Tag Archives: #London2012

Lasting Impressions of London 2012

20 Aug

After four posts that I scribed over this week, this will be my final one. The only way I know how to wrap it all up is to give you a list of my favorite moments that happened over the fortnight.

1.)     The first night. When I landed on Friday, 27 July, I walked around Olympic Park and looked at the Village, deciding on what I was going to do that evening.  I found out, courtesy of the BBC, that there was a huge outdoor viewing area in Hyde Park and they were going to show the Opening Ceremony and host a concert.  The concert featured Snow Patrol (Northern Irish/Scottish), Duran Duran (English) and Stereophonics (Welsh). All three were pretty good, but watching the crowd go NUTS over Duran Duran was simply unexpected and hilarious.  The Brits love their 1980s pop bands.

But, the memorable moment of the night came during the beginning of the Opening Ceremony. You may or may not remember the maypole and the songs that were played, but they were extremely significant to the Brits.  It was very emotional to when all the Englishmen who were at the concert started singing (well, kind of just yell) the words to Jerusalem,  the pseudo-anthem of England (they are only allowed to have the official anthem of the UK:  “God Save the Queen”).  The Scots followed their English brethren with “Flower of Scotland,” while the Northern Irish belted “Danny Boy,” and the Welsh recounted “Bread of Heaven.”  After all four songs were sung, the crowds sang “God Save the Queen.”  (Remember that the United Kingdom is actually made up of four different nations:  England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  There is some bad blood between the four different countries and so it was very special to hear them sing their own “anthems” followed by British anthem of “God Save the Queen.”)

2.)    The victories of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis.  Simply put, it was one of the greatest evenings at the Olympics for all British people, and I must say I loved it too!  Jessica is an amazing athlete and has such a modest, sweet personality to her.  Watching her and Mo come across the finish line, I was just in awe of their accomplishments: truly incredible.  And the support of the British fans was overwhelming.  I was watching from another outdoor venue and we could still hear the loud roar for both, even though we were about 25 miles away from Olympic Stadium. Then when Mo won his second gold, it was just icing on the cake.  Seriously.

Even more memorable:  their reactions.  The pressure of the home crowd is sometimes too much to handle, but like many of the British athletes, they used the crowd to their advantage.  Watching Mo and Jessica cross the finish line and realize what they accomplished is truly an awesome thing to see.  They’ve worked their entire life to achieve greatness and they were able to do it in front of their own countrymen.  Sensational stuff, that.

3.)    Sarah Attar.  Wow.  I’m actually getting goose bumps and a bit teary-eyed just thinking about this moment in Olympic history.  Sarah Attar, dual citizen of Saudi Arabia and USA, was part of the Saudi delegation to the Olympics, making her one of two women to represent the Kingdom.  This was the first time the Kingdom’s delegation had women on the roster.  Sarah competed in the 800m portion of the track and field events at Olympic Stadium  She didn’t win a gold, or silver, or even bronze.  She didn’t place high enough to even get out of Heat 6.  She finished about 30 seconds behind the second-to-last runner and 43 seconds off her heat’s leader (who placed fourth in the finals).  When she was finishing her lap and started coming down the last 200m or so, the crowd at Olympic Stadium all began to cheer and stand for her.  She was going to finish last in the heat!  She wasn’t going to win anything!  But she won all London’s admiration that day.  Everyone had heard of her story and everyone at the stadium wanted to show their appreciation and support to her for being a trailblazer.

She was very overwhelmed when she crossed the finish line and thanked the crowd. But that is what the Olympics are all about, right?  Being able to participate is such an honor, but being able to be one of the first women your country has ever sent to the Olympics must be pretty special.  Then to get the reception from the London crowd had to be quite emotional – I know it was for me, and I wasn’t Sarah Attar. She will definitely be a celebrity on Pepperdine University’s campus this coming semester.  Thank you, Sarah, for giving all of us who watched that special moment of the Olympics.

These moments are just three of the countless memories I have from the London Games.  The motto of this Olympiad was “inspire a generation”.  I truly believe that Sarah Attar, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, the women of Team USA basketball, the rowers of Team GB, the boxers of the USA and GB, the judo champions, and cyclist Sir Chris Hoy have all inspired little boy and girls to pick up sporting equipment around the world and be the very best that they can be.  Those kids just may be future Olympians, and they will all say it was “Olympian X” who inspired them all the way to the Games.

To the people and city of London – Cheers!

This post was written by our Olympics correspondent, Matt.

Girl Power Games

18 Aug

Paraphrasing a British newspaper, suffice it to say that the Olympic Games of London 2012 can be easily summarized as the Girl Power Games, especially when the Spice Girls re-united (the second time) for the Closing Ceremony.  It is true, though, that these Games were historic not just because London played host for the third time; it was the first time all participating countries sent a female representative to compete.  That may sound like a shock to many of you, but it was such a huge moment to see Saudi Arabia and Oman have women in their squads for the first time in Olympic history.   In my next post, I’ll discuss a bit more on the Saudi track athlete and how monumental it was to see her take the track of Olympic Stadium.  Of course, I do not have the facts and figures for every participating country, but I do have some knowledge on Team USA and Team GB, so I thought I’d share some interesting points with all of you.

