Potter.

Unlike in J.K. Rowling’s hit books, no one actually managed to pass through the wall with the silver luggage trolley to the fictional train and Platform 9 3/4 that takes wizards and witches to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. But that doesn’t stop the books’ fans from coming to the site where half of a luggage trolley is made to look like as if it is on its way through the wall.

Three girls from Maryland pulling luggage joked about being in their 20s and still excited to see the platform in person after having their picture taken pushing the trolley together.

The three said they had used their day to see two of the most important things in London for them, Abbey Road Studios and Platform 9 3/4. They plan to see Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament later in their trip.

“Every kid wants to find out they’re a wizard and not just what they are,” Kate Selby of Gaithersburg, Md., said. “It makes it real; we get to take part in Harry’s trip being in King’s Cross.”

Parents stood smiling alongside children in line to have a turn at attempting to push through onto the fictional platform, which isn’t really at the place in the station used in the movies that accompany the seven-book series.

But that didn’t seem to bother any of the passersby.

One parent, Amy Haas from Hilliard, Ohio, was far more excited than her two teenage kids to throw her bag into the basket of the trolley and fly towards its handlebars.

“J.K. Rowling is absolutely my favorite author,” Haas said. “It just makes the fantasy more real if you imagine yourself doing it.”

“She’s a kook,” chimed Amy’s husband, Dan, as their kids laughed.

The group said they had skipped seeing London’s famous Westminster Abbey for their mother to have a chance to see the trolley on their way to Wembley Stadium to take in an Olympic soccer match between Japan and Mexico.

Haas said she was inspired by Rowling’s books to begin writing herself. She said she hopes to have a book finished in the next three years and intends to have it published.

John Larkin, 12, of New Jersey, ran to push against the trolley with his two sisters while their father stood to the side to take pictures of the three children looking back, beaming.

Larkin said seeing the exhibit was second on his list of things to see in London, just behind the Olympic Games.

“It inspires me because Harry was like a nobody before he became a wizard,” Larkin said. “And then he’s like an everybody now.”



Tourists fly around the world just to walk across this road—Abbey Road

By Lindsey Gelwicks

Members of the French Olympic Team pose for the famous Abbey Road crossing photo with their medals. Photo by Corey Ohlenkamp.

The walk down Grove End Road exiting St. John’s Wood Station is quiet—until it meets Abbey Road. There, a little ways down from Abbey Road Studios, groups of Beatles fans attempt to cross the legendary crosswalk hoping to recreate the album cover and capture the perfect picture.

A constant stream of cars makes it easier said than done. On Wednesday, as soon as traffic started to slow, six friends ran across laughing and speaking quickly in Spanish. They struck a pose as the seventh in their group snapped a photo before dashing to the other side to let traffic flow through again. After checking the photo, they tried again several times with different combinations of the group.

Moments later, brothers Joe and Alex Morris of Wales casually strolled across the street, high-fiving when they get to the other end. Goal accomplished. Yet their dad, Michael, standing farther down the street with a camera, shooed them back across for a better photo. Their mother, Anne, laughed as she watched them from her post on a brick wall.

“I think it’s really funny how people can’t walk naturally when they’re doing this,” she said as Alex walked a bit stiffly across.

By this time, Joe had removed his shoes to imitate Paul McCartney.

“It’s eerie,” he said. “Just being in the same place as they were 40 years ago.”

Actually, it was exactly 43 years to the day that John, Paul, George and Ringo stopped traffic to shoot the cover photo for their 11th studio album—Aug. 8, 1969.

Andy David from Australia was one of the few who seemed to know this. The self-confessed Beatles nerd grew up listening to the Beatles since the age of 6.

“But what kind of Beatles fan am I coming here without a Beatles shirt?” he said as he looked down at his outfit.

As David, who came alone, searched for someone to take his picture, Texan Meera Nandlal took her turn crossing the street.

“I look like a complete nut trying to get the pose,” she said. “When you’re thinking about it, you don’t look as graceful as the Beatles did.”

Soon, Mario Pipola and Carmen Norero, London flatmates originally from Italy and Chile respectively, approached her and asked if she could take their picture walking across.

For Pipola, walking across Abbey Road was something he couldn’t miss out on while in London.

“I have to say thank-you to the Beatles,” he said. “I think they were a starting point in my life.”

His father listened to the Beatles when Pipola was a child and it was because of them that he learned to play guitar. He felt that he owed them for the impact music has had on his life.

