Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympic People-Watching (and Diving)

One of the things that makes living in the Olympic host city so exciting and entertaining is all the interesting people you encounter -- not just at the events, but around the city, on public transport, and going about your daily business.  Of course, our daily business has mostly been attending Olympic events, but that has made for some great people-watching opportunities.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sonia and I headed back to the Olympic Park to attend another diving event.
Entering the Olympic Park
Huge banner by the entrance
We got there early so we could spend a little more time exploring the park and doing a little people-watching.  We were not disappointed.
What country do you suppose these guys are from?
Rear view
Mounted police with remarkably calm horses
Gromit, Scooby Doo, and the Chicken support Team GB
Germany fans gear up

A group of children prepare for a performance
We were a little more subdued, but still showing our support for Team USA
This guy was a little less subdued
Aussie water polo fans
We poked around in one of the many shops in the park, where stuffed versions of Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, were not exactly flying off the shelves.  With its somewhat phallic shape and giant cyclops eye, the mascot seems a little creepy to me.
Wanna buy one of these?
Off at the far end of the park, near the hockey stadium, we found the bandstand.  Considering how many other people were there, we considered this an impressive accomplishment.  A decent local band called Longfellow was playing, so we sat and enjoyed the music for a little while.
Sparse crowds at the bandstand
We learned from the emcee at the bandstand that all the lovely wildflowers in bloom across the park are the result of four years of careful planning.  The specially-hybridized seeds were artificially heated and cooled several times before planting so that they would all flower at the same time.  It looks fantastic, but normally these flowers would not all be in bloom at this time of year.
Sonia admires the flowers with the Velodrome in the background
We also caught a glimpse of the Olympic Village just outside the park.  How could we distinguish it from the other apartment buildings?  By all the flags, of course!
Belarus and Australia
Mostly Germany...
Finally, it was time to head to the Aquatics Centre for the men's 3m springboard diving finals.  Before the competition began, a BBC presenter interviewed two divers who had competed in the previous London Olympic Games -- in 1948! 
Adorable divers from the 1948 Olympic
The gentleman on the right is British, and I did not catch his name, but the gentleman on the left stole the show.  That is Dr. Samuel Lee, a Korean-American from my hometown of Fresno, California.  He was the first Asian-American man to win Olympic gold for the US, and despite experiencing racial discrimination, he went on to become a doctor and a successful diving coach.  He just turned 92 last week!  When asked how Olympic diving has changed since 1948, he replied, "Well, they used to tell me only white guys could dive, but now they say you have to be Chinese!"  Well played, sir.
Slightly better seats this time
The crowd was mostly British, but there was definitely representation for all of the other competitors.  We were surrounded by people from Mexico, Germany, Australia, and China, as well as a handful of other Americans.
The divers march out into the Aquatics Centre
The crowd went wild every time Team GB's Chris Mears took his turn.  At one point the emcee announced that the 15,000 people in the Aquatics Centre were making more noise than the 80,000 people in the Olympic Stadium across the way.
Chris Mears

Sonia and I were rooting for US diver Troy Dumais, as were all the other Americans in attendance.  We did our best to make as much noise as the locals were for Chris Mears.
Troy Dumais

As expected, the Chinese did very well, but it was ultimately a "white guy" who won the gold medal -- Russian diver Ilya Zakharov.  The two Chinese divers had to settle for silver and bronze.
Ilya Zakharov
And our boy Troy came in 5th.  A good effort from all the divers, with some incredibly high scores.  The top 4 divers had over 500 points!
The final standings
The medal ceremony
During the 'Victory Ceremony' they play the theme music from Chariots of Fire, which seems appropriate, but I recently learned they have five different versions that they use at different venues, including a reggae version that they played for the men's Triathlon.  What?!
The winners show off their new bling
For the comfort of the divers and swimmers, they keep the Aquatics Centre heated to 85 degrees, so it was a relief to come out into the cool evening air after the event ended.
The Orbit Tower at twilight
We headed to the mall to check out the London 2012 shop at John Lewis and get something to eat, and spotted a few fun things along the way, including this very sweet portrait of Queen Elizabeth.
Jelly Bean Queen
LEGO Olympic Stadium
LEGO C-3PO roots for Team GB!
As usual, the mall was full of Olympic spectators and competitors sporting their national colors.  Even in the Waitrose supermarket we encountered a group of athletes from Kazakhstan doing some grocery shopping.  Where (and when) else can you rub elbows with Olympians while picking up a quart of milk?

1 comment:

  1. I would love to hear that reggae version of Chariots of Fire! I've enjoyed all your Olympic posts!


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