London 2012 (08.07.2012) – A Walk (and a Swim, Bike and Run) In the Park

This morning, the men’s triathlon took place in Hyde Park. With today being the first day of my late shift (from 2pm-2am), I decided to take advantage of the time off that I had in the morning and take a walk in Hyde Park and catch some of the triathlon.

As expected, getting out of the nearby Tube stop was tricky since the London Underground system’s workflow was built to have only one way in and one way out. With everyone getting out, it took more than a few minutes to get out of the station.

Once in the park, I walked about 10 minutes south until it was obvious that a triathlon was happening. There were people lining up along the course route and there was still about an hour until the athletes would even jump into the water, which mean at least an hour and a half until the athletes would pass by these spectators on their bikes.

Spectators wait for the triathlon competitors to pass by.

I had two choices. I could either wait where there were fewer crowds and be able to have a clear view of the triathletes when they are on their bike. Or I could keep walking towards larger crowds and have a chance at seeing more of the action.

You know how they say be a leader, not a follower? Yeah, this wasn’t one of those times. I decide to follow others and walk west towards the lake, where the triathlon would begin. It got increasingly crowded as I kept walking. Eventually, I got to the lake and with the competition starting soon, I settled into a spot that was six or eight deep. But I had a view of the Serpentine Lake.

My view of the lake, where the triathlon competitors swam the first leg.

After a bit of a wait, with more people gathering for just a glimpse of the competition, we finally saw the competitors come into view. From my right, you could start to see some boats coming towards us as they followed the athletes in the water. And then you could see the white foam of the water, as little bright green swim caps, which looked like dots from our vantage point, and black arms became visible.

You could hear the crowds start to make noise as the swimmers past by. Of course, I had no idea who these competitors were or who was even in the lead. But we just all stood there and applauded as they came closer, just appreciating the athleticism that was occurring in front of us.

After the competitors swam past where I stood and disappeared from sight, I decided to quickly walk back east so that I could get a decent view of the cycling portion. It wasn’t long until swimmers became cyclists and I was still walking east towards the corner of Hyde Park when the competitors past by on their bikes. Luckily, there were seven laps to the bike portion so they would pass by six more times.

I found a spot by one of the crossing points and this time I had a pretty good view of the competitors to the point where I could see their faces for the split second that they biked past.

After a few more laps, I decide to leave the Park in the hopes of maybe catch the end of the race at a pub. The novelty of seeing an Olympic triathlon in the park wore off a bit considering I didn’t know who the competitors were and how little of the competition I actually got to see. I venture back west, walking along the perimeter of the park.

I was actually looking for the USA House because a lot of my friends were talking about the cool apparel that they had for sale in the gift shop and I still needed to pick up souvenirs for my family. I just happened to stumble upon a large grassy area where they had two big screens set up and a lot of people gathered to watch the race. I decide to give up my search for the USA House and join the mass gathering.

The crowds gathered around two big screens in Hyde Park to watch the end of the race.

I was impressed by how many people there were looking at this one big screen. It reminded me of the crowds at a free concert in Central Park. But instead of holding up posters and signs, they were waving flags. And instead of screaming and shouting, they simply just stood there in silence as the drama unfolded on the screen in front of them.

I didn’t plan to stay long but when I finally found out who was leading, I knew I couldn’t leave. Two British athletes, Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonathan, were among the leaders as the final leg of the triathlon got closer to the finish. If I left, I’d miss out on another unique moment of British pride, regardless of who won.

Unlike the women’s race which featured a tight finish, it became clear who would take a gold. No contest. Watch and listen to the massive Hyde Park crowd as they applaud Alistair Brownlee’s gold medal-winning performance.

Not a bad morning to be in Hyde Park, especially considering that I didn’t have to pay to see any of that Olympic competition.

Watch the full replay of the men’s triathlon here.

Late for Work

Getting to the IBC was a triathlon in itself, which involved the disciplines of walking, taking the tube and then taking the shuttle. Each leg had some sort of obstacle that made getting to work tougher and tougher.