Most motorists were patient with the groups, but not all. Cars honked as people stalled in the middle of the road. Anxious motorcyclists zoomed through the groups. Even with people standing in the middle, cars tried to inch past.

“I like this one,” Nandlal said, laughing as she looked through her photos from that day, stopping on one that had a car in it. “It shows how brave I am.”

After 13 attempts to get the pose right, Nandlal ran out into the middle of the crosswalk again. She had to get the perfect photo because she said all her friends would critique it.

“Just one more,” she said. “I want to get it before dark.”

Instead of recreating the iconic walking pose, she squared herself off to the photographer, plastered a big grin on her face and threw her hands up in the air as if to say, “I’m finally here!”



Beloved princess inspires devotion to memorial fountain

By Jessica Pettengill

The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain provides a place for family’s to relax in Hyde Park. Photo by Corey Ohlenkamp.

Princess Diana was one of Great Britain’s most beloved royals. Until her death in a tragic car accident in 1997, she served as an inspiration to the British people. Now the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park in London carries on her memory.

The circular granite fountain creates a path of endless flowing water and encourages passersby to sit and dip their feet in the current.

One such visitor, Virginia Engles, sat quietly one recent afternoon at the top of the lawn of the memorial, looking on the scene. Half-dressed children ran in and out of the water.

A native Londoner, Engles visits the memorial about once a month. Though her reasons vary, she said the Diana Memorial holds a special place in her heart.

“In the summer, I’ll bring the kids to play in the water,” she said, pointing at Julia, 8, and Tom, 6. The two joined the other children splashing around on the granite.

“But mostly when I come here it’s to sit and read, or meditate, or just not do anything,” she said.

Engles believes that this is one of the most tranquil places in London. The 143-acre park provides a calm backdrop to the rush of the water.

“Her life was so full of giving and love, even after the divorce,” said Engles. “She was the type of person who won a Nobel Peace Prize but wasn’t above visiting those with AIDS, or simply dedicating something to the children of London.”

The fountain is not a grand marble statue or an overly thought-out metaphor. It is simple and elegant and open to all who should pass by—much as Diana lived her life, according to Engles.



Hardcore tennis fans visit Wimbledon just for a peek through the gates

By Jonathan Batuello

The sounds of grunts and tennis balls being hit back and forth were gone. The crowds who loudly cheered for the United Kingdom’s Andy Murray to win a gold medal in tennis a day earlier were at different Olympic sites and places across the city. Still, Wimbledon had tennis players and fans milling around outside.

Even with the gates locked and no one permitted on the grounds.

“It’s history in there,” Kasey Plighton from Connecticut said. “I played tennis in high school, and it’s a place I always wanted to go.”

Plighton had made the trip to London for the Olympic Games with her mother, JoAnna. A recent college graduate, the 22-year-old didn’t play at the University of Colorado but still felt a connection to the sport and the site of the historic tournament.

Jayme Robinson, who lives a 15-minute walk from Wimbledon, said a lot of people like Plighton and her mom come through the area during the year to peek in the gates and walk around when tournaments aren’t going on.

“Anytime I walk down here in the summer (in Wimbledon Park, adjacent to the tennis venue) there are people around who have cameras and iPhones up,” said Moreton, who doesn’t play tennis himself. “Sometimes you’ll see them pretending to swing a racquet or something like that, too.”

As Plighton kept walking around, she peered in through openings in the fencing. It was the only way she would get to view Centre Court or Henman Hill. She peered over hedges and attempted to see everything she could from the outside.

“I wish I could walk inside, but at least I’m here,” she said.

Closing Ceremony draws excitement, end to the Games in Victoria Park

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Thousands wait for the live screening to start in Victoria Park, London. Photo by Valerie Carnevale.

It would be unlike London to go out without a bang.

Although all of this year’s Olympic athletes had put their skills to the test by Sunday night, Victoria Park tried to recreate the energy of the Opening Ceremony. The park had the largest free screening of the Closing Ceremony in the city.

There seemed to be fewer spectators this time around – the lines leading up to the entrance didn’t snake around the entire park as for the Opening Ceremony. Instead, people picnicked outside before gathering their items to go through security.

Londoners Louise Roon and Kenneth Lamont finished their snacks on a blanket in the grass before heading into the park. They had hoped to come to Victoria Park for the Opening Ceremony, but their plans fell through.

“We hadn’t made it down [to the park], and I wanted to see it before [the Games were] over,” said Roon, who had attended Olympic sailing, hockey and triathlon events.

