EDITOR’S NOTE: Coleman Bandy, of Joplin, a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is in London for the Olympics. He will be filing a blog from there for the Globe during the games. His blog may be read in the sports section at www.joplinglobe.com.
LONDON — As my train pulled into London just a few days ago, the charged atmosphere was immediately noticeable.
After a flurry of rumors over recent weeks in Great Britain — that available security was insufficient, that everyone from Paul McCartney to the Rolling Stones could make appearances — the pandemonium seems to have died down, and has been replaced with genuine excitement. With the opening ceremony slated for today, the whole city is poised and ready for the festivities to begin.
Upon my arrival, I first visited the main Olympic location in East London, where most events will take place. The Olympic stadium, water polo arena, new mall and various other landmarks line the newly built grounds, which were swarming with tourists and London residents looking to get a peek.
Olympic athletes walk among the common folk. At the mall, I ran into a group of three tall men in Olympic gear taking pictures with mall-goers. I later found out they were British basketball players, one of whom was Robert Archibald, who attended the University of Illinois and played two seasons in the NBA. Seeing athletes on the Olympic grounds has been common so far, although few have been immediately recognizable. Here in London, the sight of so many competitors only furthers the eagerness for today’s opening ceremony.
I quickly got situated in my apartment — my “flat,” as they say. I’m staying with Jim and Jamie, a couple of British 20-somethings who have taken two weeks off work in order to fully enjoy the Olympic experience. I met them through a mutual friend, Brendan, who also is staying in London during the Olympic Games.
While Jim and Jamie will be enjoying Olympic life as 25-year-old Londoners, eager to take off work and attend parties, my stay will be a bit more relaxed. Brendan and I will be attending four events over the next two weeks: tennis, water polo, basketball and beach volleyball. Tickets were not easy to come by; we managed to get them months ago by hovering over our computers, Facebooking each other as we continually refreshed the Olympic website.
Now that the Olympics are finally here, I’ve adopted the same attitude as everyone else living in London: pure excitement. I feel like I’m part of something big. As I toured around the Olympic sites, the scope of it all finally hit me. The best athletes representing hundreds of countries throughout the world are here, promoting a friendly competition that transcends the politicking that usually comes during international events. Most countries in the world have a stake in these 2012 Games. For once in a long while, nations like the U.S. and Great Britain will have something inspirational to focus on rather than wars or economic troubles. “Inspirational” may be an overused word in recounting the Olympics, but it’s hard to think of a truer description.
When the train turned the corner and I caught a glimpse of the Olympic stadium for the first time, my eagerness escalated; the opening ceremony can’t come soon enough. It’s hard to not be influenced by all the excitement here in London. It’s bound to be a great two weeks, for the “serious” Londoners as well as for the casual American tourists like myself.