Olympics, August 1

Lone Wolf '49

Special Hen
Jan 18, 2008
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Oklahoma City
There’s much Olympics to explore.)

Breakfast: Mixed fruit, awesome crunchy bacon (ACB), great link sausage, scrambled eggs, canaloni beans (pork ‘n to us rednecks), wheat toast with currant jelly, orange juice, yogurt: (Yes, I do enjoy the same brteakfast every day. I’ve had the same wife for nearly 44 years, too. Why stop a good thing?)

Commute: The Tower of London and Tower Bridge were beautiful. Somehow they’re becoming my friends. I also enjoy coming around another corner and glimpsing the Olympic Stadium for the first time each day.

When the red double-decker media bus enters Olympic park, it stops inside a big tent. Eight soldiers in cammies and berets descend on it. One comes on board to check everyone’s credentials. The others use mirrors to look underneath and general poke around to make sure nobody attached any dangerous gizmos. I think in the Seoul Olympics, reporters would have objected to the delay. No more.

A journalist friend boarded (he thought) the red double-deck bus to Wimbledon, went to sleep, and woke up at Wembley Stadium instead. He rode back to Russell Square, then found the right bus and arrived at the tennis stadium for the post-match news conference. “I should have spoken more clearly when I asked the volunteer where the bus was,” he said.

Person du jour: Marissa, about three, walking down the sidewalk in Stratford with her mum and sister. “She sings all the time,” said the mum with a hint of exasperation in her voice as the child, well, sang. “She drives her sister crazy with it.’ Little Marissa, resplendent from her pink shoes to the pink balls tied into her cornrows, grinned a grin that shot from her small mouth like a moonbeam. Her sister, about six, with the same cornrows but her own distinctive green balls tied into them, rolled her eyes. I smiled and said, “you keep singing, girl.” I’m pretty sure all three of them thought I was silly.

Question from home: what the heck are you doing there, anyway? Are you on the USA’s candy-eating team?

Answer: I'm a volunteer the U.S. Olympic Committee, taking care of special ticketing for the media. At some of the events, the press box (the "tribune" in the Olympic jargon) isn't large enough for all of the writers who want to attend. Then the IOC prints tickets and distributes them to each country’s Olympic committee. My job (working with the PR person from each sport, and using guidelines that the USOC set up) is to figure out which USA media get our tickets.

It works the same for photographers.

Papers with hometown athletes have top priority, then papers that covered the Olympic trials in the sport, then papers with full-time Olympic beat writers. It's a very fair system. Some media doesn't cover Olympic sports--or much sports at all, for that matter, and so they're pretty-much out of luck. Some of them are pretty lost, and so I feel sorry for them.

Normally about 75 percent of the writers and photographers who request tickets actually get them. So mostly what I do is explain to people why they can't get tickets. Everyone seems to want to go watch figure skating, of course. Can’t squeeze blood from a cookie..

Golly, you can’t even begin to imagine how hard this USOC staff works during these games. It’s 18 hours days—day after day after day. I try to get them to smell the roses.

The Observer reported that business in Central London is down by something like 10 percent over last year. “Pleeeease come to Covent Garden!” the paper quoted a local official.

And the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, a 24-square-mile country surrounded mostly by Italy, has only 31,000 inhabitants and has competed in the Olympics since 1960 without having won a medal. It has four athletes here.

Lunch: Yogurt, cookies

Today’s confirmation that George Bernard Shaw was right when he wrote that we and the British are “two peoples separated by a common language.” Guys were talking about a friend being “pissed” last night. But he wasn’t angry; he was drunk.

Weather: No rain today. Actually quite nice. High 71, low 59.

Reporter John Henderson, a goofy and brilliant and quite worldly (even if he weren’t a sports writer) guy who is a connoisseur of fine dining, says this is the best Olympics food he’s ever had. I can’t disagree although I wish the concession stands sold hot dogs. John probably wouldn’t stoop to eating hot dogs.

Here’s what John wrote: “All the press is raving about it (the food). Monday in the swimming venue I had a steak and kale pie that was piping hot, full of beef and a crust that was as flaky as my mom’s coconut cream pie. At the shooting venue I had barbecued sausage that was firm, juicy and had the rich taste all the way through, not just on the surface as you get in baseball stadium franks.

