Today we started off the day with our Fulbright Master’s class with Dr. Uta Balbier. She is a great professor, and her enthusiasm about our course and program is obvious. She is a sports historian, so she knows her stuff when it comes to the Olympics.
After class, we had a bit of a break, so we went and got some groceries. I got bread, peanut butter & jelly, and some fruit, because we’re going to try to make our own breakfasts and lunches and only eat out for dinner. At 2:00, we met up with our student mentors. We have four mentors. They are students at King’s College who are in the American Studies Master’s Program. Only three of the mentors were able to make it today, and they decided to take us into Camden. We went to Camden on the boat trip yesterday, but I was happy for the chance to go back. We pretty much just got dinner there yesterday, but there were all kinds of stores that I had wanted to spend more time exploring.
Camden has a really funky feel to it. Part of it feels like the Canal Street of London, with streets vendors haggling their prices, knockoff designer purses, and a wide array of clothing and jewelry. There are lots of oddities, like a giant rocking chair hanging off the side of one store, a giant pair of Converse sneakers displayed on the side of another, and two giant silver robots on either side of a store called “Cyber Dogs.”
After spending a good amount of time in Camden, it was time to go to Victoria Park, where our teacher Jason suggested that we watch the Opening Ceremony. He told us we’d be able to see the fireworks from there because it is so close to Olympic Park, and he was right! One of our mentors, Kat, took us all the way to Victoria Park, and waited with us in a two hour line (longest line I have ever waited in… ever).
The wait was well worth it, though. Tonight made me come to the full realization that there is no where else in the world I would rather be than right here, right now. It is incredible to think about the immensity of the event that is taking place in the city where I am residing for the next few weeks. I don’t think this all really sunk in until tonight. As we were watching the UK Royal Air Force Red Arrow planes fly across the TV screen (along with billions of other people around the world), we suddenly saw them fly overhead, leaving a red, white, and blue trail in their wake. At the end of the Ceremony, we could see the fireworks shooting into the sky behind the TV screen. It was incredible to think about how close we were to where the action was all taking place.
The event culminated with the entire crowd joining together, singing “Hey Jude.” As the crowd walked out of the park, some jovial man started the song all over again, and everyone immediately joined in. It was obvious everyone was in such high spirits. I am so used to people pushing, shoving, and muttering whenever there are too many people in too small of a space, all trying to get out as quickly as possible. It was really a showing of ‘Olympic Spirit’ to see so many strangers acting in unison, as one connected group of diverse individuals.
That was another thing that was so wonderful about viewing the Ceremony out in a public space. I’ve heard several times since I’ve been here that London is a highly multicultural city, especially now. I heard countless different languages being spoken at the park. Groups of people would stand up and cheer loudly as their country’s representatives were on the big screen. I was surrounded by Brazilians, Venezuelans, Ukrainians, and more. Each group of people was loyal and supportive of their home country, and when Team GB was on the screen, the whole park cheered, in support of the host city that we are all visiting.