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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics Opening Day - We Were Very Busy

This is my grandson Jack Everhart and his great grandfather Jack Robinson. Jack won a gold medal playing basketball in the 1948 Olympics - played in London 64 years ago. Jack is wearing the Olympic jersey that Uncle Keith gave him. The picture was taken in our backyard during the Lulu's brunch.

Do you remember when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and he quickly picked up a scoop of moon soil and put it in his pocket? This is my safety photo - I took it as soon as we were in the gates.

I am sitting here home alone on Saturday afternoon at 3PM - watching Kate while she is napping and I am reflecting on the great time we had last night at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I have tons of pictures and even more minutes of video that I took as I was overwhelmed by the excitement and the brilliant show. 
In the past I watched all of the Olympics on TV. This time since Lulu was teaching a course for FSU in London - we had the opportunity to see this festival live - and invited family to enjoy it along with us. One of our family is a former Olympian - and this made it even more special.

My grandson is named Jack Everhart. His parents selected Jack for two reasons. One is that Lulu's dad was named Jack. But also - Little Jack Everhart's great grandfather on Robin's side - Jack Robinson won a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics in London - playing basketball. Big Jack is 85 now but in great shape. He is here - and he was a VIP guest last night at the ceremonies. He brought along 7 other members of Robin's family - including her grandmother Charlotte - her mother Charlotte - and her aunt Frances. They are all going to be here for roughly 2 weeks - to enjoy London and the Games. Big Jack Robinson is visiting many of the places he visited back in 1948.

Jack Robinson was an All-American playing for Baylor University. In 1948 - they played in the NCAA national championship game and won a spot on the USA Team. That year the USA Team bulldozed almost every team - except Argentina. In that game Jack scored the last basket. He became a minister and even married Drew and Robin.

At  11 AM - Lulu had a nice brunch for everyone - 15 in all. After that everyone got ready to go to the big show. Lulu - Drew - Keith - and I left the apartment at 4 PM. We took the red line subway east and we were in Olympic Park by 5 PM. The park is tastefully decorated - when the Games are over - they hope this area will become a desirable neighborhood.  

The Olympic Stadium almost sits on an island being almost completely surrounded by a river. The outdoor arena holds 80,000 people - but after the games - the top two thirds will be removed. That will leave a smaller venue that will fit 30,000 people.

The main problem I saw was the placement of toilets and food stands. Because the top two thirds will be removed - they did not put any plumbing up there. Every time you go to the bathroom or get something to eat - it is a long trek down. The walkways and steps were plenty wide and airy - but one wonders what they are going to do with all materials when they tear it down. It seems like such a waste for only two weeks of use. I predict the long hike for food will cut down sales.

They has thousands of volunteers working there - including about 5000 of them in the show. I could not stop thinking about how they had to do the same dance routine for 2 hours while the athletes paraded into the park.

The show included lots of history - special effects - rock music - and fireworks. I will not comment on each portion except to say overall it was brilliant.

If you are an Anglofile - you love the history - humor - music - and pageantry. If not you probably would feel - what is the big deal. 

A fellow last night said - "I do not believe in God - but I believe in people that do." I liked the statement - and feel the same way about the monarchy. I think it is silly and a tremendous waste of money - but I like watching the Brits gush over it all. To hear 80,000 people belt out "Jerusalem" - or "God Save the Queen" - I had to sing along with my own lyrics "My country 'tis of thee - sweet land of liberty - of thee I sing."

When are we going to change our national anthem to something easier to sing - like "America the Beautiful?"

Watching all those athletes march in - and realizing how much work they have done - gave one a feeling of "oneness" and admiration for the whole thing. One might not care about some guy from Cameroon participating in fencing - but for these 2 weeks his life is special. Athletes can go to any event they want.

Jack Robinson is getting to look at the Games from two extremely different views. First - he was a 21 year old All-American on a team of barely 100 Americans staying in a World War II army barracks and trying to find a restaurant that was not serving horsemeat. Now he is an 85 year old great grandfather watching 1000 Americans parade by in the finest clothes - each with a bag of swag - including video cameras - iPods - iPads - and the latest designer toys. In 1948 it was strictly amateur - now in 2012 some athletes make over $20 million a year in salary matched by another $20 million in product endorsements. 