For the first time in the history of Team USA there were more women athletes than men (268 to 261), and they did Team USA very proud.  Over the two weeks of competition, Team USA won 104 medals (46 of them gold), and the women of Team USA brought home 58 of them (29 of them gold).  So, the men of Team USA only brought home 17 gold medals, which is very surprising to many, including myself.  The 59 medals that Team USA women brought home would have put them in fourth place in the medal standings, and the 29 gold would have tied them for third with Team GB.  Pretty astonishing.

Other great TEAM USA highlights:

–          Our youngest Olympian, Katie Ledecky (15), is from the Washington, D.C. area, and won the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, beating Team GB hopeful, Becky Adlington.

–          Team USA women’s soccer team won its third straight gold medal, and four out of five since 1996, when soccer was introduced to the Games.

–           The American women’s basketball team won their FIFTH straight gold medal (seventh gold overall), which is unprecedented in women’s sport.  They dominated all of their opponents the entire two weeks, proving that America is still home to the best female players.

–          Keri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor finished their Olympic career in style by winning their third straight beach volleyball gold medal, something that has never occurred in the sport, and cemented their place in history as the best team on the sand.

–          A nod must go out to my favorite two female athletes: Serena and Venus Williams.  Serena and Venus teamed up for the third time in the Olympics’ doubles competition and won their third gold medal.  Since Venus won singles’ gold in Sydney 2000, it seemed only fitting that Serena would win her first singles’ gold on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, where she picked up her fifth Wimbledon title a few weeks prior to the Games.  These two sisters have always demonstrated the determination and desire to play for their country and they haven’t let America down.

Team GB women were equally impressive overall.  The women gave the host country their first gold medal in rowing and continued to produce wins in many of the sports.  Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Royal and granddaughter of HM The Queen, helped Team GB equestrian win a silver medal in the evening competition.  She became the first British royal to win an Olympic medal.

Also: I watched Gemma Gibson win a silver medal in Judo (losing out to an American), and it was truly inspiring. I know nothing about the sport, but the sheer determination that Gibson showed was inspiring.  This is especially true when you learn that she lost her mother recently and was the main catalyst for Gemma turning to judo in the first place.  Pretty emotional stuff.

Team GB women won 36 percent of all medals and 10.7 percent of them were gold.  They were led, of course, by Jessica Ennis, who won gold in the women’s heptathlon and was crowned the greatest female athlete in the world.  She was the first of three gold medal winners for Team GB on “Super Saturday” (the others were Mo Farrah and Greg Rutherford).  I was at an outdoor venue watching her finish the 800m portion and the crowds were just screaming her name.  There was a burst of euphoria when she crossed the finish line and became a gold medalist.  Remarkable event. 

Team USA and Team GB have women to thank for their great standings on the final medal table, and I was glad I was able to watch some of these great women compete.  In my next post, I’ll be describing some of my favorite and emotional moments of the Games.

This post was written by our Olympics correspondent, Matt. 

Inside Olympic Park

17 Aug

ImageSince many in the United States did not have a chance to really see Olympic Park or the other venues that were used for London 2012, I thought it was important to highlight what the London 2012 Planning Committee created.  The Olympic Park, located in Stratford (East London), was built on a 500-acre piece of commercial and industrial wasteland.  This area was a site where businesses and factories used to flourish, but soon failed. The area became a contaminated zone.

London 2012 reshaped the area (and created jobs) to build the new facilities, many of which that will be permanent structures to the East End skyline.  The Games of the 30th Olympiad have become known as the “greenest Olympic games”, and you could tell.  Throughout the Olympic Park, recycling centers were color coded to make life easier on the spectator.  The Park added over 500 bird boxes and 150 bat boxes to promote and maintain the environmental integrity of the region.  Flowers, shrubs, and trees were planted throughout the 500-acre space, while waterways were refurbished to create a more scenic atmosphere.

The three “current-day” artists who  performed during the closing ceremonies – Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, and Taio Cruz – were all born and raised in the East End of London.  When the Olympic Flame was being extinguished, a phoenix rose from the flames.  Just like the bird rising from the ash, East London has risen to become a completely different, and better, place.  It was fitting to see these hometown celebrities pay tribute to the city they love, and also the part of the city they called home for a long portion of their life.  Many people know that David Beckham was an advocate for the London 2012 – he is also from the East End of London  and was a huge proponent of making the Olympic Stadium a permanent structure to the East End landscape.  The Aquatic Center, the Velodrome, and the Olympic Stadium will all continue to be used in the years to come, which will only benefit the community of East London and continue creating a lasting legacy for the Games of 2012.

This post was written by our Olympics correspondent, Matt. 

The Games of the 30th Olympiad

13 Aug

“And the city has no name,
It just stands there in a grey haze…”-Sandy Denny, “London”

ImageAs 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. 

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