Cheering on Team GB

Jeremy Brown (’94,’96M) in front of London’s Tower Bridge

“When in Britain, do as the Brits do” has been a big part of the Olympic experience for guest blogger Jeremy Brown (’94,’96M) and his traveling companions, Jennifer Philips Bost (’97), Liz Hadley (’98,’04M) and Jimmy Bost (’97). Soaking up the ambiance of the international city, getting around  to different venues and cheering on Team GB are all wrapped up by lightning fast media coverage. In today’s blog, he describes how England’s media cover the Olympics, an experience that can be “slightly surreal.”

My time here in London is wrapping up and I am heading back stateside for the last week of competition. I have to be honest; I am sad to leave the excitement of the games and to join the rest of the world watching it on the couch. It will be possible to see much more of he results and stories from the comfort of home, courtesy of NBC and my Internet connection. When you are at the games, it is nearly impossible to keep track of all that happens on a daily basis unless you spend all your time online.

I quickly became a fan of the home team, Team GB. Everywhere you go in the city you are reminded of the possibilities for Britain. Billboards, tube ads, radio and tv spots, and even t-shirts showcase those expected to win big in 2012. It was impossible not to become part of the British team and follow their ups and downs with the rest of the people. There is a very healthy newspaper industry still in London, both morning and evening editions. These are found outside every tube station and can easily be found left behind on the tube, a bench or in a pub. The morning editions cover the success the night before, combined with a wish for the glory of that day. The evening versions highlight the day’s triumphs or failures. This news coverage sometimes was slightly surreal. I’ll give you an example:

U.S. opening ceremony flag bearer and fencer Mariel Zagunis competes for bronze.

On Friday we were heading out to the day’s rowing competition, held at Eton Dorney outside London near Windsor. Getting to the venue required time on the tube, the national rail, the Olympic shuttle bus, plus a brisk walk. On the way we picked up the morning paper and read of the near miss of the British rowing team earlier and the hope for success from the British Women’s double sculls team of Grainger and Watkins. The background was particularly of interest since Grainger had previously missed gold in the last two Olympics. We arrived at the venue and shared in cheering the team on to gold with 20,000 other fans. The medals were awarded and the national anthem played. After the competition, we spent some time in the town of Windsor. On the train back to central London, I picked up the Evening Standard and read — in detail — all about the event I had just attended. This included great interviews and photos. Pretty remarkable to hold the news in my hands that was only about three hours past. The newspapers covered it all. I read more than probably healthy about the badminton (pronounced BAD-min-tin in the UK) controversy in the papers and got a thorough daily update on what all the Royals were up to at the games. Then there’s the BBC.

Beach volleyball includes a cast of dancers to entertain the crowd during timeouts and between games.

Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, leads the crowd in cheers at Greenwich for Equestrain.

The BBC (the main news channel on British TV) has multiple channels covering the games. Most of my viewing was in the early morning or late at night. The a.m. shows outlined what to expect for the day and sometimes had guests from the day before. The evening shows brought together seemingly random guests to discuss the events of the day. One panel included Michael Johnson, John McEnroe, and a British Track star, all there to discuss — swimming!  The anchors recap all of the action. If Team GB fell short that segment was replayed over and over and over again. The British seem to enjoy a shared struggle or an unrealized dream. We got a lot of this on the first day when Cavendish failed to win the road race in cycling.

The best part of the BBC coverage was the nightly Team GB medal count. They have giant gold, silver, and bronze medals on the set. Headshots of any medal recipients are slapped onto the medal. If it’s gold they also give a giant dong of Big Ben. Through it all it is obvious the pride and unity the Games bring to London and Britain. Go Team GB!!!

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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