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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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