Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diving Into the Olympics

If you really want to immerse yourself in the Olympics, but don't have any tickets, just head to the Westfield Mall in Stratford, which is adjacent to the Olympic Park.  Sonia and I had tickets to Women's Synchronized 10m Platform Diving at the Aquatic Centre yesterday, so we go there early and popped into the mall for lunch beforehand.  It was mobbed with people, and we had only been there a few minutes when we saw a crowd gathered around two very tall men wearing Team USA uniforms.
US athletes pose for photos at the mall
At first we thought they must be basketball players, but they turned out to be track & field stars Duane Solomon (in white) and Ryan Bailey (in blue).  We later saw an extremely tall female Russian athlete graciously posing for a photo with what appeared to be a South American gentleman in a suit.  We decided to save the London 2012 store at John Lewis and the Team GB store for later, so we grabbed a quick lunch and headed into the Olympic Park across the street.
Olympic rings on the Aquatic Centre
The Aquatic Centre has an oval central core with two giant 'wings' on either side.  The wings are designed to be removed after the Olympics, and the remaining structure will continue to be used as a community swimming and diving facility.
The Aquatic Centre
Because the wings are temporary, there are no elevators or escalators, so you have to walk up A LOT of stairs! 
View of Orbit tower and Olympic Stadium from the Aquatic Centre
Our seats were waaaaay up in the nosebleed section, just 8 rows from the very top.   We were up so high that the roof blocked our view of the other side of the Aquatic Centre, but we still had a pretty decent view of the diving pool.
10 meters doesn't seem so high from up here!
The competition included teams from China, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, Australia, and Ukraine.  No US team!  Since the GB team had plenty of supporters on hand, we cheered for our North American neighbors: Canada and Mexico.
Fellow divers watch the competition.  Tom Daley is in there somewhere...
Despite being miles above the action, I managed to get some decent photos using the 'high-speed burst' setting on my little camera.  You can see how synchronized these amazing divers really are!

We chose the right teams to cheer for.  Mexico and Canada won silver and bronze respectively.  Not surprisingly, China won the gold.
The final standings
The medal ceremony
The winning teams
After the medal ceremony, we made our way back down the stairs and spent some time exploring the rest of the Olympic Park.  It is HUGE! 
One of two giant McDonald's with Orbit tower in the background
We spent some time watching the Women's Gymnastics team final on the big screen at Park Live.  Very cool, especially considering the final result.  Of course, the coverage mostly focused on the British gymnasts, but we did get to see several Team USA performances.
Go Team USA!!!
Other interesting sights in the Olympic Park...
The Coca-Cola Beatbox
The Olympic Broadcast studio, resting atop a stack of shipping containers
One of three large shops selling Olympic souvenirs
The Gloriana, which carried the Olympic Torch down the Thames from
Hampton Court Palace - and was in the Thames Jubilee Pageant
The massive Westfield Mall
Orbit Tower
Flowers and Water Polo arena
By the time we were ready to leave, it was 8 pm, so we went back to the mall for a quick dinner before heading home.  We ended up eating Indian food in the food court and watching swimming on TV with an international crowd, including Chinese, Dutch, British, and other American fans.  It was a fun atmosphere, with people clapping and cheering as if we were actually in the Aquatic Centre rather than across the street in a shopping mall food court.
Watching swimming at the mall
Today was the first day since Sonia arrived that we didn't have anything specific on our agenda.  We ran a few errands and then headed to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the special exhibits on Ballgowns and Heatherwick Studio.  The Heatherwick design exhibit was particularly timely as they designed the amazing Olympic cauldron used in the opening ceremony.  They had a model of it in the museum, which they must have added recently -- it would have ruined the surprise if they had it on display before the Olympics began.

So, are well all Olympic-ed out now?  No way!  More to come...

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