Why the London Olympics Were a Complete Success (Despite Mitt Romney)

Strange Looking People at the Olympics
This will not be a travelogue.

I will not talk about the majesty of seeing the emerald hillsides, of hearing the roaring seacoast nor spending a night in a glorious 16th century castle in Ireland; nor will I speak of ten exuberant days touring London and every great site from Westminster Abbey to the Jublilee Display of 10,000 of the Queen’s Diamonds. And only a snob of the snootiest order would speak of a you-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-much-it-cost-our-hostess dinner at Claridge’s.

Wait. Did I just give you a travelogue? Sorry. I meant to make this a brief description of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, which I attended Aug. 4-14.

The Olympics will forever more define the word “spectacle” for me. London was a superb host, completely ready for those games despite Mitt Romney’s criticism to the contrary. The city was impeccably clean although one cabbie told me it usually looks that way. Transportation was no problem. Londoners had been asked to take the tube and trains in to work earlier than usual – or find alternative means of transport – so that the lines would be free for event goers during the day and into evening. And of course, taxis were everywhere if you were willing to pay the pounds.

{Tip: If you go to London, it’s worth it to purchase The London Pass and the London Travelcard. With those two in hand, you can get from one landmark to another, get to the front of “queues” and fly through underground stations. Just Google them.)

Olympic organizers had also spent a great amount of time posting signage that lost tourists needed to find their way to three dozen different venues. Most helpful were the 70,000 volunteers, called “Games Makers” for the integral role they played, who could easily be spotted along the sides of the roads, at stations, at events – beginning at Heathrow. (Some 240,000 people applied for these volunteer positions. Interviewing began in 2010. And Romney thought the city wasn’t ready?)

Londoners themselves were very helpful and seemed happy we were there. And despite dire publicity that British soldiers would be everywhere, we scarcely saw them. (Maybe that’s how well camouflaged they were?)

We did not attend Opening Ceremonies; tickets were going for $3,700 per.
If you watched, you know they were just strange, wonderful, ducky – British, in other words. I loved that the Queen was such a good sport in agreeing to the James Bond spoof.

What a thrill to watch the U.S. women’s soccer team beat Japan for a Gold Medal. Imagine a record 84,000 fans packed into Wembley Stadium, thousands of them decked out in some combination of red, white and blue. Brilliant fun.

I admit it: I’m a sucker for pageantry. And when the U.S. women stood on the middle stage during the playing of the National Anthem and our flag was raised just slightly higher than Japan’s and Canada’s (Eh), I was verklempt.

We also attended women’s championship volleyball where the U.S. lost to Brazil, the country that will host the 2016 games.

But the strangest Olympic event we attended was women’s team handball. Never heard of it? Neither had we. But the Brits now love it. Wow. What a vicious, tough sport. Think soccer with no padding but with gouging of the opponents’ eyes allowed. Yikes.

By the way, because you purchase Olympic tickets in advance of knowing who will be playing, we ended up watching Korea play Russia in that event. Never have I cared less about rooting for anyone. Nonetheless, I cheered on Korea but had the most fun watching Russian coach Andre Trefilov go apopletic in the way he encouraged his team.

The overall feeling in London during those 10 days was that One Big Party was being held and you were in it. And it seemed that young people, those 20-year-olds who are supposed to be so cynical about everything, were having the most fun of all.

In addition, imagine having more than 10,000 Olympic athletes, all with extraordinary physiques, staying in the same place and at the same time. Rumor had it there was quite a lot of hooking up in the Olympic Village. America’s own Michael Phelps went out clubbing one night wearing three of his Gold Medals around his neck.

Ah, youth.

2 thoughts on “Why the London Olympics Were a Complete Success (Despite Mitt Romney)

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      Thanks, VWMF. I have to say, I fell quite in love with Ireland and the Irish. I loved their brogues, the beauty of the countryside, Galway Bay, and the everyday prices of items.

      At Harrod’s in London, I had treated three other people and myself to lunch. We had 4 club sandwiches and 5 Cokes. The bill was 98 pounds, which equaled $151. For lunch. For 4 club sandwiches and 5 Cokes.

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