“Every venue has a chicken pasta salad with big hunks of cooked chicken with pasta in a biting sauce. The boxed bacon, cheese and cucumber sandwiches taste like they were made that day.

And for dessert, every venue has these banana toffee bars that are absolutely deadly. They’re as addicting as crack. Oh, Lord. This blog is making me hungry. And guess what? In London it’s lunchtime.”

This afternoon we visited the Megastore and began the shopping Olympics. There was a long, Disney-style serpentine queue. Families and others waited quite patiently in the British style. Shortly we got inside where a whole array of nifty stuff awaited—Stuff that you will be able to buy on E-Bay for about 18 cents in about five years after the children have grown up. I’m the world’s worst, most anguished shopper; I tend to buy the first thing I see, even if I went for socks and bumped into chainsaws at the entrance. I’m the woman who buys National Enquirer at the check-out line only in reverse.

Plus, I get sleepy after four minutes of shopping and want to go have an Auntie Anne’s. Nicki is wise and deliberate.

While we were in the store, they announced that Bradley Wiggins had won the cycling time trial. There was a loud cheer. It’s fun when the home boys win.

Then some stranger walked up and hugged Nicki. I took their photo.

I love the music. While strolling through Olympic Park this afternoon, we heard “Country Roads” by John Denver.

On the elevator British stranger offered me her half-eaten Danish. How did she know that my grandchildren call me the Human Garbage Disposal because I happily consume their leftovers? (You don’t want to insult people by rejecting gifts, so I took the Danish and then threw it away when I got out of the woman’s sight.)

High on my to-do list is visiting Berkeley (sic) Square, to hope the nightingale might sing. Here’s the awesome 1940 Vera Lynn version, which pretty-much says it all. This one has a commercial, but you can skip through that—although it is pretty dang cute.


Walked over to the Copper Box to watch Spain vs. Denmark in women’s handball tonight. (That’s “team handball” to us uninitiated.) Olympic Park was electric in the cool, breezy evening air. I’ve seen handball in four of five Olympics and love it every time, although I always have to re-learn what’s happening.

The Danish crowd was typically raucous. So was Spain’s. The place was jumpin’ like at the state high school wrestling tournament. At halftime, two women from each team gave a little handball demonstration. Imagine Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles tossing a football around instead of the band marching.

Spain’s leading scorer was named Nellie. Well, she spells it Nely. The other Spanish were Silvia, Mihaela, Andrea, Carmen, Beatrice, Veronica, Marta, Macarena, Jessica, Elisabeth, Begona, Vanessa and Patricia.

Okay, here are the first names of the Denmark players: Karin, Christina, Mette, Susan, Camilla, Christina again, Marianne, Pernille, Line, Trine, Anndretta, Berit, Rikke and Louise.

Is it a small world, or what?

At halftime, a helpful handball volunteer asked if it an interview in the mixed zone, rather than a formal news conference, was acceptable. I thought a few minutes, scratched my head, and finally said yes. (Just kidding….actually, i said, “sure” right away.)

Dinner: Really tasty Calzone at Team Handball venue. And then “chips” (French fries) at Susan P’s birthday party in the great garden bar at the Montague.

The transport mall was closed when we tried to leave the MPC. A volunteer said an accident had occurred on the highway outside. So we were all directed to the tube or Javelin. Hundreds of reporters were affected, but I heard no grumbling. We rode the packed park shuttle, hopped on the beautiful Javelin train, switched to the Picadilly line at St. Pancras and were home by 10.

Later, we learned the tragic news that a double-decker media shuttle bus full of reporters had struck a bicyclist right outside the MPC. The biker died. We don’t expect people to die at the Olympics. Of course, with a half-million people at the Games, it’s inevitable.

Little birthday party back at the Montague for friend Susan P. Actually put on a dress shirt and long pants. Yuck. (Will Hancock gave me a special 50th birthday party during the Sydney Olympics.) Susan P. is bright, hard-working and friendly. She knows her stuff. If there were an Olympics Press Officer hall of fame, she would be in it. She lives in Cleveland, but works for the IOC around the games. The party included Aussies, a Swiss, Brits and a few Americans.

What a privilege to be here! Every day is an adventure. Inspire a generation. And mind the gap.
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