Jonathan is one of 40 students from Ball State University who are in London covering the Olympics. He is chronicling his experiences as student journalist at the Games for USA TODAY College in a weekly post. This is his first entry.
When I arrived in England in June I decided to take a trip to the Wimbledon championships. I remember looking at my watch the moment I got in the queue — 6:33 a.m. I was 1,933th in line.
I thought I knew then how long the British were willing to wait to get into an event, but the Olympic Opening Ceremony produced an entirely new level of respect for what they are willing to do.
This all started as I ventured to Olympic Park planning to write a story on the atmosphere and potentially snag a ticket through a scalper. It was chaotic with security everywhere. As time grew closer to the event, I was pushed farther away. At one point, no one was allowed in the shopping center surrounding the area without a ticket. Getting one wasn’t happening either. The cheapest offer I received was £900, or roughly $1,400.
Leaving slightly discouraged, I walked to Victoria Park for the London Live event, the largest free public viewing in the city. The queue line was a mile and a half for those who didn’t have pre-tickets to get in faster. I was astonished, but for the first time, I truly felt the Olympic spirit. Here was everyone wanting to be a part of something special — no matter how long it took.
I was determined to get in.
I walked up and down the ticketed line asking for spare tickets and eventually found some. After leaving for Olympic Park at 3 p.m., I got into the London Live event at 7:30.
Once inside, it was a complete fervor. A ferris wheel, zip-line, three big screens and plenty of other activities greeted me. As I interviewed various spectators, I met people from Thailand, Jamaica, South Africa and Belgium, to name just a few countries. Everyone was excited, and I could feel my muscles tingle with anticipation.
I found a seat on the lawn in front of the largest screen, right between two groups of people from England. They were excited to show off their country. One even told me he has hated the Olympic Games for seven years (the time since London received the bid), but now that it’s starting he was “over the moon.” Funny he said it that way, because it describes how I felt the entire time watching the Opening Ceremony.
As the Red Arrows flew directly overhead, everyone cheered. It was like being at a major sporting event. I stood up and yelled, “God save the Queen!” with Londoners. I waited anxiously with everyone for James Bond and watched the planes and parachutes in the sky. I cast spells with trash on the ground acting as wands when JK Rowling came on the screen. I danced with locals to The Beatles and Dizzee Rascal. I heard boos for France and laughed alongside everyone when the Queen was shown checking her nails as the Great Britain team came out during the processional. And, of course, I cheered for Team USA. Everything was surreal.
As I started coverage of the Olympic Games with this group, I’ve had spectacular opportunities already. I have been to practices and media events where I met Olympians and gold-medal hopefuls. But I don’t think anything will ever compare to being in London for the Opening Ceremony with all the locals and visitors, talking and interviewing them and hearing about the different cultures. It was one of the best nights I have ever had.
It was worth the wait.
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