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Take 2 — London Calling

Seattle Times readers who are traveling to London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are taking over our Take 2 blog to share their Olympic experiences from the United Kingdom.

July 27, 2012 at 2:13 AM

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Pop icon Vanilla Ice arrives in London before the Olympics

After two years of planning and 13 hours of travel and layovers, Mike and I have finally arrived in London. Our friends Emily and Portia are arriving about four hours after we have landed so we have time to kill at Heathrow. First, pink is the official receiving color of the 2012 Olympics. Second, one-eyed mascots are a little odd. But no judgment. I didn't organize the event, so what do I have to say about it? Absolutely nothing.

Bennett, MikeMascots.JPGMike poses with Olympic mascots. Photo by Jason Bennett.

I am thrilled I get to spend my 40th birthday at the Olympics! There was great excitement and energy at the airport with a long receiving line, filled with cameras, press and sponsoring groups looking for their guests. Since we had time to kill, Mike and I situated ourselves near the receiving line at the Costa Café and watched the energy and excitement unfold.

While waiting for our second part of our group, we met the Spanish men's (futbol?) team. And more exciting than that, we noticed Robert Matthew Van Winkle, a.k.a. Vanilla Ice. Now, as children of the '80s and '90s, this is a very exciting development for Mike and I. Listen, unless you did the Roger Rabbit at an all-ages club to "Ice, Ice Baby," you might not fully appreciate how truly amazing this is. I understand.

Clearly trying to avoid being noticed, Vanilla bypassed the press section and dashed right to the parking area. I ran after him to catch my brief moment with an icon of my teen years. At first, I wasn't completely confident that it was Vanilla Ice, until I looked his knuckles. He has "Wide" and "Open" tattooed on his knuckles. It is very street and O.G. I then checked his Twitter to see if he had posted anything related to London. He had. With my suspicions confirmed, I snapped a photo while he was waiting for the lift to the parking area. I really should have asked for a photo with him, but I was nervous. If you've seen "Surreal Life," you know he's prone to the occasional outburst. So I snapped my shot and dashed back to the cafe, smartly avoiding any possible altercations. I think I emailed everyone I could think of who would care I chased down Vanilla Ice.

Bennett, VanillaIce.JPGVanilla Ice waits in line for a lift at London's Heathrow airport. Photo by Jason Bennett.

Emily and Portia arrived shortly after and we cabbed it to the rental apartments where we are staying. The rooms weren't ready so we stored our luggage and went to grab a bite to eat. So confession time: we are a very chatty and fascinating bunch. Very much so after a few wines and beers in us. People are drawn to our energy. So we are chatting it up about travel fun and dramas (hi British Airways, time to get WiFi!) and a neighboring diner turned to join in our conversation. Normally, I wouldn't point out every detail of our dining, but this guy, Tim Jahnigen, is doing amazing work. A TED conference speaker, he makes and distributes indestructible soccer balls in war-torn areas. Inspired by Darfur refugees, these soccer balls never require a pump to keep inflated and they never go flat. Many NGOs are using sports and play as a way to help children deal with trauma and cope with poverty, war and natural disaster. These soccer balls are also backed by Sting, another icon for children of the '80s and '90s. No, we didn't get to meet Sting sadly. But we have seven more days here, so you never know.

*Editor's note: Pop icon Vanilla Ice currently has a home improvement show on the DIY Network called "The Vanilla Ice Project" on which he and a crew of contractors renovate homes in Palm Beach, Fla.

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