Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Games might be over but I have the Olympic fever !

I know its already been a few days but im sure you are all aware that the Olympic Games are however. I think that the world can say ''thank you'' to Great Britain. These Games have been PERFECT. For sure, there were minor issues with ticketing at the start but it was quickly resolved. From my perspective, as a tourist in London, everything was great. We can give A+ to the LOCOG (London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games); the city was filled with volunteers to assist everyone at any given time, the transportation system was also fine (yes sometimes with minor delays, but that needs to be expected when a city like London, with such a complexe urban infrastructure, is the host to such a big event). We must not forget the show, from the opening to the closing ceremony, everything was just a big party, Great Britain's party. These Games were by Great Britain for Great Britain and the incredible performance delivered by the british athletes only made the celebrations better ! 

The Games are over and you can clearly feel the difference when walking around London. The ''Olympic jet set'' has left and the ''normal'' tourists have returned. This being my second Olympics, I am looking forward to a third experience. Perhaps a winter event (Sotchi) or Rio... I think it is important to mention that when Brazil will be the host country in 2016, it will be the first time ever that the Olympic Games will be held in South America.. so its going to be AMAZING and believe me, they will be ready. 

On my side, I did not attend the closing ceremony but celebrated with friends and also coaching staff of the canadian boxer Mary Spencer. Here is a picture of me with coach Charlie Stewart and the the physio Riccardo.

I must also add that I went to Canada House (located on Trafalgar Square) earlier that day and the Canadian Olympic Committee was celebrating the Women's soccer team for the win of their bronze medal. Christine Sinclair (captain) held a great speech on how hard they've been working to get strong as a team. I hope that the women on this soccer team realize how they've changed the future of soccer in Canada, especially for young women. I was very happy that she was chosen to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremony.

Thank you all for following me during this journey, I hope you enjoyed this blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympic tourist

As you can imagine, the last few days have been very Olympic related. As I am now off work because all the athletes have received their outfits, I have a lot of free time on my hands. As indicated previously, numerous things can be done in London, from shopping to sightseeing, tons of museums, or simply admiring the city by walking around. Also, with the Olympics, there are a lot of events. For instance, in one of the biggest parks (Hyde Park) about 5-6 giant screens have been installed and different competitions can be watched live at all times. This brings, not only a lot of people, but also athletes to keep the crowd entertain. A few days ago, the Tour de France champ and now gold medalist Bradley Wiggins was there. Must I mention that the crowd was EXCITED to see him! 

Being jealous, I decided to go hunting for my own medal. Not only was I able to admire a gold medal at the British Museum but I also found some Olympic rings somewhere on the Thames.

London might be a very big city but that's good in a way because it brings diversity. I mean wouldn't it be boring if a city was big and if everything was the same? Not only does it was different neighborhoods with different styles (for instance Notting Hill vs Camden) but it also has different activities. This being said I went to ''Borough Market'', a wholesale and retail market located in the south part of London. I did not get many pictures of the actual food but it goes from fresh bread/bakery products to paella, empanadas, hamburgers, candies, apple cider, coffees, etc. It was very, very hard to not buy too much..I think im gonna go back..soon.

Big Ben

Because the Olympic experience, wouldnt be complete with more sporting event I decided to get some tickets for women's boxing.  As seen below, ExCel center is where the Boxing, table tennis and weightlifting events have been taking place. This venue is huge and extremely well managed (like everything else must I say).

I was there to see the quarterfinals of the women's fly weight (48-51 kg), women's light weight (57-60 kg) and women's middle weight (69-75 kg). As seen below, the first boxers where from China/Russia. Each round of each session was very interesting and the atmosphere was amazing, especially when Katie Taylor (Ireland) was up against a British boxer. If im not mistaken, I think half of ireland was present to support her in her pursuit.. which obviously helped her since she won.

I was also very lucky because the people seated in back of me were all members of the Team GB boxing staff. I spoke with one of the boxer's coaches and it made me realize that sport can be so great in times of victory but also very cruel. They had a few athletes competing that evening, some won and some lost. The coach was obviously very happy when his athletes would win..but when it went the other way around.. I felt so bad for him. In a way, sport is literally a sacrifice. You can be training for months, years, 6 or 7 days a week and in the end, not only is your faith decided in 4 x 2 minutes rounds but also judged by referees might think that have been unfair in their judgement. In the end, either way, in victory or in defeat, you remain speechless...

Canadian Boxer Mary Spencer who received a wildcard about a week ago lost against a Chinese boxer. This girl was to win, her story, very similar to ''Million Dollar Baby'' predicted she would, at least, get a medal. The British coach even told me he had seen her in a tournament previously and that he had never seen anyone box like her. Unfortunately, Mary didn't box that well that day and lost... Just an other proof that sport can hard and unexpected.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

May the Games begin!