After the show was the big test because it seemed like all 80,000 people stayed until the last firework and the last note that Paul MacCartney - they call him Macca - sang.

The crowd seemed like a long - slow - wide snake moving quietly and peacefully  from the stadium to the train stations. There it split into subway and bullet train. We walked into the very first subway - no waiting - although it was packed. We had to endure 6 stops before we were back in our neighborhood. At some stops people were not happy - the train was already full and they insisted on getting in. This is normal for rush hour over here. Lulu didn't like it - but she stuck it out and we were home in 20 minutes. At 2 AM - we were in the front door - and onto the sofas. Remarkably - the two kids came up from their bedrooms wanting to taste a little afterglow.

I did not see any trouble during the whole night - I did not experience a cross word. In the paper - it said that some cabbies and some bikers were protesting being shut out of the express lanes. The police simply "kettled" the bikers - it reminded me of corralling sheep. They are literally trapped with a net around the group. The courts ruled it legal for controlling unruly crowds. You may re-call that years ago - there was a stampede that crushed 20 soccer fans. They fear of that happening again.

The traffic in our neighborhood is almost ghostly. We just took the kids for a stroller walk for about 3 miles. It was very easy to use the crosswalks. I am convinced a lot of Londoners left the town on a holiday. They would have been smart to rent out their homes because housing fees are at a premium. Miniature hotel rooms are going $250 a night. We were lucky to get this 3000 square foot apartment for $1500 a week.

Right now - Drew and his party are at a show - Keith and Liz (I almost forget to say she arrived this morning) are at the Cycling venue. We have the games on TV - and the kids are playing on the floor. Drew and Robin are taking the kids to Gymnastics on Sunday. 

All tickets are bar-coded and they also have your name printed on them. Every ticket comes with a free transportation pass for that day. You can go anywhere in town with it. A ticket is good for the entire day in that sport. 

Presidential candidate Willard Romney was here and offended many folks by saying he didn't think the Brits were prepared. If this is his way of treating American allies - imagine his remarks to China or Russia. The Brits are calling him the "American Borat." This in itself is incentive enough for me to cheer the Brits have a wonderful Olympics.

There is a giant shopping mall between the train station and the Olympic Park. There is a large variety of food available at reasonable prices. Of course everybody is talking about the giant McDonalds in the Park. There seemed to be a major effort for the helpers to be well-mannered. It will be interesting to see if it can last 2 weeks.

I can't write about Olympics without mentioning my gratitude and admiration of my wife Lulu. She started summer teaching for FSU in London in 2008 - 4 years ago. At that time she said - the Olympics are in London in 2012 - and we are going to be there - will all the family. Thanks to her job she was able to arrange fantastic housing for us and places for everyone to stay. She did a lot of flying in those years building up bonus flyer miles. Although are family has picked up a couple new members - we are all together having the experience of a lifetime. 

 An emotional part of the show for me was where the Industrial Revolution miners came up out of the ground. My Dad was a coal miner for 25 years in Coaldale PA.

This is where the Industrial Revolution was forging the five Olympic rings.

 The USA team marched in near the end - 1000 members strong. They circled the stadium once. All teams were introduced alphabetically- except Greece was first and Great Britain was last. 

This tree served as a backdrop for many scenes and an entrance for many others. The flags from each national were placed there as the teams marched by. 

 While making a trip to the rest room - I stumbled on hundreds of coal miners about to make their entrance.

 Lulu found this shock of Women Suffragettes.

This picture boils down what all Lulu's effort was for this summer.

 The grand finale featured Paul McCartney singing "Hey Jude" and half of my face.

 After the show these World War II nurses were happy to pose with me. Overs 5000 Brits volunteered to be part of the action - but many more volunteered during the Battle of Britain.

Lulu prepared an Opening Day ceremony of her own - brunch for 15.

 We left the house at 4PM - got to the Olympic Stadium at 5PM - and had supper under "Orbit" a lookout tower build by one of the sponsors for free. The show started at 7PM and ending at 1 AM. When it was shown later in the USA - 6 hours was edited down to 3.

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