Posts tagged "England"

London through a local’s eyes

By Charlotte Dunlap  |  BSU at the Games

Jolting his hands up in the air simultaneously to the beats of the song, 21-year-old Fred Smiley was noticeably enjoying the concert at Hyde Park.

His trendy mohawk haircut matched the rest of his get-up—light gray straight-leg jeans with a snap-back hat attached to a belt loop, a blue zip-up and a neon-blue Adidas backpack.

In my eyes, Fred seemed to be a typical 21-year-old guy from London taking advantage of what the Olympic Games has brought to his hometown.

As much as Americans are intrigued with the British accent, I have come to find out that our American accent is just as if not more intriguing to people in Europe. Like any tourist would do, I asked the name of the band and after that one question, the routine “Are you from the States?” question started up a conversation that I found myself excited to be in.

Fred was down-to-earth, humble and outgoing. He seemed to be “in the know” about everything going on in London. So I took advantage of making a new friend and invited myself along to see London through his eyes for an afternoon.

12:20 p.m.

Fred rushed from the Oxford tube station to the nearest corner café, weaving his way in and out between the mash-up of people.  Fred had mastered the art of turning the body 90 degrees to slide in between oblivious passers-by on the street. Now living in Essex, Oxford Circus is a place he visits only when need be.

12:35 p.m.

Deciding on where the day’s meal would take place, Caribbean Bay was his decision. One would think the chosen spot would be Café Fred, located nearby, but Caribbean food was on the menu for lunch.

1 p.m.

Silverware = cutlery, Fred said.

1:05 p.m.

Precisely explaining the components of the jerk chicken meal, Fred opened his grape soda and started into his meal. “London is a much more lively place to live,” he said. “I moved to Essex a few years ago and I like being able to come to London whenever I want. It’s a short trip”.

1:20 p.m.

“O.M.G.” Fred said. He paused for what felt like an hour. “I swallowed the bone,” he said. Coughing repeatedly, Fred guzzled his grape soda, anxiously trying to get the chicken bone that he swallowed to slide down his throat.

1:26 p.m.

Fred sighed with relief that the chicken bone finally passed through his throat. “You know, American girls have a glow about them,” Fred said. “You can kind of tell who’s from America and who’s not.”

1:40 p.m.

Strapping on his neon-blue Adidas backpack, Fred made his way to the door and took a left down the street. “See, I only go shopping when I need something. … I am in and I am out,” he said.

2 p.m.

Strutting into Niketown, Fred was shocked at the amount of people shopping. “Honestly I have never seen this place so full … The Olympics have done so much good for all these places. It has brought in so much money,” Fred said.

2:30 p.m.

Fred was patient with the hectic sidewalks slammed with people as he went in and out of different shops, mostly shoe stores. “It is nice to come to this area when I want and not live here. The Tube is only a short distance from Essex,” he said.

2:45 p.m.

Kindly taking a bottle of water that was being passed out on the sidewalks, Fred remembered he had obligations outside of town. “I have to go pick up a car that I am using for a week,” he said. “Most of us don’t have cars around here, its pointless. Insurance is outrageous for us at this age to drive.”

3 p.m.

Sharing a few last words, it was obvious Fred’s personality not only blasted through his style, his gestures and his laugh, but also through his genuine aura. “I am traveling to L.A. for a month here in a few weeks. I know it’s where I have to go to make something of my passion for acting,” Fred said.

3:10 p.m.

Without seconding-guessing himself, Fred smiled and was on his way, blending right in with the rest of the rushing crowd toward the Tube station. “Good luck in London!” he yelled.

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.

The Olympic flame lit a fire in me, too

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindsey Gelwicks  |  Features Reporter

@lbgelwicks

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 www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

A bunting obsession

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Ellis | Designer

Program gives Team GB’s future athletes a peek behind the curtain of Olympic Games

By Katelynn Thys  |  BSU at the Games

Being an athlete in the Olympic Games is more than just competing; it’s dealing with the publicity, the fame, the pressure and the distractions the Olympic atmosphere can bring.

To help ease future hopeful Olympians into the world of the Games, Great Britain has set up the British Olympic Ambition Program. It is giving 130 young British athletes and 57 coaches a chance to see what it’s like to be a part of the worldwide sporting event.

Phil Wood, coach for the Ambition Program, acts as mentor and support for the team and believes this program gives Britain an edge over other countries.