Last few days have been quite busy with Olympic related activities ! The athletes have all received their  outfits before the opening ceremony and I can only say mission accomplished for the outfits !!! The city has really became an ''Olympic'' one, where ever you go, you clearly see that everything is now about the Games. Might it be with athletes walking around the city, Olympic volunteers and employee's and well tourists supporting their nations. Numerous activities in pub's, park's and so on. 

A few days ago I followed the Olympic Torch relay near Wimbledon tennis courts, it was a beautiful day (bright sun and very warm) and I got to see Venus Williams. I must also say that it is very impressive to see the ''team'' and process that takes care of the entire relay. Not only major sponsor's like Coca-Cola, Samsung but also all the security forces involved.

As for the Opening ceremony, I think that it was simple but great! The spectacle must of been amazing from the inside of the stadium. My favorite part was definitely Mr. Bean's performance, I mean come on its Mr Bean !!!!

Now that this is over, the Games have (finally) begun ! Yesterday, I was lucky to get a ticket for some tennis action. On Center Court, I got to see Wozniacki defeat Great Britain's Anne Keothavong in 3 sets. This match was great because all the brits were supporting their athlete and the atmosphere was obviously more than pleasant ! It was my first time at the site of Wimbledon and I must say that not only was I very happy but everything was finally becoming reality. I often watch the Championships on TV, but being there, in person is just like an other dream becoming true, I didnt want to leave :(

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Expect the unexpected

This day, has been, by far the most AMAZING day. I was going to create a post this morning about how I visited Camden town yesterday and bla bla bla BUT today I meant Sam Stosur and that ladies and gentlemen's, changes everything. For the ones who do not know who she is, she is an Australian tennis player (who won the US Open last year) and I have a great admiration for her.

You see, I wasn't expecting this. I was meeting a friend (that I met true a Sam Stosur related forum), we were going for coffee in Putney (area in South west London) and then go for a stroll in the Richmond Park (the biggest park in London) as for once it was sunny in London. Once we got out of the coffee shop, we got on a bus and then BAM my friend saw Simmone Morrow walking on the streets and said ''It's Sim, we have to go talk to her''. Sim is a professional softball player from Australia (she won 3 medals in the Olympics) but she is also Sam Stosur's physical coach. I wasn't really gonna run after Sim, but my friend kinda, really, dragged me along. Once we got to her, we had an extremely nice and long conversation about Sam, tennis, softball, the Olympics, and so on. We got to know that Sam was practising at Wimbledon and Roehampton and that she was going to live in the Olympic village within the next few days, we wished them the best of luck for the Games and that was that. 

As planned, we went for our beautiful walk in Richmond Park, where we saw the Queen's deers and I even got to take a picture with them. It's sad to know that every fall, these deers are hunted and the meat is given to the Queen.. but that's life. Anyway, Richmond Park is amazingly big, in a state of pure nature and I would recommend anyone to go and have a picnic there.

On our way back to Putney, we decided to stop at the Roehampton tennis Club, just to see if there was a possibility to see the tennis players practice. Obviously, we were told that, well, no it was a private club. As soon as we got our answer we turned around and then, there she was Sam Stosur arrived in a car. Her coach was, im assuming going to reserv a court for the next day, as she was staying in the car. We asked if a picture could be take and half a second later we were having a chat with her and getting pictures. Im sorry if all of this sounds ''stalkerish'' but you need to understand that there are only a few athletes that I respect so much. Not only is she, to my eyes, a great tennis women, but I also admire her for who she is as person, laid back, normal (unlike other tennis players who think they are the ''shit''). I must also admit that there is was something special about this day, luck, karma, I dont know what it is but how is it possible to meet both these great athletes, so randomly in one day. None of this was planned and yet again everything was perfectly timed. Anyway, im going to stop rambling about this but its crazy and I think I should go buy a lottery ticket.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Busy Bee

The last few days have been extremely BUSY ! I started working with the Canadian Olympic Committee from Wednesday to Saturday with  8-10 hour shifts everyday. A lot of things needed to be done on the first few days; unpack millions of boxes which contained multiple clothing items to then pack about 600 bags for the athletes and members of the mission team. Now we have set up the dressing room and we are waiting for the athletes to come in next week for their outfitting sessions. The people I work with are pretty cool, they come from around Canada ( few from Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal).

