LONDON – The last time I was in London, it was spring break 2007. While fellow Marquette seniors were planning trips to Cancun, California and other places they could bask in the sun, I decided that rainy London would be perfect.
Five years later, here I am in Londontown again. However, the entire atmosphere of London has changed. I experienced a sleepy, businesslike London previously. Right now, the air here is electric and everyone is so excited. It's truly amazing. I'm just taking everything in while I'm here.
I am not a huge sports fan. I think while at Marquette I attended a total of five basketball games in four years. I don't follow football or baseball or soccer either. But every four years, I become a sports lover. Bring on the swimming, gymnastics and volleyball. I get caught up in the Olympics and I have been ready for London 2012 for awhile. My time here started a few hours before the opening ceremony.
The first thing I noticed as I exited from the train station was the avalanche of advertising. Team GB, as they're being called here, is hawking everything from electronics to hair products on billboards, buses and those banners that hang from lamp posts.
The traffic around town is a bit of a nightmare for drivers. My driver told me that there are no shortcuts through the city as branch streets are shut down. There is also an Olympic lane that can only be utilized by official vehicles. It was completely empty as we made our way through the city and our lane was bumper to bumper. Plus, there are the bus only lanes, so a normal three-lane road can be limited to one for the normal folk heading around town.
What about the London Underground? It's actually not that bad. The train cars are pretty full, but I haven't experienced any real delays. I have seen some pretty long lines, or queues, to get into venues or out of the stations. If you need help, there are Olympic ambassadors everywhere, wearing hot pink uniforms and occasionally hot pink foam fingers to point you in the right direction.
I avoided the opening ceremony crowd by watching the presentation on the BBC. I must say, I miss Bob Costas' commentary. But, I wasn't subjected to the commercial breaks a few friends complained about back home. I personally enjoyed the opening ceremony, minus how long it took all the nations to parade in and some of the musical portion. Mr. Bean had me laughing.
The first event I attended was the tennis preliminaries at Wimbledon, where I watched Serena Williams along with First Lady Michelle Obama and Venus Williams in the venue. Roger Federer cut it close during his match against Colombia's Alejandro Falla.
I've never attended a tennis match before, but the crowd is awesome, oooing and ohhing in unison. Although, I overheard a couple of British ladies saying how the crowd wasn't really behaving as befitting Wimbledon. Ok, I guess those guys who got into a fight over who loved Federer more don't really fit the Wimbledon mold. But it was hilarious to hear "I love him more!" shouted as a response to "I love you Roger!"
The one thing I'm missing is the coverage of Team USA. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are getting plenty of coverage, but I'm missing how other USA athletes are doing. As for Team GB, I've got all the details.
More from on the ground in London to come.
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