Join us in welcoming FYA intern Caroline to the FYA stage! We love her, even though we're also INSANELY JEALOUS that she got to go to the Olympics. Like, WHAT! But seriously, we're happy for her. Really.
Hey, I got to go to the Olympics! And it was “totes amazeballs” (hear that, EDF?). After spending hours on the ticketing website over the past two years (yes, two years), I finally ended up with tickets to Beach Volleyball. It wasn’t the gymnastics all-around or 100m finals tickets of my dreams, but hey, there were going to be studly men with great calves, so it wasn’t a total loss. But I admit - I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. A gigantic cluster-F of long security lines and horrific Tube stations, or a magical night of sport and nationalism under the lights? For me, it was definitely the latter.
So here’s a behind the scenes look at the good, the bad and the weird about Horse Guards Parade, the London Olympic Venue for Beach Volleyball.
Firstly, let me give a massive shout out to the London planning committee. It’s my first Olympics, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I had NEVER seen this scale of volunteerism in my entire life. Volunteers were on every street corner, at every Tube station, near every venue to help with directions and questions. And these cotton-candy colored signs around London? Win, 2012, win.
I had heard really good things about Horse Guards Parade, and it seriously did not disappoint. It’s SMACK in the centre of London, with entrances on the Mall (that rhymes with pal, btw, which as an American, I still cannot get behind) and St. James’ Park, surrounded by a ton of gorgeous buildings. It’s like the stadium just appeared up in the middle of a pop-up picture book of London. And the walk there helped to add to the excitement, joining a stream of fans wrapped in their national flags heading from or to the stadium.
PLUS – there was plenty of pre-match excitement once you made it through security. There were SAND SCULPTURES, for one, including this amazing one of the venue itself, and one of the incredibly creepy mascot, Wenlock, who is apparently supposed to be a drop of molten steel from the creation of the Olympic stadium (WHO WRITES THIS STUFF).
And there were GIANT STATUES OF ASSES. Well, they had fronts. But it was crowded there. And we all know Beach Volleyball is about the butt shot.
There was also a Champagne and Seafood stall, because who doesn’t like to have a dozen oysters before a sporting event?
And an important note – this may not be surprising to you Americans, with beer men roaming the aisles at baseball parks, but I was so excited you could bring drinks into the stands. Not just drinks, ENTIRE BOTTLES OF WINE. After lots of English football matches where you have to chug a crappy Budweiser in the 3 minutes before you go back to your seat, this was a refreshing change. I think this rule, combined with our 9pm start time, added to the, shall we say, convivial feel to the evening. There were dancers! And pop music! And men who raked the sand who had their own theme music! And random conga lines led by people dressed in 1920s bathing costumes with straw boating hats!! (I am really sorry I did not have a good enough camera to capture that last one.) I don’t think this happens at all Olympic events, for the record.
But by FAR, the best part of the Olympics was the amazing national pride on display. Amazingly, I got to see two American matches, including Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who kicked tail. There was a great American contingency who had exactly one cheer – U-S-A. But we were not getting much love from that country with which have a “special relationship.” The couple sitting next to me, like about 70% of the mostly British crowd, started out neutral until five minutes into the first set. When the husband starting cheering for the Dutch, his wife lightly hit him, and said, “We are cheering for both teams.” Apparently not everyone’s wives were so persuasive, because most of the crowd was blatently cheering for Team Not-America. Luckily, we Americans are a loud, loud people. The best moment of the night, though, went to Team GB for the roar of the crowd, and the tears in my eyes, when they showed Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon. With the moon rising behind London Eye to my left, and a teeming mass of joy-ridden British to my right, it was pretty much the perfect Olympic evening.