By Chris Lotsbom ’13
After many months of anticipation and excitement, I have finally arrived in London for the Games of the XXX Olympiad! Touching down at Heathrow Airport early yesterday morning, I was ready to embark on a journey that I knew would be amazing.
Despite the five hours of sleep lost and the ruthless jet lag beginning to set in, I was more than eager to explore the new city I would call home for the next 18 days. After going through customs and getting my credential validated, I jumped on the Tube (London’s version of the MBTA) and made my way to my hotel.
Within an hour I was out the door again, this time heading to Wimbledon, where my great friend Emma had invited me to take in a tennis match or two at the famous All England Club. Jumping aboard the media transportation red double-decker bus, I soon was traveling the much talked about Olympic lanes through London’s center. Looking out the windows, I saw amazing architecture that blew my mind — churches, government buildings, banks, statues, etc., rising in beautiful shades of color along the road.
Glaring out the windows, I spotted the River Thames to my left, and shortly thereafter the London Eye, one of the most famous landmarks the city has to offer. Literally seconds later, Parliament and Big Ben appeared in front of me. Four landmarks in the span of one minute seen from the top deck of a double-decker. Nearly half my “to-see” list done in less time than it takes a stop light to change colors!
When I arrived at Wimbledon, I walked around and soaked in the glory of the All England Club. Snapping a few pictures of Centre Court, I was amazed at the storied sporting venue. Nineteen courts, all a lush green — greener grass than Fenway even has to offer.
I checked out the famed Henman Hill and the court where American John Isner played tennis’s longest match in history, then met up with Emma and her mum (the English use mum instead of mom) along with some of her relatives. Soon we made our way into Court One, where Novak Djokovic — the #2-ranked player in the world and 2011 Wimbledon Champion — was taking on Italian Fabio Fognini.
The match was amazing — a classic duel through the first set. Each would throw their weight into the serve and react with a brutal forehand, battling back and forth until one’s shot missed hitting the line by mere millimeters. All was great until the rain came. And when it rains in England, it pours. For hours. Officials were forced to bring the tarp out and delay the match for three-plus hours.
Passing time, Emma and I ventured around the venue looking at the museum-like shops and stopping atop Henman Hill to watch the televised action unfolding on Centre Court. With rain coming down on and off, we continued walking around, stopping in front of a pair of wooden doors that read “The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club” across the top.
As I posed for a picture in front of the doors, Emma took my camera and began to focus. That’s when Roger Federer, the #1 player in the world (and Emma’s secret crush) passed by, followed by a throng of autograph seekers and well wishers. Quite a person to see feet away on your first day in London!
Not only did Emma and I get to see some of the world’s best athletes, I also got to experience a little British culture: trying tea, hot cross buns, and a pasty for the first time. All were very good.
After some time, play resumed on Court One only after a pair of stunning rainbows had crossed the sky and brought some sunshine back over the courts. Soon Djokovic beat Fodnini 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-2.
As an avid sports fan, I always wanted to see the grass courts and visit the most famous tennis venue in the world. I suggest any sports fan do so sometime in his/her life, for it really is an amazing place.
Well that is it for post number two! Work begins tomorrow with a USA Track and Field press conference, trip to the International Broadcast Center and Media Compound, plus much more! Stay tuned!