“Seventy percent of Olympians are better at their second Olympics, so hopefully these guys bring home medals their first time competing,” he said.

Yena Stadnik, female wrestler on the GB Ambition program, said she thinks the program has shown her what she can expect both mentally and physically.

“The workshops help me get a taste of everything,” Stadnik said. “I am treated like I am one of the athletes.”

Each athlete is selected by his or her specific sport’s National Governing Body. During the program, the members first go to a Preparation Camp at Loughborough University, where they get fitted for Team GB sports gear.

Eighteen-year-old indoor volleyball athlete Rupert Scott said he had to wear his gear for the two-and-a-half-day period he was in London for the program.

“I’m not even an Olympic athlete yet, and people still wanted to take pictures with me,” he said. “People were really interested.”

During the Olympic hopefuls’ stay in London, they got the chance to watch two Olympic competitions in person.

Sarah Winckless, 2004 bronze medalist in rowing and program director, said she organized each participant to be matched up to their sport (or one similar if they’re winter athletes) and another sport they didn’t know anything about.

“As an athlete, you often get wrapped up in your own sport, so instead of them living in their own sport it’s important to see how wide the Olympics are,” she said.

The participants also get to meet previous Olympians for some athlete-to-athlete learning because they speak the same language, Winckless said. She wished she had had the program before she competed because it shows that it’s OK to have bad days as an athlete.

“There’s a myth people think that the athletes on the podium have it easy, but they don’t. It’s hard work,” she said. “Medals aren’t won in a game, they’re won throughout the years.”

Winckless herself learned that lesson when she competed in her first Olympic Games after she had been injured. She knew she wasn’t in form to win any medals but just being apart of it inspired her to carry on and keep working hard. She wants to let new athletes know that it is determination that keeps you going, since most sports careers are short.

“I put on a brave face with the media and everyone,” she said. ”But I was living the dream, even if I wasn’t in form. It’s OK if you don’t win a medal right away, Everything you train for doesn’t change.”

Yena Stadnik said hearing stories like this have shown her not to give up, that there is a reason to carry on.

Preparation is something freestyle wrestler Craig McKenna learned about that he thought was most important.

“Preparation is key, even though the Olympic atmosphere is great,” McKenna said, “even if it means being anti-social for a while.”

Even if they don’t all make it to the Olympic Games, Rupert Scott said this experience has prepared him for any type of big game that he will be involved with in his life.

“There’s so much more than just competing. There are so many distractions that really test your limits,” he said. “This has really helped me. It shows me how much pressure competing in big games are.”

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.

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

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

How did I manage this? The power of Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mat Mikesell | Sports Reporter

@MatMikesell

Catching some air in Westminster

By Sara Schaefer  |  BSU at the Games

Public transportation is great, but you can see a lot more action by walking around London this summer. Take a look at the streets of Westminster, which are filled with impersonators, street performers and tourists.

Sara Schaefer is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism news major at Ball State University covering features for BSU at the Games. Follow Sara and the BSU team at @Sara__Schaefer@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

The face of the Olympic fan: Diversity and sense of fun characterize Hyde Park viewing areas

By Lindsey Gelwicks  |  BSU at the Games

The atmosphere at Hyde Park depends on two things: the teams playing that day and the weather.

When it rains, the park is nearly empty. Small groups of people are scattered in front of the big screens broadcasting events live and for free for the general public.

Though many are intent on watching the Games, some come to enjoy the atmosphere. A young man juggling five stackable cups of beer meanders through the small crowd. On top of a blanket covering the wood-chip-covered ground, a teenage boy sleeps with his head resting on a backpack.

But when the sun finally shows itself, Hyde Park changes.  Swarms of people elbow their way through crowds to food vendors or games set up for children. Pathways that existed days prior disappear as fans sit in any inch of space available.

But no matter what the weather, fans from nations across the globe congregate to cheer on their own in the Olympic Games.

ENGLAND

Mark Griffiths of England displays his pride for Team GB on his face.

Jean Baguley sat engulfed in national pride on a folding camp chair in front of Screen 1. Images of the Union Jack surrounded her, from the hat atop her head of white hair to the blanket on the ground where her daughter Lynne Wood sat. Like many in the park, Baguley had the British flag wrapped around her shoulders.

“Come on. Come on. Come on!” Baguley yelled, pounding her fist on her thigh in excitement, as Team GB struggled to keep the lead against Germany in the men’s eight rowing event.