As for the beautiful city of London, the more I walk around, the more I love this city. Its just so AWESOME. London has multiple neighbourhoods and all are so different. Today, I decided to wake up early (to avoid crowds) and go to Notting Hill to see the Portobello Market. Notting Hill first made me think of some rich place (lots of nice cars parked in the streets), yet again, as soon as I started walking deeper in the neighbourhood it made me think of a city like San Francisco, relaxed. So, besides the movie with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill is popular for the market, but also for its nice little terraces, trendy clothing stores and a few ($$) victorian houses.

Next time, I will visit Camden town which is a district known for its alternative culture, numerous music venues and more markets.

Yesterday I went to visit the London Tower Bridge (built in 1886) that is located on the River Thames. Not only has it become an iconic symbol over the years but it is also a very important bridge because it still has its initial functions (combined bascule and suspension bridge). I got lucky, as I walked onto the bridge a boat had to pass under and the bridge had to be opened. Besides the fact that when you walk onto the bridge, you have the impression that you are going to Disney land (because of the colors on the sides), you also feel like your in some movie because its simply so beautiful. I must say I love the Olympic rings in the middle. 

That's pretty much all for today. To finish, here is one of the many adds we see everywhere in the Tube. It shows that thehe city has really been preparing its citizens the the fact that, well, life will not be the same during the Games. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Welcome to London

London, here I am !

I arrived Monday afternoon and had a day to walk around the city as I only start working tomorrow. So far, this city is simply amazing. The people are so kind, polite and good looking (the British accent does also add a little special touch) and this gives you the impression that your not in one of the worlds largest city but in some small random town. I also must say that I enjoy the cosmopolitan side of London, it just makes you feel like everyone is equal and this obviously adds to the peacefulness of the place. For a tourist, London is like winning the jackpot. To start off, not only does the city have over 240 museums but there are also numerous royal and historical attractions like the Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the London Eye,... What ever direction you decided to take, you always end up finding something interesting. Yesterday night I went to visit the Buckingham Palace (you know where the Queen lives). She unfortunately did not invite me for a cup of tea, I think she was already sleeping, but that's ok as I do understand that she runs on a tight schedule. 

This morning I attempted to watch the ''Changing of the Guard'' but it was literally packed with thousands of people so I only watched the first part, which is when the Queen's Life Guard come out of the Horse Guards in Whitehall.

After that, I went looking for water, more specifically the Thames which is a river that flows through the city. There are a few attractions near the Thames but today I only saw two of them like the London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel, the tallest one in Europe) and the Houses of Parliament also named Palace of Westminster with the Big Ben clock Tower (only Brits with authorization can visit it and this by writing to their MP).

Finally, I must admit that the paintings on the ground ''Look right'' or ''Look left'' are pretty damn useful. At first, I thought it was a bit....silly, im sure they save hundreds of lives everyday (trust me). So that was pretty much my tourist life of today. Tomorrow the actual Olympic journey S-T-A-R-T-S and I cant wait to meet my ''team'', hopefully we all get along well and make this moment amazing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 days count down

10 days remaining before my London Olympic experience begins. The Summer Games only start on July 27th, however, the preparation starts well in advance for the Olympians and the different Olympic Committee's and so on. This being said, I simply want to say that I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in one of the biggest international events, if not the biggest. 

Some say this event is all about money and nothing more. Obviously, it is no secret that enormous sums of money, public and private, are involved in these types of events. Worldwide brands like Coca-Cola, Mc Donald's, VISA, Panasonic spend millions, if it is not billions of dollars to be, literally, everywhere. There is obviously some type of issue in regards to the growing importance of sponsorship and the commercialization of the Olympic Games. Nevertheless, I am not here to debate on this.. but remember that without money, you can't do much in life, can you?  

For me, the Games represent so much more; its a moment where thousands of people from different countries are reunited under the Olympic spirit with one goal that is to build a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sports. Pierre de Coubertin wanted to create an opportunity when the sports could be practised without any discrimination. This is the beauty of the Olympic Movement, not only is there equality for everyone, no matter what, but also generally speaking, politics (therefor war) is left outside the arena and unwanted at all cost. Obviously, nothing is perfect and unfortunately it must not be forgotten that the Games represent a huge stage for people or organizations whom are looking for attention. Remembering the 1972 Munich Games where Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes and coaches hostage is not a nice picture. Still, we must not forget that we live in a complex world and that not everything can be ignored, even under the Olympic dream.

Well, that's what its about for today. I will try to post as much as I can in regards to the London 2012 Olympics. I believe that there are certain restrictions imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) concerning what can and cannot be posted online/social media. We shall see how this works out. For those who have Twitter, you can follow me @ajrebel. For the rest, well, sit tight and enjoy the ride !