Inside the park, the night’s event could’ve been mistaken for those of a festival. In addition to the three large screens, the park featured a Ferris wheel, zip-line, food stands, bars and dance troupes. Even after the ceremony started, the “woos” from the people flying above the crowd on the zip-line continued through the night.

Olympic volunteer Ollie Bolderson waited in a long line for fish and chips. He had just finished his last shift working at the water polo arena in Olympic Park and was still wearing his purple and red volunteer shirt and official lanyard.

At 16, he’s the youngest age permitted to be a volunteer. He considers himself a “massive fan” of water polo.

“The whole atmosphere of the park is just amazing,” he said. “It’s such a great buzzing atmosphere. And [the other volunteers and I] get to see loads and loads of water polo, which we love. So I’ve really enjoyed it.”

In addition to seeing a lot of water polo, he said he also appreciated the various cultures the Games have brought to London.

“I like seeing all the orange of Holland and loads of Canadian fans and those Australians, crazy Australians, and Americans as well,” he said. “London’s pretty diverse anyway; it’s not like a huge difference. But it’s nice to see. This is the best of London you’ll see, ever. Everyone’s here, everyone’s happy. It’s great.”

In front of screen one, Londoner Charlene McKenna sat on a blanket in the grass with her sister, who was visiting from Ireland. McKenna was on vacation in Spain for the first eight days of the Olympic Games.

“I work very near the Olympic site, so it was on my mind that it was going to be quite hard to get around,” she said. “So I sort of planned it around that time, but I didn’t plan it around that time solely to get away from the Olympics. Because I quite missed being here for it when I was watching on TV. I’ve come to this today to sort of feel the atmosphere I’ve watched on TV.”

Although she only experienced London during the second half of the Games, she said she can tell it’s had a positive effect on the city as a whole.

“Everyone’s really happy in London, and because we’ve had such bad weather this summer, it’s been really good,” she said. “I think everyone’s really enjoying where we are in London now in comparison to this time last year when the riots were on. There’s a really good sense of community from British people. It doesn’t matter if you’re Welsh, or you’re Scottish, or you’re English. I think there’s a good sense of coming together for the Olympics.”

After several musical performances on the union flag stage, montages of athletes crying and plenty of cheers from the crowd, the night ended with perfect symmetry to the Opening Ceremony: fireworks lit up the shared sky over both Olympic Stadium and Victoria Park.

View our full photo gallery from Victoria Park here. 

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at @ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and

Spectators take a break from Olympic sports for Temper Trap concert at Hyde Park

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

The Temper Trap concert entertains fans at Hyde Park, London.

Although the London 2012 Olympic Games are winding down, the fun at Hyde Park has not subsided. Everyday throughout the Games, “BT London Live” has featured Olympic events on huge screens around the park, bands playing throughout the day and a wide variety of food trucks.

Friday night, Australian indie-rock band Temper Trap performed. Immediately following an Olympic sailing event on the screen above the main stage, the announcer for the concert brought out the band.

Spectators who had been there all day, as well as those who had just come for the concert, cheered for the five band members, who started with “Love Lost”. Temper Trap put on a fun, passionate show, complete with tambourines.

The concert was free, but there was a ticketed area closer to the stage. Directly behind it, Londonders and visitors from all over the world stood or sat on blankets in the wood chips. For the duration of the concert, the competitive sports atmosphere surrounding the Games resembled a summer outdoor music festival.

Annabelle Francis had come to Hyde Park to watch athletics, taekwondo and boxing on the big screens and had no idea there was going to be a free Temper Trap concert. She was excited to find out, though.

“I do love their music,” she said. “It’s just easy listening; it’s quite feel-good.”

Although some Brits have been less than thrilled about the hectic state of London these past three weeks, Francis is not one of them.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s been awesome. It’s been great to be part of the atmosphere. Even in Hyde Park, it’s just great to see everyone supporting [Team] GB, everybody and their flags.”

On the other side of the stage, a group of four friends, three from Canada and one from Switzerland, had come to Hyde Park specifically to see Temper Trap.

“Temper Trap set the perfect mood of the day,” Jeffrey Cox said. “It was a good daytime vibe.”

Cox and two others are staying with Krista Pike, who is currently living and teaching in London. Although the band only played five songs, she said she really enjoyed the “smooth and mellow” sound of the band and overall atmosphere of the park.

The group only had one complaint.

