“And the city has no name,
It just stands there in a grey haze…”-Sandy Denny, “London”
As a Greek-American, I am an avid spectator and follower of the Summer Games, which has been considered by most pundits as the “greatest show on earth.” I traveled the 3,600-plus miles to be at the center of the sporting world and witness some of the greatest accomplishments in sporting history. I was not disappointed. The athletes, the spectators, the citizens of London were just simply incredible. In the next few days, I will try to give a clear picture as to what it was like being at London’s third attempt hosting the biggest sporting spectacle in athletic-history.
The Atmosphere in the “Big Smoke,” er, right, London…
Many Americans have visited London and will continue to flock there due to the accessibility and the lack of language barrier. But, to visit a metropolitan city like London during an international event is always different. Gone were all the Union flags on the Mall for the HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In their place: the Olympic flag. New pink signs were scattered throughout central London’s most iconic landmarks to direct Olympic visitors where to go. London’s famed Underground, or the “Tube,” even had a bit of a make-over with all new directories of stations that will feature some events. Never have I seen a city that I have visited before look so very different.
There was a different vibe in the air as well. London is well-known for being one of the most diverse cities in the world, but this felt like you were just at the center of the cultural melting pot, and I guess I was!
The Brits, especially the English (and yes, there is a difference!), have a reputation for being a bit snobbish or stand-offish (like the Parisians), but I did not experience any of that. The Brits in London were extremely welcoming, and as soon as they heard I was American they were actually even nicer, if that’s possible to imagine.
Each neighborhood pub was decked out in national flags from around the world and plenty of Team GB swag. There were some American beers that were on special just for the Olympics, I suppose to appeal to the Yankees who don’t enjoy the luke-warm beer of England, still very thoughtful and business-minded of them. In the afternoon, anytime after 4 o’clock, the crowds started to pour into local pubs and one could witness the diversity the Olympics can bring to a city. People dressed in all different colors like orange (Dutch), green and yellow (Aussies), red, white and blue (Americans, French, and Brits), and yellow, red and black (German and Belgians) filled these places with different languages and banter. It felt like a mini-United Nations, but with less business suits and more laughter.
IOC President Jacques Rogge made note of how the British hospitality was on display for the past 16 days, and I would have to disagree. This was BETTER than the usual British hospitality and something that all British men and women can be proud of.
This post was written by our Olympics corespondent, Matt.