“It makes such a difference,” said Wood, a London native. “In London, you feel more a part of it.”

While they could have watched the Games in the comfort of their own home, the pair went to Hyde Park despite the rain sprinkling down that morning. For Baguley, the atmosphere drew her in.

“It’s all of these people of all nationalities in one place,” she said.

GERMANY

The gold, red and black of the German flag wrapped around Daniel Stampmik’s shoulders stood out amid the red, white and blue of the British fans.

Stampmik came to the Olympic Games with his parents and sister. The sports fanatics were some of those fortunate to get tickets to live events.

The football match in Wembley Stadium was the highlight of his trip so far, he said, describing the excitement of being in the full stands.

“You’re part of the Olympics,” he said. “You can feel it.”

As Judith Ardnt pedaled down the ramp to start her time trial, Stampmik’s father raised his noisemaker above his head and twirled it around in support of the German cyclist.

NORTH AMERICA

Although Carolyn Graves and Wendy Kordesch were from different countries, the pair came together to Hyde Park to watch the Games. The Canadian and American, respectively, had been working on their oceanography doctorates in Southampton.

“You couldn’t have [the Olympic Games] so close and not go,” Graves said.

With tickets to the indoor volleyball game that night, the women killed time by lounging at Hyde Park.

SWEDEN

It hadn’t been the easiest day for Thomas Eddom, Ulrika Ronnermark and Monne Naesenius. The three ordered judo tickets through a website at home but discovered earlier that day that the vendor was unauthorized.

On top of that, the athlete they were rooting for, Sweden’s Marcus Nyman, lost his match early in the rounds.

Despite those disappointments, the three were making the most of their day as they sat around a picnic table, each nursing a beer. As coaches for youth judo teams, they enjoyed watching judo no matter who was sparring.

The park also gave them a chance to scope out others from their country. They just had to look for the bright blue and yellow of their nation’s flag.

NETHERLANDS

While most at Hyde Park chose to represent their countries through t-shirts or flags around their necks, Sjoerd Munnih and Franh van Sihhelerus took a different approach. Each sported a bold orange suit.

Although the Dutch flag is red, white and blue, orange represents the royal family and is used for sports jerseys.

Munnih had hoped that the suits would bring his team luck.

“It doesn’t work today, though, because we’re losing everything,” he said on his way to grab a beer.

CANADA

A group of Canadian super fans gather for a photo at Hyde Park, London.

With national spirit overflowing at Hyde Park, it’s easy for those from the same country to spot each other, just like Canadians Brad Watt and Megan Williams did with a group who called themselves “the Eh! Team.”

Although they wouldn’t normally have gotten along with someone from the other side of the country, Williams said, the Olympic Games were an exception.

“The Olympics generates a national pride you might not otherwise have,” she said.

The pair was in Vancouver for the winter 2010 Olympic Games and took advantage of family living in London to see the event again. Missing it wasn’t an option.

They arrived with more creativity than concrete plans. Days before, they traded a pair of Canadian sunglass with a Danish couple for tickets to rowing.

A young fan of Mexico.

MEXICO

Stationed in front of Screen 1, Maria Uribe and David Carpy intently watched as Mexico played Senegal in the men’s football quarterfinals. Carpy said he knew Mexico wasn’t decent at the Games, but he was confident they would win that day.

On the other side of the crowd, Susan Gonzalez watched the game with her brother. Each wore a sombrero in support of their country.

Although Gonzalez had lived in London for 13 years, she said it wasn’t difficult choosing which team to support.

“I’m Mexican 100 percent,” she said.

Thirty minutes later, when the game switched over to Screen 5, the two groups followed.

As Mexico scored their third goal of the game, Gonzalez whipped her sombrero off her head, tossed it to the ground and danced around it as the crowd around her erupted in cheers.

Lindsey Gelwicks is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Lindsey and the BSU team at @lbgelwicks@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

A rainy day for a marathon

Spectators at the Olympic women’s marathon event are soaked by London’s most infamous weather.

By Sara Schaefer  |  BSU at the Games

Sara Schaefer is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism news major at Ball State University covering features for BSU at the Games. Follow Sara and the BSU team at@Sara__Schaefer@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Photo of the day: London Borough Market

The London Borough market serves fresh international cuisine every day during the Olympic and Paralympic Games and is a must-see for visitors. See our full gallery of the market here.

Photo by Valerie Carnevale.