“We’d like for there to be more entrances,” Cox said. “It seems like there’s 65 exits and only one entrance. That could be improved upon.”

And as Temper Trap closed its set, the lead singer left the stage saying, “Enjoy the Olympics. Make some more friends.”

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at @ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and

Pin trading: an Olympic subculture

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Pin traders display their wares on the streets of London.

Most people come to the Olympic Games for sports. Athletes, coaches, families of athletes, journalists and spectators all make the pilgrimage because of their love for athletics.

But behind this image of the Games exists a subculture of Olympic attendees with ulterior motives.

“Pin trading is the largest non-athletic event at the Games,” trader John Dyck said.

Avid traders travel to each Olympic host city to collect lapel pins from different committees, sports and organizations. Many are members of clubs, like Olympin, the oldest active pin-trading club.

But even those who come to the Games for pin trading do it for different reasons.

Some trade because that’s the only way to get certain pins

John Dyck got his start at Expo ’86, a World’s Fair in his hometown, Vancouver, Canada. He saw kiosks with pins for sale and started asking about them.

“I found out there are some pins you can only get by trading,” he said. “Therein lies the challenge.”

London 2012 marks his fourth Olympic Games, and he plans to go to Sochi, Russia, in 2014 for the Winter Olympic Games. Dyck is also a member of both Olympin and Pacific Pin Club, which is based in Vancouver.

He has amassed approximately 12,000 pins total.

But before he reached this level of success, he had to learn the ropes of pin trading. For example, a rule of thumb in pin trading is that participants only display pins they’re willing to trade.

“I never have a pin out that I’m not willing to let go of,” he said. “Now granted, there are some pins that have a higher value than others. But everything out there is available for trade.”

He also had to learn what to look for in pins.

“The main things we go after are the dated pins,” he said. “So it’s got to say ‘London 2012’ on it.”

Although he’s become quite the pin trader, he insists it’s still a hobby. In fact, he’s a pin-trading purist.

“Unfortunately, there are some individuals who get a bunch of pins at these events and post them on eBay and take the profit,” he said. “And I think that’s wrong, but that’s just my opinion.”

Some trade to show others the ropes

Federico García del Real is from Madrid, Spain, and has been pin trading for 20 years. In that time, he’s traveled to three Olympic host cities: Vancouver, Bejing and now London.

This year, he invited his cousin, Danny García del Real, who’s currently living in London, to come along. This is Danny’s first time trading.

“It’s my first Olympics, but I will go to more because I like it,” Danny said.

The two said they can get 100 to 120 new pins on a good day. Federico estimated that he has 40,000 total.

In addition to showing Danny the ropes of pin trading, Federico said he loves pin trading because it gives him the opportunity to make new friends.

“I love traveling, so it’s a really good way to meet other people,” he said.

Some trade as a conversation starter

Tom Hocutt from Albany, Ga., walked around outside Olympic Park sporting pins on his hat and making balloons for kids—dogs, swords, hats and flowers.

If someone approached him about trading pins, he said, “I’m not a serious pin trader, but I’m willing to trade pins.”

This then gave him the opportunity to strike up a conversation about the organization for which he works, More Than Gold.

“More Than Gold is an organization of Christians that work together with the local churches wherever the Olympics are,” he said. “We go to lots of other sporting events around the world to share what we believe about Jesus Christ.”

He said giving people the chance to start the conversation is more effective than just walking up to people.

“That’s why we do the balloons, and that’s why we do the pins, so that people will approach us.”

More Than Gold even makes its own pins for each Olympic Games. This year’s pin has the organization’s name and a flame that’s made up of the Olympic ring colors. Each color represents something the organization believes, which was explained in a “mini-mag” Hocutt handed out to people.

“So we use that as a way to share the Gospel with people,” he said.

Some trade because they have a ‘collector mentality’

Leonard Braun proudly displays his gold medal in Olympic pin trading.

Leonard Braun got into pin trading because of his daughter. She was a competitive swimmer, and some of her swim clubs had their own pins. He started trading a few of her extra pins and soon discovered Olympic sponsor pins.

He was hooked.

“Well, my daughter and I [traded] together,” he said. “So it was actually a lot more fun. She grew up, and I didn’t.”

Braun has attended the last three Winter Olympic Games and every Summer Games since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, his hometown.

Once he reached 20,000 pins, he stopped counting. He said he’s not worried about the number of pins he gets.

“Like any hobby, sometimes when you start off, you tend to be a little compulsive,” he said. “But there’s so many pins now that it’s impossible to get everything. And whatever comes along, comes along, and that’s fine for me.”

