Posts tagged "Sports"

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 www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

The last day, and the legacy

By Jessica Pettengill  |  BSU at the Games

Sunday morning in London started as every morning for the past two weeks. Olympic athletes competed in their events. Spectators looked on in awe at the Olympic Park, Earl’s Court and other venues. And those not fortunate enough to watch the competitions in person cheered from the comfort of their homes. But this morning was the beginning of the end of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The men’s marathon was one of the first events of the day, and the last free event open to the public. Fans lined up alongside the road from St. Paul’s Cathedral all the way to the finish line at Buckingham Palace. It might have been 10 a.m., a whole hour before the race even started, but the bystanders did not lack energy or enthusiasm to catch perhaps their last firsthand glimpse of Olympic athletes.

“Most people will probably never have an experience like this in their lifetime,” James Mason said, a London 2012 volunteer who worked on the marathon course, mere inches away from where the runners raced.

All of the Olympic events, not just the free ones, have changed the face of London. The British have lived with the impending Olympic Games for the past six years, starting with construction of the Olympic Park in May of 2008, despite the fact that the Olympic Games only last 14 days. But it’s not only the new buildings that have converted the city.

“There’s a running joke around here that everyone in London is so overly-friendly,” Jack Mercer, who works just outside Olympic Park, said. “It’ll be interesting to see if it lasts for good.”

The social and economic impacts of “mega-events” like the Olympic Games are heavily contested. The London 2012 initiative expected the Olympic Games to broaden opportunities in an already “diverse and vibrant city and country.” Before the start of competition, London 2012 also reported £7 billion in contracts generated by the Games and an expected £1 billion in sales on the UK high street.

“It makes me feel incredibly proud,” Mercer said. “London has definitely surpassed everyone’s expectations I think.”

Producing a strong Olympic atmosphere wasn’t the only proud moment for Britain in these Games either. In a matter of days, Team Great Britain rose through the medal count tank to finish third with 65 medals.

“Anyone feels proud when their team wins,” Angela McCandless said, a spectator at the men’s triathlon. “And really isn’t that the point? If there was no competition to win, then what’s the point of having the Olympics?”

It is winning moments that seem to stick best in the minds of fans. Mercer said his favorite memory was of Chris Hoy winning the gold medal for track cycling at the Velodrome. McCandless felt the greatest moment for Team GB happened when Alistair Brownlee walked across the men’s triathlon finish line to win the gold with the Union Jack wrapped around his shoulders, and then hugged his brother, Jonny, as he ran in to receive bronze.

Is the success of the London Olympic Games measured by the amount of medals Great Britain has received, or is it something more?

“I think there’s too much pressure for the athlete’s to win,” Richard Lockney said. The 48-year-old school teacher said even though being the best is desirable, it is the heart and determination that means more.

It probably helped that in the very last event of the 2012 Olympic Games, Samantha Murray of Great Britain won silver in the women’s modern pentathlon.

With the women’s pentathlon concluded, the competitions were officially over. The medals had been won and the count was winding down. All that was left was the Closing Ceremony.

Outside Olympic Park, all was quiet except for the distant cheers echoing through the streets, the low rumble of the trains and the sounds of Closing Ceremony announcers coming from the small Railway Hotel & Pub.

Over the pub’s speaker system, announcer Hazel Irvine stated, “It’s amazing to think that only 16 years ago Great Britain won one gold medal.”

“You can just sense the passion and pride across London and the entire country,” Darren O’Reilly said, a frequenter of Railway Pub and a native of London.

O’Reilly had been in Olympic Park for the Opening Ceremony and said there were two completely different atmospheres.

“The Opening Ceremonies were sort of uneasy because we didn’t know how successful it was going to be,” he said.

Discussions of the “London Olympic legacy” ride on the sunset of the Olympic Games. On the London 2012 website, there is an entire page dedicated to the Games’ legacy, in youth, sports, workforce, infrastructure and diversity.

“It’s not over for me,” Barbara Wellmen said, speaking both literally and figuratively. Wellmen decided to volunteer for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games during her nine-year retirement.

“This is something no one will forget soon,” she added. “It may seem egotistic, but this has been something really special.”

