A quick glance at the calendar this morning and I saw July 23rd. Four years ago on this date, I was already fully entrenched in my London Olympic experience. I had finally figured out the Tube and how to get from our residence to Olympic Park. I also experienced Marks & Spencer for the first time since my childhood (There were a couple of Marks & Spencer stores in Calgary during the late 1980s and early 1990s). The delicious assortment of chocolate goodies and fresh cookies hadn’t changed.
Exploring London after work will always be some of my non-sports highlights of the trip, although sports always somehow did seem to creep into sight-seeing. One night while headed to the Tower Bridge with my friend from Germany, Felix, we noticed a throng of people circling a very, very tall man. I compare it to a scene from Hollywood, where the paparazzi is after the latest shot of the most popular celebrity. Instead, these were tourists, overwhelmed with excitement at being next to the giant. As Felix and I got closer to the mob, we recognized it was Chinese basketball phenom, Yao Ming. At 7′ 6″, he actually had to duck his head, while walking through the Tower Bridge, all the while trying to maneuver through the Beatles-like crowd that was following him.
More exploring took us to Covent Garden in Piccadilly Circus, which reminded me of New York’s Times Square with all the billboard advertisements and the buzz of the crowd. Another night, we headed over the Buckingham Palace. I remember being surprised at how quiet it was. Of course, there was plenty of security, but I figured there would be tourists around. Instead, it was just my friend Felix and I and a quick check of the timestamp on my camera says 10:42 p.m. I remember turning to him and saying, “I wonder what the Queen is doing right now?” as I pointed to Buckingham. Felix’s answer? “She’s probably on Facebook.”
Days at the broadcasting centre were entertaining. One mid-morning, as I walked to our newsroom, I looked over and noticed a familiar face: John McEnroe. The tennis legend was working for NBC as an analyst and I remember thinking to myself how unsuspecting he looked. He was carrying what looked like to be a homemade lunch in a plastic grocery bag and he was dressed in a tracksuit. A few hours later on that same day, a massive group had gathered outside out newsroom. Because our newsroom had glass walls, you could see everything that was going on around us. There was Prince Harry, looking over the facility and taking the tour. It surprised me at how normal it seemed because a year ago Prince William and his wife Catherine were in Calgary as part of their Royal Tour, and the fanfare that surrounded them was something like I’d never seen.
For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a large women’s soccer project with members of the 2012 Canadian team that won bronze in London. They’ve shared some of their memories of the historic tournament with me and as a result, memories of my 30 days in the United Kingdom have come flooding back.
As I wait for the 2016 Olympics to begin, I smile and look back fondly on my time in London. Sports-wise, it changed my career and brought me down a different path I never really imagined. I also saw sights and sounds I had only dreamed of growing up. Whenever I hear “Good Life” by OneRepublic, I’m taken back to the summer of 2012:
Woke up in London yesterday
Found myself in the city near Piccadilly
Don’t really know how I got here
I got some pictures on my phone
New names and numbers that I don’t know
Address to places like Abbey Road
Day turns to night, night turns to whatever we want
We’re young enough to say
Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life
Say oh, got this feeling that you can’t fight
Like this city is on fire tonight
This could really be a good life
A good, good life
What an honour to have been there as a Canadian journalist.