One aspect of pin trading he enjoys is meeting new people. When he was in Athens for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, he traded with a woman and later found out she was Queen Sofía of Spain.

“At the Olympics, everybody’s kind of equal, and you don’t know who you’re talking to necessarily,” he said.

When he trades, he wears a gold medal around his neck that says “100-Meter Freestyle Pin Trading.”

“It’s a sport I invented. That’s why I’m the world champion, because I don’t let anyone else compete.

“I’ve actually had a lot of fun with this because sometimes athletes will walk up to me because they think it might be real,” he said. “And then when they read it, they laugh. And I always say, ‘Don’t laugh; my sport is just as hard as yours.’”

In the 28 years he’s been trading, he said a lot has changed.

“It used to be that the International Olympic Committee kind of looked down their nose at what we do, but that changed a number of years ago,” he said. “They actually recognize pin collecting and memorabilia collecting.”

Although his daughter no longer has time for pin trading, his youngest grandson has started to develop an interest in pins.

“I think he’s more interested in Disney pins than he is Olympic pins, though,” he said.

But even if his family doesn’t adopt his pin-trading tendencies, Braun says he plans to stick with his hobby as long as he can.

“If you don’t collect, it’s kind of hard to understand the collector mentality.”

Check out our full photo gallery on Olympic pin trading.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and

From green sports bras to peanut M&M’s–the strange habits of Olympic athletes

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Olympian Anna Tunnicliffe is not like other superstitious sailors. Most wouldn’t let anything the color green near their boat, but Tunnicliffe has green on hers at every major competition.

An old sailing tale claims the color is bad luck on a boat, and Tunnicliffe and her teammates were always careful not to chance it. But before one competition, Tunnicliffe forgot to change out of her green sports bra beforehand. She won and decided it was lucky.

“So I wear that on finals day, but don’t tell [my teammates] that,” Tunnicliffe says.

She laughs.

“I do wash it.”

Tunnicliffe, whose team lost in the quarterfinals of the Elliot 6m sailing race Wednesday, hasn’t been the only 2012 Olympian with a quirky habit. Many of the athletes who have competed  in London have routines, rituals and superstitions, from peanut M&M’s to specific warm-ups. But Sean McCann, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) senior sport psychologist, said it’s important to make clear distinctions between the three.

“I’m a big fan of routines, rituals make me nervous, and superstitions I actively discourage,” McCann says.


McCann said routines can help keep athletes on track before a big event like the Games.

“Routines are really useful because under pressure at the Olympic Games, it’s so easy to get distracted from the normal business of doing your sport,” he says. “It becomes a way of helping the mind actively flow into the action, as opposed to stopping and thinking and potentially getting in your own way.”

For some, routines come naturally.

“I am a pretty routine type of person by nature and by personality,” said cyclist Dotsie Bausch, whose team won a silver in the team pursuit.. “So I tend to do the same process the night before [a competition], which involves a certain type of music, then I go into a meditation, then I go into prayer time and then a music time. I pack my bag the same, and it helps with calming.”

When setting up a routine, McCann said athletes should start with the moment they’re in action and work backward.

“Virtually every athlete can control the last 10 seconds before they do something,” he said. “That’s a good place to start a routine, to get your mind in the right place, whether it’s using imagery or visualization or a specific cue word that reminds you about technique, for instance.”

Boxer Joseph Diaz Jr., who lost in the men’s bantam round of 16 in the 56kg weight class, said right before a fight, he tries to pump himself up mentally.

“To stay focused, I just think positive thoughts,” he said. “I think about me winning; I think about my family.”


Rituals are not as clear-cut as routines. McCann said some rituals are harmless, while others can interfere by making the athlete anxious if he or she can’t complete the ritual. The difference is how much control athletes have over the outcome of their rituals.

“A ritual might be something like, ‘On game day, I need to put on my right sock first, then my left sock,’” the psychologist said. “That sort of thing becomes more magical thinking, in terms of, ‘I need to do something the same way.’”

One of the examples of a popular ritual McCann gives is food.

“I won’t travel without eating Peanut M&M’s on a plane,” Travis Stevens, who lost in the semifinals of the 81kg class in judo, said. “It started from finding it at every airport in the country. It was the one thing that I could always find, so it’s my staple when I travel.”

Diver Brittany Viola, who is competing in the 10m platform diving this week, is very specific about her diet surrounding her sport. She likes to have salmon the night before a big competition.

