The Olympics are in full swing in London and the host city is alive with amazing energy, buzz, and pride. Eight days into "The Greatest Show on Earth," USA and China lead in the medal count with 21 and 20 gold medals respectively, Team GB is 4th in the medal count, and Michael Phelps won his 21st Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian in history. It has been an exciting few weeks in London, following the Olympic Torch zigzag through all 32 London boroughs, watching athletes and journalist descend upon this great capital city, and counting down the hours until the Opening Ceremony.
Keenan and I hosted a small viewing party at our flat to kick-off the Olympic festivities. On the menu were Olympic-inspired food and drink events such as "cocktail-sipping," a battle between caipirnha and Pimms; "eating-marathon," featuring Team Mexico vs. Team Italy; "wine-tasting," a battle between reds and wines; "beer-lifting" between the American Budweiser and the Beligian Stella Artois; and "shot-putting" of vodka and more vodka.
It was lovely evening, especially delighted that my San Francisco-based friend was able to make the trip to London as part of her work trip to Dublin, and our couple friend finally moved back to London after a year-long secondment with Google Sao Paolo. I hope you would all agree that Danny Boyle did a fantastic job directing the Opening Ceremony -- highlights were definitely Queenie jumping off the helicopter with no other than James Bond, Mr. Bean's 'solo' piano debut, and the dazzling firework show. To get the "competition" going, we had an Olympic Quiz during the Country Parade, which was fund, followed by a parade of desserts -- chocolate brownies and a marvellous chocolate cake from Del'Aziz courtesy of my friend from San Francisco who is a fantastic baker herself. Incredible Opening Ceremony! Incredible evening with incredible people. Definitely my favorite Olympics yet!
As my friend is quite the foodie, we took her to Borough Market for lunch and then walked along the Southbank where we were greeted by numerous "themed" Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville. Since I now work over my Tower Hill, I see the Olympic rings hang elegantly off the iconic Tower Bridge daily on my to work, but I had yet to see the rings from the Southbank.
We made our way across Tower Bridge to St. Katherine's Dock where we stumbled upon the Denmark's Olympic House outside of Dickens Inn where crowds gathered to watch Men's Cycling. We then made our way to Central London, strolling through Regent's Street whilst admiring the wave of international flags hung so proudly around Piccaddily Circus. Later in the evening, we met up with my friend's friends who also knows Keenan's cousins and childhood friend -- such a small world! These guys were so lucky to snag tickets to the Opening Ceremony and to the Men's Gymnastics Qualifications and proudly showed us some amazing video clips on their Iphones.
My friend and I were also lucky enough to get last minute tickets to see Women's Gymnastic Qualifications at the O2 last Sunday. At the time of booking the tickets, I had no idea who we would see in Sessions 3 & 4, but luck was on our side and we saw Teams GB, USA, China, Russia, Germany, Canada, and France compete for a spot in the Team Final Event and in the Individual All-Around.
My friend and I got amazing seats, just about 9 rows back from the floor in front of the vault and floor exercise mat. We were cheering proudly and waving our red, white, and blue flag for Team USA who were stellar on every apparatus. We even managed to get on the BBC after Jordyn Wieber's stunning vault routine. Our 3 seconds of fame! It was a great event, and especially proud of Team USA for winning GOLD for the Team Event and Gabby Douglas for winning the grand prize of gymnastics, Olympic Gold in the Individual All-Around.
Eight days into the Olympics, public transport seems to be under control. The city does not seem any more or less crowded than any ordinary day. Keenan and I went to work every day this week and our commute was surprisingly a lot easier than expected with elbow room to read on our Ipad. No major hiccups yet, just a few minor delays on the Central Line, but so far so good... for now, that is. We'll see how the city copes now that Athletics is in full swing and some 60,000 spectators are expected at the Olympic Stadium from here on out until the closing ceremony.
On the second week of the Olympics, we look forward to Women's Football (Americans, that would be soccer) Semi-Final at Wembley Stadium on Monday. We'll be watching Japan against France (un)fortunately as Team USA will be playing Canada in the second semi up in Old Trafford in Manchester, but we will indeed be cheering for our beloved Japan, a country that holds a special place in our hearts and in memory of Keenan's Japanese host father. But should we have a redux of last year's Women's World Cup, a match up between Japan and USA in the final, we're on the American side all the way. We'll have to wait and see...
Also, looking forward to Men's Final Basketball next Sunday! Thanks to to another friend, he kindly offered to sell us his tickets only because he managed to get better tickets -- courtside tickets -- for the big game in which USA's "Dream Team" is expected to win. It's been a great week of Olympic excitement so far. Hope everyone back at home is enjoying Olympic Fever as much as we are.
Cheerios from London!