A quick intro & then soccer football!
A year ago after a long drawn out three weeks spent mostly in Belgium, near the end of which I vowed never to spend that long a stretch of time in Europe again, I made the decision to pre-pay rooming costs for 10 days in London during the Olympics. I hoped that by the time this came along, I would have forgotten how boring several weeks abroad can actually be.
Well, sure enough, I forgot it so well that I almost planned out an entire month zipping around europe, culminating in 10 days in London. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the trip was finally whittled down to two weeks because of this new responsibility I have (a job).
I also picked up a traveling partner in the last year, which makes me worried about that single room I pre-paid near Hyde Park, but we’ll survive. This traveling partner instigated a massive acquiring of tickets for multiple events, and lucky for us all that was really left to purchase two months before the games were class A tickets to mostly gold medal matches. So, I bid farewell to my savings account, and here I am.
We kicked off our Olympic experience in Newcastle at St. James’ Park with a double-header of women’s football – Sweden vs Canada, followed by France vs Colombia. We flew right into Newcastle via Paris from New York, left our luggage at the train station and wandered through Newcastle to the iconic stadium.
One thing I must say about the Brits: I am sure glad they won the bid and we did not. They are ridiculously friendly and organized. Leaving the train station, we were presented with two options – to the right would be a 15 minute walk, to the left an 18 minute walk through the City Center. At each point along the way, we were presented with a choice courtesy of another pink sign guiding our way.
Security at St. James’ was quick and courteous. Considering that every aspect of security in NYC is rude and impersonal, I imagine that Olympic security would have been the same way. Security was also less invasive and restrictive than the US Olympic Trials, and I’m sure they wouldn’t dream of making cracks about wearing Brooks, which the Olympic Trials guys just thought was so darn funny. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Because security was so easy, we were at the game way too early. This gave us a chance to explore the stadium, which they allowed us to do freely. See photos below.
The first game we found ourselves situated in the middle of the Canadian fan zone. For the second game, we sat ourselves in the sun off to the side, away from what we expected to be a brawl between the Colombia and France fans.
Lucky for me, my compatriot is a huge football fan, and that includes women’s, so I learned a lot about the sport at the same time. My take on the teams: Canada was more athletic and talented than Sweden, but were seriously outsmarted. Sweden had a much better command of the layout of the field and executed plays. Canada found themselves with one player in the scoring position against multiple swedes with no help far too often. The Colombia vs France game was really France vs the Colombia goalie. She had to have had almost ten saves in the first half, with medical coming out three times. France really should have won that game 10-0. Both teams were more athletic and aggressive than the first two teams, and I’m sure there were a lot of aching bodies that night.
After the games, we spent a couple days puttering around Scotland, and we are now heading on a train into London for a fantastic assortment of events. Next up are a bunch of gold medal rowing events!