On the other hand, some athletes prefer not to eat at all the day of a major event.

“I don’t like to feel very full, so I usually don’t eat breakfast on the days that I compete,” diver Nick McCrory said, who won a bronze with partner David Boudia in the 10m platform synchronized diving and has individual competitions this week. “Then I’ll snack on a protein bar and drink water later.”

Rituals can also come in the form of a familiar item.

“I travel with my pillow everywhere because it’s something that’s consistent,” Boudia said. “I sleep in a lot of different beds all around the world, but one thing I can have from my own bed is my pillow.”


Unlike rituals, which can sometimes be harmless, McCann says that superstitions put athletes in the wrong mindset.

“Superstitions are to ward off bad things from happening. Or if something happens, like a black cat crosses your path, then you’re worried that something bad will happen,” he says. “Right away, it engages your brain in thinking about bad stuff that could happen. So I really try and discourage people from having outright superstitions.”

Diver Kristian Ipsen admits to being superstitious.

“I do certain things before a dive, and if a dive goes well, I will keep doing that,” said Isepn, who won a bronze in the 3m synchronized springboard competition. “And if it doesn’t go well, I will switch something up. I won’t wear this one red suit that I wore at one of my college meets because I had a terrible, terrible meet. And for finals, I usually wear a black suit because I dive well in a black suit.”

Gymnast Logan Dooley, who was Olympic alternate who didn’t end up competing, tries not to be too superstitious but says he gets freaked out if he bounces on the trampoline.

“It’s OK if you bounce and you stop, and then you recollect your thoughts and go,” Dooley said. “But if that happens to me, I’m very superstitious about that. I think that it’s always bad luck.”

According to McCann, many athletes’ habits stem from all of the pressure they face.

“It’s not only natural, but it’s probably advantageous, to have a certain level of nervousness and anxiety for competing,” he said. “You do need to be a little on-edge so you’re focused, but that also exposes some of this stuff, and it makes some things that should be a small deal become a bigger deal.”

Because there’s so much stress surrounding the Olympic Games, McCann said he encourages athletes to stick to routines instead of getting caught up in everything that could go wrong.

But regardless of McCann’s advice, Tunnicliffe wore her green sports bra under her sailing uniform at the Games.  Some athletes may even have a lucky rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe or a four-leaf clover.

Behind many athletes’ tough exteriors, they need some sort of comfort, just like the rest of us—even if it doesn’t produce a gold-medal result.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and

International food market open every day during Olympic and Paralympic Games

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Just outside the London Bridge Tube station sits a quaint little market. Although usually open just three days a week, Borough Market currently is open every day to accommodate visitors for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I just imagine that [the market] wanted to be open to show people a little bit of what we can do in the hope that people will come back to London,” says Martine Coker, who has worked on and off at the market for 10 years.

As customers walk through an arch, under the bridge and into the first section of the market (Green Market), they’re greeted with smells of foods from all over the world: French bread, Croatian olive oil, Indian tea, Colombian coffee, British meat and more. The scents draw both tourists and locals in from the surrounding streets.

Cathedral Street divides the market into two: the second part (Jubilee Market) is covered and has a much more industrial look.

The food inside looks as though it’s been set up for pictures. The vegetables all have deep-green-colored leaves, whole fish are set on piles of ice, and bright, colorful candies are arranged in piles on display.

On a Friday or Saturday, especially during lunchtime, the market is as crowded as many tourist attractions in London. Not one employee seems to have downtime, as customers queue in front of each stand to sample or buy various foods and beverages.

But Coker, who works most often at the Utobeer vendor, says that more people does not always mean more business.

“Generally when tourists buy something, they’ve got to take it back to their hotel room,” she says. “So they can’t buy lots and lots of things and carry them all. They just get one beer from the fridge or one juice, rather than a large amount.”

On a Monday or Tuesday, business is much slower, even during the Olympic Games. Although the market as a whole has chosen to stay open all week, not every vendor is open on these slow days.

“[Londoners] been warned about traffic and public transport [being busy], so people haven’t really been coming out,” says Coker. “We’ve been having less regulars.”

But not all locals have abandoned the market during this hectic time. Londoners Hannah O’Reilly and Rory Connolly say that they aren’t visiting as often but still enjoy coming to Borough Market for the experience.

“You can come and see the old London under here,” O’Reilly says. “That’s what I’ve always loved about this place, and I never get bored of it. So for tourists, this would be a real good place to come.”

