Sunday, August 5, 2012

On location in London #3

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.

Coming up short at Wembley

I was with my friend Scott Hensley, a former USVI swimmer, on Wednesday and we decided to make a quick trip out to historic Wembley Stadium for a football – eh, American soccer match – between South Korea and Gabon.

Where is Gabon? Great question. I still don't really know because we spent most of the afternoon trying to explain to other spectators where the USVI is located.

Scott's friend with their tickets was running late on the tube so we wanted to grab an adult beverage and wait for the beginning of the match. The only place open for miles around was the T.G.I. Friday's across the street.

I am embarrassed to say this but yes, we went inside.

The match started and we asked the bartender to turn on the television so we could at least watch the action. No go, the bartender said. They were not allowed to turn off the U.S. corporate restaurant jargon that ran on a continuous loop. They didn't even have a cable hook-up, he said.

“You're trying to tell me that we're in the shadows of Wembley Stadium, one of the most prolific sports venues in the world, and we can't watch any sports?” Scott asked.

He wanted to leave immediately. I figured we could walk outside and at least listen to the roar of the 90,000 people who had packed the stadium to watch the Gabonese. Or was it the Gabonites? Gabalonians?

The match ended in a uneventful 0-0 draw and we didn't even get a chance to order their world-famous potato skins. For shame.

Lawaetz soaking up his final Games

U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Committee president Hans Lawaetz and I spoke briefly on the phone on Thursday. Strangely enough, we have not crossed paths in London yet.

“Where are you?” he asked. “Russia?”

While I have been hiding out with the Ruskies, Lawaetz has been on an Olympic farewell tour. The long-time USVIOC president announced he will not seek re-election in September so the 2012 Summer Olympics will be his seventh and final Games after more than 40 years of service.

But just like he did in Guadalajara, Mexico for the 2011 Pan American Games – and countless other international events I can only assume – Lawaetz has been on the move.

Aside from showing his unwavering support for the USVI athletes, Lawaetz has already seen tennis star Roger Federer in action and visited with St. Thomas native Megan Hodge and the U.S. women's volleyball team when it took on Brazil.

He also made the 3 1/2-hour drive to Weymouth to support the USVI sailors on Wednesday and put in a stint at the equestrian event on Thursday.

What was on tap for Thursday night?

“Michael Phelps, of course,” said Lawaetz, was the first president of the USVI Swimming Federation. “Track and field starts tomorrow. You better be ready.”

At first, I thought the 75-year-old Crucian was challenging me to a race. I've been training with the Russians so I'm ready for you.

Bring it on, Hans.

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