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Hughes Olympics blog: Welcome to USA House!

Olympic gold medalist shares her adventures from the 2012 Olympic Summer Games

Sarah Hughes (right) smiles with sister Emily (left) and Olympic gold medalist gymnast, Nastia Liukin, in London.
Sarah Hughes (right) smiles with sister Emily (left) and Olympic gold medalist gymnast, Nastia Liukin, in London. (courtesy of Sarah Hughes)

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By Sarah Hughes, special to icenetwork.com
(07/29/2012) - No stranger to the Olympics, Sarah Hughes is in London to chronicle the 2012 Olympic Summer Games for icenetwork.com.

Saturday, July 28

My youngest sister, Taylor, arrived this morning, so now there are three Hughes girls in London. This is her second Summer Olympics -- In 2004 she came to Athens, where she says she "had a lot of fun." Taylor is a rising senior at Tulane University in New Orleans, La. She had good timing coming in today since the USA House hosted a "Spirit of the Gulf Celebration" with live music by Homemade Jamz Blues Band Saturday night from 9:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m.

The USA House is where many of the athletes, families, sponsors and Olympians (current and former) hang out. Big screen televisions, food, bars, couches, computers and games (such as foosball) spread over a spacious three floors give the House a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere. The company the USA House attracts and the environment it offers make it the perfect junction to encourage and foster team spirit and camaraderie while not missing a beat of action in the Games.

For this Olympics, the USA House is located at the Royal College of Art, which is directly across from the Royal Albert Hall, so there is an aristocratic, artsy feel to the area.

For Saturday night's event, BP, a USOC sponsor, flew in seafood from the Gulf -- and American chefs -- to serve their specialties. The menu featured items such as "Southern BBQ Shrimp with Smoked Sausage, Green Onion and Goat Cheese Grits" and "Grouper Jubilee." Since Taylor spends most of her time in New Orleans now, she often eats seafood from the Gulf and served as our expert taste-tester.

The USA House has a family vibe. The night before the Opening Ceremony, one of the USOC employees was on the rooftop (which features waterproof televisions so you can still cheer on Team USA outside if it's drizzling) with his 8 1/2-month-old baby.

The second baby I saw belonged to someone in the skating family. I ran into this adorable little man as I was perusing the two-story Team USA Store that's attached to the Team USA House. That baby belonged to none other than Tiffany Scott. Scott, who competed in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games with me, is here as a college professor. After taking a class on the history of the Olympic Games at the University of Delaware when she was a student, the school offered her a spot to be a teaching assistant on a study abroad version of the class during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Scott excelled in the position and enjoyed her time in Beijing. The class was such a success, she is here in London for a month teaching it again. As part of her job, she's also attending the Games and staying in a dorm at the University of London.

"They asked me to go with the study abroad program to this year's London Olympics and teach the class," she said. "It's about 30 students. We have 2 1/2 weeks that's spent in a classroom and then the rest going to Olympic events."

Along with the class time, they found time for excursions outside the city, such as a trip to North Devon, which is about 2 1/2 hours from central London.

"We saw Big Ben and other sites," she said, "but we were able to do different types of things in North Devon. The kids went surfing, took a high ropes course, did a 12-mile bike ride, and were able to play cricket and skittles (a sport similar to bowling). We're learning a lot about the culture here. We've been doing so much."

Logan, her 4-month-old son, has been along for the entire journey.

"Logan even went biking with us," Scott said, laughing.

Scott's mother came along for the month-long trip and has been helping. As Logan slept in a cute Olympic-themed onesie during an evening at the USA House, Scott, her mom and I had a chance to catch up on our lives. Seeing friends such as Tiffany and her mom is one of the things I love most about being an Olympian and coming back to the Games.

By the way, Taylor gave the food at the USA House a big thumbs up. This is the fourth USA House she's been to -- the others were in Salt Lake City (2002), Athens (2004) and Torino (2006).

"I liked the shrimp," she said, "but I liked the people serving it to me even better."

Before dinner, Taylor, Emily and I went to Wimbledon and watched the tennis. Tennis is one of my favorite sports and, in addition to walking around the grounds, we were able to cheer on some of the Americans competing. Andy Roddick and John Isner lost their doubles match, but the Bryan brothers -- who are the reigning Olympic bronze medalists -- won their match to advance to the next round. Go Team USA!

I'll be posting more updates from London soon, so be sure to check back!

If you have anything you'd like to know about, tweet or Facebook me, and I'll do my best to cover it.