Well, this is it. My final blog post.
After three and a half weeks of living out a dream, my time in England is coming to an end. However, since I haven’t posted a blog in over a week, I still have a lot to write about. So sit back and relax, I’m about to cover a lot of ground in a small space.
On August 4th, I got to go to a U.S. women’s basketball practice. There are a lot of rules and regulations that the media has to follow in a situation like that. We’re allowed into the gym for the last 30 minutes of practice. Usually the players are shooting around or talking with the coach at that point. As soon as the team starts to break up and head to the showers, that’s when the reporters pounce. If there’s one thing that this trip has taught me is that my chosen profession is very predatory. We descend on a good news story like a vulture on a slab of road kill by the side of the road.
On this day, there wasn’t too much media presence. The U.S. women’s team is a dominant force and are in the midst of a 40+ win streak that dates back to 1992, so there wasn’t much doubt about who would win gold. The relative quiet played to my advantage. Me and my fellow OU students got to have personal, face-to-face interviews with several of the players, including the star Candace Parker. It was definitely a surreal experience. These are players that I’ve seen on television and whose names I’ve heard spoken about on ESPN for years. Actually seeing and talking to them in real life was pretty cool.
Let’s fast forward to August 9th, when another milestone in my trip occurred. For the first time, I got to attend a press conference in the Media Press Center in Olympic Park. Other students in my group have gone to press conferences (some even chanced upon Michael Phelps’ final press conference), but it was finally my turn in the rotation. Since it was pretty late into the Games and lot of the events were either done or winding down, I wasn’t expecting too much.
We walked into the main conference room for the IOC conference. For those who don’t know, the IOC is the governing body of the Olympics. They are in charge of everything. The room wasn’t full so we got good seats and set up our recorders and cameras. I looked across the nametags on the table at the front of the room to see who would be in attendance. The big name was Sebastian Coe, the head of the London 2012 bid and Chairman for the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Then another name popped out at me. Gabrielle Douglas.
If you haven’t heard of Gabby Douglas by now, you should have. She’s America’s new sweetheart. And frankly, she deserves it. She’s 16 years old, and she is the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual and team all-around competitions in the same Olympics. She is also the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become individual all-around champion. She’s also pretty darn cute.
She bounced into the room like a bubble and was all toothy smiles and excitement for the duration of the conference. As one of the darlings of the London Games, it was exciting to see her and have the opportunity to ask her questions.
Following the press conference, we went out into the Olympic Park. Now, technically, we didn’t have tickets to get into the Olympic Park, we only had our press passes. It’s a good thing we subscribe to the ‘act like you know what you’re doing so no one questions you’ way of life. We waltzed through the gates and into the Olympic Park unchallenged.
Our first stop was the Coca-Cola Beat Box, which was a pretty cool piece of architecture designed to produce music. As you passed through, you could place your palm on little speakers and create music, or wave your hand in front of it to change the tempo. On the ground floor there was a dance show, where we all got free Cokes.
We walked around for a while and saw the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome, and Park Live, where a giant screen had been set up for thousands of people to watch. We spent most of the day there and were reluctant to leave.
The last thing I want to talk about happened last night. I went to the women’s basketball bronze medal game between Australia and Russia. It was held in the same arena as the gymnastics event I went to before, so it was interesting to see how they had transformed the floor for the basketball game.
I decided to cheer for Australia, because by virtue of being Australian they were automatically ten times cooler than everyone else. I chose right. Australia dominated most of the game, although Russia came back towards the end to keep it interesting. The final score was 83-74, but as usual, it was the atmosphere within the arena that made the game unforgettable.
The Closing Ceremonies are tonight and tomorrow morning I’ll be flying out of Heathrow to go back home to Michigan. These three weeks have seemed alternately both unbearably long and tragically short. My first time visiting England has not been a disappointment and I got to experience things some people only dream about. This was a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’m so happy I got the opportunity.
See you in Rio in 2016.
Fellows, 20, is an Andover High School graduate entering her senior year at Ohio University. This summer, she is among 16 students participating in a unique program to cover the London Olympics through the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.