“Lots might choose Oxford Street, but I’d rather come to little places like this,” says Connolly. “You get good food.”

“Yeah, and culture—good English culture,” says O’Reilly.

Marcel Wallace, who works at the Flat Cap Coffee Co. cart, says he understands why the market attracts tourists.

“It’s a good place for tourists to go to see a different side of London,” says Wallace. “You’ve got things you can’t really buy in other parts of London. It’s very international as well. But also, there’s the best of British here as well. So it’s a great mix.”

And although Martine Crocker says that in the beginning, she wasn’t thrilled about the Olympic Games and the changes they meant for London and for the market, she’s come to enjoy the experience of living and working in this year’s host city.

“I was definitely a cynic, and now I’m enjoying the sports on the tele,” she says. “I’m enjoying what London means to the Olympics, what it’s telling everyone else around the world about London.”

Check out our full photo gallery of Borough Market.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and

How to make a quintessential English drink

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Every now and then, believe it or not, the sun actually comes out in England. And what better way to celebrate than with a refreshing British drink?

A “Pimm’s Cup” or “Pimm’s Lemonade” is a gin-based beverage that’s practically a meal in a cup. So for all of those Olympic tourists looking for something to do in between events, this is the perfect DIY cocktail.

To make a proper Pimm’s, start with the ice. Although ice is somewhat hard to come by in England, bartender Thomas Shirley said it’s important in a Pimm’s because it’s a summer drink and should be chilled. Shirley has worked behind bars for five years and is currently serving at the Round House near Covent Garden in London.

Next comes the fruit: strawberries, oranges, lemons and apples (types of fruit vary in different recipes). Cucumber and mint leaves are also a must.

For a Pimm’s Lemonade, one would think it’s safe to assume lemonade is also included. The funny thing is that Americans and Brits have two different definitions of “lemonade.” English lemonade is carbonated—they would consider American lemonade to be juice. We are separated by a common language, as they say.

For that reason, soda water or Sprite can be used as substitutes for the carbonated lemonade.

“It doesn’t really matter which you put in it because the fruit gives it the flavor,” says Roger Langhor, a bartender at the Angel in Worcester, England.

So fill most of the cup with the carbonated beverage of your choosing, but leave room for the most important ingredient. Finish the drink off by adding 50 milliliters of Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur. When making the drink for another person, it’s customary to let the Pimm’s sit on top so they can stir it.

Finally, find a nice spot in the sun and enjoy.

Although Pimm’s is only served in England, Shirley said it tends to be very popular with tourists.

“I think it has the novelty value for tourists, as it’s marketed as an exclusively English drink,” he said. “So that’s probably why the tourists flock to it because it’s something unique to England.”

But that’s not to say that Brits don’t enjoy the occasional Pimm’s too.

“Normally, in summertime, English people drink refreshing and very light drinks, and Pimm’s is a light drink,” says Marina Botnikova, a bartender at All Bar One in London.

There is a downside to serving Pimm’s in bars, though. Bartenders at the Eagle in
Farringdon say that Pimm’s Cups are “quite a lot of hassle” because they have to keep so much fresh fruit. And because Pimm’s sales are so dependent on the weather, several rainy days in a row result in much of the fruit going to waste.

Still, many English pubs, clubs and bars serve Pimm’s, and it’s simple enough to make. So in addition to trying fish and chips and a full English breakfast while in England, be sure to add a Pimm’s Cup to the list. Plus, it’s healthy because it has fruit, right?

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at @ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and


My work break at the Tower of London

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.

Emily Thompson enjoys a break with one of the “locals” at the Tower of London

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


An Olympian’s fight for a better life

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

JoJo Diaz grew up as part of a poor family in a rough part of El Monte, Calif. Kids in his neighborhood wanted him to join one of the local gangs, but Diaz liked school. He got good grades. For that reason, and because he was so small, he was bullied a lot.

One time he fought back.

The fight landed him in a special class for troubled students, and he swore to never fight on the street again. But the bullying didn’t stop.

He turned to his father for advice, and his dad took him to the local boxing gym to learn how to defend himself the right way. The very first day, Diaz ran into one of the bullies from school at the gym. The other boy had two years experience in the ring.

“You think you’re tough?” the bully said. “Let’s spar.”

Diaz agreed to spar in a week. During that time he practiced with his father. A week later, he put on his boxing gloves and walked into the ring for his first match. He gave the bully a bloody nose and made him cry. He found his passion in life.