It’s hard to argue with slogans like the “social Olympics,” “regeneration Olympics” and “inspire a generation.”

Just before the explosive finale of the Closing Ceremony fireworks, O’Reilly summarized the atmosphere of Railway Pub.

“I really believe that we are leaving a legacy.”

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.

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

Daily Video: Sam Hazewinkel | USA Wrestling

BSU at the Games continues its daily video series introducing you to athletes from Team USA. Today, meet USA Wrestling’s Sam Hazewinkel prior to a recent practice in London for the Olympic Games. Hazewinkel competes Friday.

Sam Hazewinkel – USA Wrestling

Daily Video: Update from London

BSU at the Games provides this update on events to watch in the closing days of the Olympic Games. Featuring USA Track & Field’s Wallace Spearmon and USA Swimming’s Alex Meyer.

Update from London

I got more exercise than expected while watching the women’s triathlon

For a second while I was watching the Olympic women’s triathlon, I thought I was in a race myself.

As my group of BSU at the Games members stood around Serpentine Lake, surrounded by thousands of people watching the triathletes furiously swim in front of us, some fans around us began to turn around. They started pushing through the massive crowd of people until they reached a clearing, and then it was a full-on sprint to the other side of Hyde Park.

Jonathan Batuello, one of our group members, was among those hurrying away from the lake even though the swimming portion wasn’t over. I hurried after him, but he ran so fast from the crowd I lost track of him.

At that point, it didn’t take long to figure out what everyone was running toward.

As the triathletes pulled themselves out of the water and onto their bikes, fans were racing over to the cycling track to get the best possible view of the next portion of the race.

It was funny to see how the rows of people next to the street worked itself out. Those who ran fast enough and knew they had to leave the swimming portion early earned the ultimate prize of getting great photos. Those of us who didn’t had to deal with photos that had heads and cameras in the way of the shot.

Our group learned from the first run through the park and made it over to the running track after the cycling was halfway finished. No running was necessary this time, and after a half hour of waiting, we were able to get a decent view of the triathletes sprinting by us.

For the first Olympic sport I’ve ever seen in-person, the women’s triathlon is memorable just for getting me out of a seat. That’s not something I’m used to as a football and basketball fan.

Still, the next time I sit down to comfortably watch a sport with a hot dog in one hand and a drink in the other, I know I won’t take it for granted.

Andrew Mishler  |  Sports Reporter

@andrewmishler

Daily Video: Under the water with U.S. Synchro

Above the water, their routine is simple. Under the water, Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva would say differently. BSU at the Games takes you “behind the scenes” with Team USA’s only two synchro athletes at the Olympic Games.

Under the water with U.S. Synchro

Daily Video: The Errol Spence Jr. Story

His journey began inside a run-down boxing gym in southern Dallas. Now the No. 1 U.S. welterweight boxer, Errol Spence Jr., finds himself fighting for a medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The Errol Spence Jr. Story

My Olympic moment: a long wait, the rings and … wow

As I walked out of Westfield Shopping Centre near the grounds of Olympic Park, I was awestruck by the view.

The biggest set of Olympic rings I’d ever seen were right in front of me, plastered on the northeast wall of the Aquatics Centre.

There were countless fences and security tents to get through before I reached the massive building, but the sheer size of it made it look close enough to touch.

Unfortunately, the whole scene was just a tease for two and a half hours because I was denied access with my guest pass.

The whole park was on lockdown, but when I was finally escorted through, all the frustration became worth the wait.

Every direction I looked, there were thousands upon thousands of people walking around the venues and fighting their way into shops. It was the never-ending madhouse that usually gets me annoyed and angry, but this time it was different. The row of stadiums made me feel like I was at the heart of Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago sports all at once.

It was then I had my first real moment of disbelief—these were the Olympic Games and I was actually there.

Connor Hockett  |  Sports Reporter

Daily Video: Lance Brooks | USA Track & Field

BSU at the Games continues its daily video series introducing you to members of Team USA. Today, meet USA Track & Field’s Lance Brooks who didn’t begin his career as a discus thrower.

Lance Brooks – USA Track & Field