Finally, after a year of planning and anticipation, for me, the Games have begun! On Wednesday, I attended my first event session, beach volleyball. The venue, located at Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, is surrounded by historic government buildings, including 10 Downing Street, home to the prime minister. The announcer encouraged the 15,000-strong crowd to make our presence known to him throughout the session. I'd like to think we provided at least some distraction for everyone working in the surrounding area!
Leading up to the Games, there had been constant talk about crowds and security and recommendations to be at venues well in advance of the start times, in most cases two hours. I arrived at the entrance with extra time to spare, and was told we'd be allowed to enter 90 minutes prior to the start of the 2:30 session. It gave me a chance to walk over to Buckingham Palace through St. James's Park. It finally hit me how many people are actually visiting London as the crowds at the palace were enormous. London in the summer is always busy, but the Olympics are expected to bring 6 million visitors to a city with a population of more than 8 million.
Security was very smooth, though it did take a fair amount of time to get from the main entrance to my seat. In between, there were various visitor services, several impressive sand sculptures, numerous food choices, including a "Champagne & Seafood" stand, and a British army band gathered in front of statues of "Olympic volleyball heroes," playing everything from "Copacabana" to "Chariots of Fire." They later came in to the venue and played "Thriller" to an enthusiastic crowd.
Although the morning had been cloudy with light rain, the sun came out as if on cue when it was time for the first match, which was a close win for the Russian women over Switzerland. In the second match of the day, a talented duo of Brazilian women handily defeated the Czech Republic.
Throughout the day, the crowd was encouraged to make noise, get up and dance, join a conga line, and do the "wave" by the announcing team, who provided entertainment between matches and during breaks. The second half of the session featured two men's matches, and I was fortunate to see the USA men's number two team, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal, defeat a hard-working team from Latvia. The final match of the day included the Team GB (Great Britain) men, and while they were defeated by Norway, it was fun witnessing the home fans cheering on their team so enthusiastically.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first Olympics experience and am really looking forward to seeing more great athletes in action and more of London!