Thursday, August 2, 2012

On location in London #2

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.

What empty seats?

Photographers at the Olympics have kept their heads on a swivel the last two days. After they shoot the action on the court or in the pool, they immediately turn around and shoot the crowds taking in all the action.

Since when have the spectators at sporting events, or lack of, received more attention than the actual athletes? Seems like a streaker's dream.

Two days after the British media exploded with criticism over empty seats at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games – one local newspaper had the lead headline, “Empty Seat Saga Continues” – major sport venues like volleyball and swimming were just about at capacity on Tuesday. I dropped in on both and I thought the British fans came out in numbers.

Olympic organizers said Tuesday that a combined 2.1 million people have attended events in the first three full days of competition. They said 86 percent of ticket holders showed up Saturday, 92 percent Sunday and 88 percent Monday.

I think the local media just needs something else to talk about. As of Tuesday afternoon, the host country had won just four medals – no gold – which is only one more medal than Kazakhstan, which has tasted gold three times already.

Homer goes global

Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of other social media networks have been ablaze since athletes from around the globe arrived in London.

Just like in the States, the people of Europe have also become addicted to their cell phones along with the boundless wonders and incredible roaming charges they provide.

One athlete who has had a strong web presence even before he started his 2012 Olympic campaign is New York City resident Daryl Homer, a men's sabre fencer, who was born on St. Thomas. Check out his Facebook page – he already has more than 5,000 fans.

With such a global connection to other fencers in tact, pictures of newspaper coverage from around the world have flooded into him – via Twitter – over the last 48 hours.

On Sunday, Homer made U.S. fencing history when he advanced to the quarterfinals and finished sixth overall in the men's individual sabre event. Along the way, Homer beat Russia's Aleksei Yakimenko, a three-time consecutive European champion, who entered the Olympics with a No. 2 world ranking.

“I grew up idolizing him,” Homer said. “He’s a great fencer and a very nice person. I think he’s the best fencer in the world right now.”

It was the best finish for a U.S. men's sabre fencer since World War II. They didn't have Facebook back then so I've decided to send him an old-fashioned congratulatory letter through the mail.

Liquid Sunshine

On my way to see U.S. Virgin Islands swimmer Branden Whitehurst compete on a soggy Tuesday morning, I missed the first media bus and had to sit and wait for the next one with a few of the Olympic volunteers at the media bus stop.

Since I arrived, they have been very helpful and have always had a smile on their face. Even when the weather has not cooperated.

“Do you like our liquid sunshine?” one of the happy volunteers asked me as we huddled under a small umbrella during a brief rain shower.

“Oh, it's quite lovely,” I answered in my best British accent.

Before my visit to London, the only 'Liquid Sunshine' I had previously enjoyed was consumed at the Tap Room on St. John. Sunshine in London has been a rarity so far and guess who forgot to pack an umbrella?

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