Monday, July 30, 2012

On location in London #1

I'm covering the 2012 Summer Olympic Games from July 27 through Aug. 12 in London for the Virgin Islands Daily News. These notebook items and photos were published in the print edition.

Cheers, from London!

All seven of the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympians made it to London on time for an eventful Opening Ceremony on Friday night. One certain sportswriter, however, did not arrive in a timely manner and did not get a ticket to the festivities.

But on my connection flight from New York City to England – which was delayed almost three hours because of a storm over JFK airport – I still managed to mingle with other islanders.

I met a man from Antigua who helps manage and sell yachts all over the Caribbean. He's been to the Rolex Regatta on St. Thomas and then asked what I was going to do while in London.

When I told him I was headed there to cover the Olympic sailors from the USVI, he almost spilled his complimentary wine.

“The Virgin Islands has athletes in the Olympics?” he asked.

Because I wanted to settle down and watch a movie to pass the time, I simply handed him a few editions of the V.I. Daily News that featured the local sailors.

“Those are on the house,” I said before I put on my earphones and tilted my seat back.

He read the articles with intense interest and then tapped me on the shoulder to interrupt my slumber.

“How much are tickets?” he asked.

Empty seats and ticket woes

The British media has exploded in the last two days and criticized Olympic Games organizers for the amount of empty seats that have been evident at major sports like volleyball and swimming.

Premium tickets to the sold out Opening Ceremony on Friday ran as high as $2,708 a pop and more than 65,000 people jammed into Olympic Stadium for the spectacle.

But the finger-pointing has already begun about who is responsible for the vacant sections at the different venues.

Eight percent of all tickets have been given to sponsors while 75 percent have been reserved for the general public. Another 12 percent go to the different National Olympic Committees while a measly five percent get divided up between the International Olympic Committee and the trustworthy media.

IOC officials have promised to correct the problem. So far, the solution has been to ask the idle military security guards to stop looking tough at everyone and have a seat, preferably in the direct view of the television cameras.

Island time, England style

What should have been a 3 1/2-hour bus trip from Weymouth in south England to London for the Opening Ceremony turned into a marathon mission as USVI sailors Cy Thompson and Mimi Roller got an extended tour of the host city.

“I'm not sure the bus drivers know what they're doing,” a frustrated Thompson said. “It's already a long trip and because they were not organized, it added another hour and a half to the trip.”

The sailors eventually made it to London for the Opening Ceremony. Barely. The way back the very next day was the same story.

“The trip back took twice as long – like six and a half hours,” Roller said. “It was sort of an ordeal.”

The USVI sailors start their competition today and they have already reached out to a local safari for a ride.

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