Thursday, February 7, 2013

2012 Catchup: London 2012 - Day 1 Part 2


Where I last left off on my story, I just arrived in London and headed straight to Olympic Park (which this summer will reopen as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park)...At this time, I still haven't had a real meal yet, so I went straight to the one temporary site that didn't require a ticket, the world's largest McDonald's (which has since been disassembled and recycled)...
Now there were three of these if I recall, but this one had a good view of Olympic Stadium...Now some pictures of the interior of this two-story restaurant (by the way, there were tons of other options for food, but with only two days in Olympic Park and a desire to get a ton of souvenirs for friends and family back home, I had to limit my eating/snacking)...


When I showed up, there wasn't a line leading out the door, but it did pick up after I finished my lunch.


Signs inside the restaurant informed you of their commitment to the environment.  There was also a rack near the service counter with brochures about how the UK McDonald's trains their staff and selected the best from around the country to work at the Olympics.






So many registers to serve you.  If only I thought to take a picture of the menu, though I guess I didn't notice anything too exciting that was unique to the UK, unlike Fish McDippers I had in Japan many years ago.




I didn't understand the purpose of the express lane as the menu was not shortened for faster service, and it looked like it wasn't restricted to people who were working at the games such as the wonderful volunteers, security, etc...




Now my regular sized Big Mac meal seemed a little smaller than what I was used to, but I was too hungry to think about size, and the soft drinks were not self-serve.  I have to check out a regular McDonald's outside in London whether lack of self serve fountain drinks was common.  It was also neat to chat with a local who was also eating by himself to get a feel for the place.  A common thing I would hear during the week was how annoyed they were that Olympic soccer was an under-23 tournament which kept many professional players out.


The view from this location, where you can see Olympic Stadium and the Orbit...

Now before I went to my first event, I wanted to pick up souvenirs as I knew I would be too tired to buy stuff after the evening (field) hockey session I had tickets for.  The Olympic MegaStore pretty much had every possible souvenir you could imagine, from flags to umbrellas to pins to magnets to autographed pictures of the best of Team GB.  I definitely have to remember that they only accept Visa and carry cash.  It got really noisy while I was shopping when they announced over the store PA that Bradley Wiggins (of Team GB) won his event.

Like with lunch, the store got really crowded when I left the building...


After picking up what would later be considered just a start in buying souvenirs, I took a little break before heading for the first of four events I had tickets for during the week.  I couldn't afford to do a lot of events without sacrificing London sightseeing, and I wanted to really see something I've never seen before, so I picked events that didn't get much hype back home and forced me to go to different venues in Olympic Park and around/outside London.

My first sport was (field) hockey.  The session was two mens' matches, both held at the Riverbank Arena.


Now when waiting for the gates to the bleachers to open, the volunteers were great at getting the people excited, though it seemed very clear early on I would be the only American in the crowd.

The first match was Great Britain vs. Australia.  When play started, I definitely learned quickly that this sport is much different than what I played on the blacktop in middle school...


The sticks are much shorter than I remember, and the special turf allows the ball the move faster and allows players to slide...



It was nice to see that Team GB had their own pep band (and it was a good thing I also brought the ultrazoom camera to capture them...).


However, the band's catalog seemed to be limited only to short cheers, not full songs.  But it was awesome nonetheless.

Now the game ended in a tie, GB-3, Australia-3.

The fun thing about getting a ticket to a team sport event was that you got admission to two matches.  So while waiting for the next match, Argentina vs. Spain, a lot of the British fans left, but I did get to talking to a local family where every member seemed to play the sport.  I also learned quickly that people did come in costume, though initially I though they were supporting another country...


The mother of the family called out Wally...it took me a bit to figure out that Where's Waldo in the U.S. is the same as Where's Wally in the UK...

Now most of the spectators from the first match only stayed to see their home team play, but there were a couple fans for the teams of the second match...





Unfortunately, the match wasn't as good as the GBR vs. AUS match.  It seemed like the announcers wanted to get halftime started quickly so they could show Usain Bolt win the mens 100m on the scoreboard.




After halftime, I decided to leave what decidedly was a less exciting match than the first one (final score Argentina 1, Spain 3).  It was also starting to get cold.  Upon leaving the arena, I took a pic of the Coca-Cola Beatbox, which I made a must-see for the second and final day at Olympic Park...


And to celebrate Bolt's win, I also asked someone to take a special pic for me...


Though I left before the end of the match, getting out of Olympic Park in the evening would prove to be problematic...



Fortunately, I was only two stops away on the tube to my hotel.  My dinner consisted of fried chicken I picked up along the way and ate in my hotel room before getting some much needed sleep, which would be only a few hours as I had a morning handball session the next day...














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