Friday, May 11, 2012

Thursday, Friday and Beyond

Flowers in Hyde Park
Sorry for the temporary hiatus, it's been a whirlwind of a past couple days! We took the train an hour away to Loughborough on Thursday to visit the university where Team Great Britain and Team Japan will have their preparation camps for before the games. Team Great Britain originally signed a deal to prep at a military base but after that fell through, they came to Loughborough University with a request to use their facilities after Team Japan was already promised the space. Now, Japan and Team GB will be sharing the facility before the games. It was really cool to see where the two teams will be training right before they enter the biggest athletic stage in the world. Also, some employees at the University told us about the organizational challenges — from security to distributing the athlete's kit (freebies!) Adidas sportswear. It's definitely a large undertaking, but the banners and signs supporting Team GB around campus show the University's embracing the relationship with the Olympics. Loughborough also specializes in Sports Research, and they even have a Gatorade testing facility.

After riding the train back to the city, Sclark, Christine, and I made our way back to Harrod's to repeat the fabulous dinner we had earlier this week. Of course, we all purchased the chocolate hazelnut scones that have changed our lives. I'm going to have to get the recipe so I can make them in the states! Following dinner, we toured London at night. It was beautiful to see Big Ben aglow and the Thames glistening in the moonlight. We crossed the Thames and walked past the London Eye, and the Westminster area was alive with people enjoying the first warm night in over a week. 

Big Ben and Parliament at night
While London is beautiful by day, there's something magical about the city at night. The monuments, churches, and even cobblestone streets gain even more charm, and the entire city seems to take a deep breath, and relax. Everyone in their business attire flocks to the pubs to wind down for the day and spend time with friends. We walked back across Millenium Bridge and gazed at St. Paul's lit up on the skyline, and then headed back to our flats exhausted from the long day. I'm glad we could gain a new perspective of London on one of our final nights with the program.

Today, the group met for the last time in the lobby and headed out to the tube station to go visit our final speakers at the British Olympic Association offices. First, we heard from Darryl Siebel, the director of communications for the BOA. Darryl is one of the nicest people we've met on this journey, and he was so dedicated to giving us an amazing experience in his offices. He explained to us how as a comm director, he truly enjoys connecting the media and Team GB athletes. It allows the hard work and victory of Team GB to be recognized, which Darryl said is the most rewarding part of his job. It was great to see his passion for the games, and how he believes the media can be used as a tool to help his athletes succeed rather than hinder his team.

Our last speaker of the program was Dave Gordon, head of major events for BBC Sport. BBC will be taking on an ambitious role in broadcasting the 2012 games to the UK. The public network plans to have every event for every sport available to their audiences to watch, whether through TV, Web or other digital platforms. This is an incredible undertaking for the network. BBC has a strategy to reach out to the public and place their media team in important locations throughout the games. It's amazing how the coverage of the Olympic games will be so different this year due to technological advances. During the Sydney games, would the BBC have tweeted, blogged, live streamed, and shown via television the Olympic events? Digital platforms and social media are a new challenge for media groups, but I'm excited to see how the BBC's coverage of the games pans out. Darryl's confidence in the BBC and the passion Dave has for covering the games is reassuring they will succeed.

Love is all you need :)
After our final meeting, a group of us headed over to Abbey Road to recreate the iconic Beatles album cover. Following a bit of packing and my quick run to the Tower of London, we all met up for a final group dinner in Covent Garden. During dinner, we presented Bruce and Tom, our professors and leaders, with gifts we signed to thank them for taking us on this journey. The gifts, however, don't even begin to thank them enough. I've had the most amazing 12 days, and it wouldn't have been possible without Bruce and Tom. They arranged for us to meet so many amazing people, and they allowed us to gain a new, in-depth perpective of the Olympics. 

I walk away from this program with a well-rounded view of the games and the challenges and joys they bring to London and those involved. The individuals we met with and their teams have worked so hard for so many years to craft and perfect the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. While the Olympic games will only last 17 days, they are over nine years in the making. Each speaker we met with was so passionate about their work and the Olympics — which I believe is the most important skill needed when organizing the games. Their drive and determination to deliver the best games possible has led to a solid foundation for an amazing games. Like athletes, these individuals have been training to perform for 17 days this summer; to show the world what the past decade of their life has been dedicated to and why.  The games couldn't exist without these individuals, and I can't wait to see their hard work come to life when the games begin.

Now, what's next for me? As the majority of our group packs up and plans to head back to the States tomorrow, I'm excitedly awaiting the arrival of my parents and sister in London. We will be in the city for the next four days, and then onward to Paris for the final four days of my journey. I can't wait to show them everything I've seen and lived these past 12 days. Of course, I'll be sure to keep you updated as my adventures continue :)

p.s. a special shout out to Katy Williams, who intro'd our Skype conversation with "London Calling" playing in the background

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