“Ever since then, I just got hooked on boxing,” he said. “And I said, ‘Dad, we could do this for a living.’”

Joseph Diaz Jr. completes an intense heavy bag workout during a Team USA Boxing training session at SCORE training center in Leyton, an area of east London. Photo by Valerie Carnevale.

Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. is now the youngest boxer on Team USA for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. USA Boxing gives him a monthly stipend, which supports Diaz, one of his sisters and his two unemployed parents.

“If it wasn’t for boxing, I don’t know where I’d be,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d be in a gang or what. But boxing really helps me out a lot, with everything: helping out my parents financially, helping me stay of trouble, everything overall.”

But the stipend was not enough for his parents to come to London and watch him in the Olympic Games. So he and his family washed cars, sold t-shirts and autographs, collected donations and held beer pong tournaments.

After what seemed like endless fundraising, they raised enough money to bring seven people to watch him: his mother and father, his two sisters and brother-in-laws and his boxing director. They met Diaz in London last week.

Another person in his corner is fellow Olympic boxer Marcus Browne. The two spend a lot time together outside of the ring.

“JoJo’s my boy,” Browne said. “He’s a great kid. If I would have a son, I want my son to be like him because he’s well mannered. He’s just a good-spirited person.”

Since arriving in London, Diaz said he’s ready to compete.

“I’m already here,” he said. “I’m already really well trained. I’m already focused. I’m in the best shape of my life. So I know that it’s going to be really hard to beat me.”

He and the rest of Team USA Boxing are preparing for the Games at the SCORE Training Center in London. At a typical practice, the team trains with four coaches.

Although the center doesn’t have air conditioning, Diaz wore a gray, long-sleeved Nike shirt and black athletic shorts Thursday. After stretching and conditioning, he put on his gloves and started hitting the punching bag. His punches got harder and faster as he progressed, with a “hut” sound each time he hit the bag. Eventually his nice, clean clothes became sweaty. Although several other athletes and coaches were buzzing around him, he looked as focused as if he were alone.

Al Mitchell, Team USA head boxing coach, said he’s confident in Diaz’s skills.

“He’s a very smart young man, and he wants to learn,” Mitchell said. “He’s just getting better and better each day. When he came here, he could box. And he’s working on strategy now.”

Although USA Boxing hasn’t done well in recent Olympic Games, Diaz said he believes that will change this year. In fact, he has his heart set on gold.

“If I bring back that gold medal, I’m going to change my whole family’s life,” he said. “I’m going to buy them a house. I’m going to buy them a car and just pay all their bills for them and everything. So that’s actually making me more focused and more determined.”

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and

It was a perfect—and perfectly British—night

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Hours before anyone in America would see, Londoners and visitors had the chance to experience the Opening Ceremony Friday night. Thousands of people from around the world gathered in Victoria Park for the largest free viewing in the city.

In a truly British manner, spectators queued in front of the park for at least two hours. As they inched toward the entrance, they passed an array of entertainment: vegan protesters (including a guy in a pig costume), religious zealots, face painters, flag vendors, French fanfare and more.

Two girls came prepared for the wait. While their friends held their place in line, they had a sushi picnic. Every so often when the line moved forward, they picked up their blanket and situated themselves a few feet further to keep up with their friends.

Soon before the ceremony began, several Red Arrows flew over London, leaving red, white and blue smoke in their trail.

Inside the park, several spectators sported flags, patriotic-colored clothes and face paint.

Evan Smith from Dallas took a break from studying at the London School of Economics to view the ceremony on one of the three large screens around the park.

He wore an American flag draped around his shoulders.

“[London’s] definitely getting more crowded, even in the week I’ve been here,” Smith said. “But it’s fun; the atmosphere is so fun.”

On the other side of the park, Londoner Lindsee McCutchon waved a small Union Jack flag.

She cried during the British national anthem.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the other cultures that have come to our country,” she said. “I think that’s really cool. You see all the different cultures, and everyone’s harmonious. I like that.”

Then as the Olympic athletes marched across the screen, spectators waited patiently to cheer for their countries’ teams. The loudest roar was the last, when Great Britain finally made its appearance.

Paul McCartney finished the Opening Ceremony with a dynamic performance. As the fireworks exploded above the Olympic Stadium, spectators in Victoria Park could see them both on the screen and in the air.

When the ceremony was over, thousands of people leaving the park sang “Hey Jude” together. It could not have been more perfectly British.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at @ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and