“I’ve been to three different summer Olympics,” boasted the salesman as I stood in the store, trying to figure out what camera I was going to buy. He continued, “And I think I have finally discovered how to best describe it to those who have not been as fortunate as I have to actually be there. It is like living in a Bud Light commercial for three weeks.”
I look up from the camera I'm currently testing out and give him a blank stare. I would never have guessed those words to come out of his mouth. But then again, we had just finished talking about how he was also a rugby player. Typical.
That being said, after living in London for the entire summer and being able to see the difference between non-Olympic London and Olympic London, I could not describe it any better than living in a Bud Light commercial. There are cameramen every couple of steps--street corners, major races, and by major city landmarks. You cannot go ten steps without seeing someone in those familiar khaki pants that say "London 2012" on the right leg and those nifty London 2012 purple boat jackets. In line at
the grocery store, I frequently get stuck behind a volunteer buying a million food gift cards for all of the athletes. Every single advertisement has an Olympic athlete on it, or a sign saying how that particular company is a proud sponsor of the Olympics. And advertisements are everywhere. On buses, on bus stations, in the Underground, on the tube itself, everywhere. Each morning, on the back of the free newspaper, is a huge colored ad saying "Congratulations" to whichever British athlete won a gold the previous day, with a huge picture of them and their medal, grinning ear to ear.
You walk into McDonalds. The adult meals now come with a toy--Coca Cola Olympic collectors cups. Without fail, every time you go inside, there is always at least one party with face paint from head to toe. Multiple people are wearing flags (usually in Mickey D's it's American but occasionally you see a British flag or two) and everyone has clearly just come from an Olympic event.
While most of the events take place during the day, the best part to see "Olympic London" is at night. In the couple of study breaks I have allowed myself
over the past three weeks, my favorite thing to do is walk along the Thames at night. Before the Olympics, every 15 minutes Big Ben would ring and the aquarium and the London Eye would do a little light show. Now that the Olympics have started, there is a constant light show on the Thames. Lit up Olympic rings float on the river, and every bridge has lights flashing. People all around are cheering, there are news reporters with teleprompters everywhere, and semi-permanent radio and TV stations have been set up all along the river. There are even more shows than usual, and all the street performers are pulling out their very best skills.
Will and I went to Hyde Park today to see BT Live. British Telecom has set up this huge arena where people can come to watch the Olympics for free on big screens. At first, I was like "hmm I might go to that if I have time". I didn't really think it was worth it seeing as I can watch the Olympics online live from the comfort of my bed while in my PJs (the games are actually played really late here so the rest of the world can watch them at a reasonable hour). To anyone who has not read The Hunger Games,
I don't have a good way of describing it to you. But to those that have, being in that park feels like you are in District 12, watching the Hunger Games. As I was watching the games, I felt like the screen was suddenly going to change at any moment to Katniss and Peeta bolting across the screen. There are huge screens all around the fenced in area, which you have to go through airport security to get into. Each screen is broadcasting a different sport, with preference given to those that have "Team GB" participants. There are a plethora of carnival games and all kinds of food and beer. London was great without the Olympics, but being able to be in a vibrant city during the Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
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