I thought I could beat out all the crowds by leaving Hyde Park right after the race finished and people were still watching the other competitors cross the finish line. The problem was that the nearest Tube station was quite a walk away. I decide to walk back east and get the Picadilly Line train from Knightsbridge and then transfer to the Central Line, which can take me to Stratford and the Olympic Park.

Well, I didn’t beat the crowds and the Knightsbridge station was closed due to overcrowding. So this first leg of my triathlon got extended a little longer. Actually a lot longer. At that point, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the IBC by 2PM so I text my colleagues to let them know. Meanwhile, I still had to find a way of getting there.

I walk further east and after about a half hour, I find Victoria Station. At least it was open. From there, I took the Circle Line train to Liverpool Street, finally starting the second leg of my journey. At Liverpool Street, I was able to transfer to one of the National Rail trains (the London equivalent to MetroNorth) and take it directly to Stratford.

At Stratford, I had to walk again. This time through the busy Westfield shopping centre, where there were tourists and lost visitors everywhere, not to mention tons of security officers trying to direct foot traffic. Once I survive that, I’ve never been so happy to show my credential and get through security, accessing an area that none of the general public had access to. This must be how athletes felt about the media once they got into the Athletes’ Village.

After a short shuttle bus ride, I finally stumble into the IBC and SportsDesk, over an hour late. I may not get a medal for this effort, but at least I made it. And isn’t that what the Olympics are about? Taking part, even though I was late.

Finally Australia’s Night

It’s been a long fortnight for Australia. They fell well short of expectations in the pool. James Magnussen, who was expected to be the big star for Australia, could only come up with a silver individual performance, losing to Nathan Adrian in the 100m freestyle final. The Aussies only garnered one gold medal of the ten they had collected and no Aussie individual claimed the top spot on the podium in the Aquatics Centre for the first time since 1976.

Australia, usually a powerhouse in women’s basketball, was upset by France in overtime, despite this thrilling, buzzer-beating three made by Team Oz in the final seconds from half-court. By the end of Day 9, Australia was behind neighboring rivals New Zealand in the medal tally.

In the final of the women’s 100m hurdles at Olympic Stadium, it would be up to Sally Pearson to finally deliver for the land down under. The Beijing silver medalist came into the final as the fastest qualifier from the semifinal heats. She would face American and reigning Olympic champion Dawn Harper and fellow American Lolo Jones who crashed into the final hurdle in Beijing, falling from first to fourth, just short of the podium.

Watch the full replay of the race here.

If you watch the world feed and the NBC broadcast, you’ll notice that when the results were posted, viewers saw the reaction of Sally Pearson first. However, when we watched the NBC feed live at SportsDesk, we initially saw the reaction of Dawn Harper, who screamed out “No!” when she first found out about the result before conceding and clapping her hands in the air. It’s a shot that many didn’t get to see and the director immediately cut to Pearson’s reaction.

Australians had woken up early to watch the race and finally during these Games, an Australian athlete met the expectations of an entire nation and didn’t disappoint.

Elsewhere on Day 11

– SportsDesk has seen plenty of moments together, from the Phelps-Lochte duels to last night’s thrilling US Women’s Soccer semifinal victory over Canada. The SportsDesk staff gathered again to witness moments of greatness, this time in beach volleyball as the semifinal round occurred this evening. While we were treated to another straight set performance by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings, the entire room got boisterous as we cheered for the other American pair, Jen Kessy and April Ross to upset the reigning world champions from Brazil.

– Someone not from China won gold in diving for the first time in these Olympics.

– Gold for Aly Raisman, as she followed up the bronze that she won in the balance beam final earlier in the afternoon by claiming victory in the floor exercise.

– And finally another Olympic O-Zone piece that I logged and will remain in my memory for quite sometime. This one was produced by Stephanie Himango, who I admire for all her “outside-the-box” pieces. She’s done stories on Harrod’s and the Street Markets and this time she tells the story of the London Philharmonic, responsible for recording all 204 anthems that may play during the medal ceremonies here at the Games. My favorite part of this piece: when Lester Holt jams with composer Philip Sheppard.

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