Take 2 — London Calling
Gold medals and new friends complete the Olympic experience
Almost as fun as the events at any Olympics are the people you meet. In Vancouver on a bus to the biathlon, we met the self-proclaimed "King of Norway," who was swigging booze from his backpack at 7 a.m. while treating the whole bus to an impromptu Olympic trivia contest.
While we haven't seen the "King" here in London yet, we have talked to or sat near the following people at events: a dream interpreter, the uncle of a Team USA volleyball player, missionaries from the U.S. ministering to the athletes, two archers representing Great Britain, the family of a Canadian swimmer, a wrestler from Azerbaijan, and a woman from the U.S. writing her doctorate on the Olympics.
Along with these chance encounters, it has been several very busy days. So busy that around midnight one night we looked so rough a Londoner on the Tube remarked to his friend, "Looks like these Americans are a bit downtrodden," to which I responded, "Nope, just tired."
We have been anything but downtrodden as we witnessed great success from Team USA the last few days. At the swimming preliminaries we saw both Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin advance to events in which they would later win gold. Phelps was in last place at the halfway point of his 100m fly qualifier only to turn on the jets and finish first.
We then moved on to men's volleyball, where Team USA came from one set down to defeat world No. 1 Brazil. The victory was even more impressive as the Brazil fans outnumbered U.S. fans at least 20 to one. My sense is there are a lot of Brazilians living in London. It was as raucous as a soccer match, yet somehow Team USA hit its stride in the second set and cruised to a 3-1 victory.
Our good luck followed us to shooting where we witnessed Jamie Lynn Gray of Team USA win gold in the 50-meter rifle three position event (standing, prone and kneeling). To see her receive her gold medal was the highlight thus far. The final 10 shots were nerve-racking for us as fans, but Jamie came through with an Olympic record to clinch the event. Our magic touch ran out when we watched Greco-Roman wrestling, where both U.S. competitors were defeated in the second round.
We have managed to squeeze in tons of sightseeing and have been pleasantly surprised that the crowds have stayed away from Central London for fear of congestion, allowing easy access for us. We booked a tour of Parliament the night before and ended up on a tour with only nine other people. No wait either at Westminster Abbey or to ride the London Eye, and the views were incredible. Watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace was the one thing we found crowded, but we were able to still sneak a peek at the guards in their silly fur hats.