Hughes Olympics blog: Hello from London 2012!
Olympic gold medalist shares her adventures from the 2012 Olympic Summer Games
|Sarah Hughes hangs with the USOC's Patrick Sandusky at USA House. (courtesy of Sarah Hughes)|
Thursday, July 26
Hello from London!! Throughout the upcoming week, I'll be blogging about my Olympic experience for you.
I arrived at the London Heathrow Airport this morning, taking an overnight flight from New York -- and was immediately inundated with Olympic signs upon arrival at Heathrow. There is even an accreditation booth set up between the gate and baggage claim!
Employees and volunteers are all over the airport and train stations, ready and eager to lend a helping hand and answer any questions. This was great for me, since it is my first time in London. Although I've competed in almost a dozen different countries as a skater, I've never skated in England.
Nonetheless, the city -- and citizens -- are beyond enthusiastic about hosting the Games. Loads of media and camera crews lined the main arrival terminal to catch a glimpse of the latest athletes and celebrities arriving.
There was a slight hiccup in my journey to getting to my hotel. The London Express train, which I was taking en route to the hotel, was delayed due to a fire at one of the intermediary stations that runs between the airport and the city. Never a dull moment, eh? However, the city was able to get the situation under control and resumed service quickly. No one was reported to be hurt.
My younger sister Emily is also here in London where she is working for Deloitte. Although based in New York as a business analyst for them, she is on their London Olympics project. Lucky for me, since now we get to stay together and hopefully attend some events together.
I am staying in Trafalgar Square, and one of the first things I saw when I walked out of my hotel was the Olympic Torch Relay. The route was coming right through the square. I got there a bit early, so I was able to get a front-row spot to the action -- and see just how quickly the area swelled with people and excitement -- to see the parade of buses and security in front of and behind the torchbearer. In 2004, I had the pleasure of running with the Olympic Torch on its way to Athens -- via New York City -- so it was cool to see it from the other side.
The big event this evening at the USA House was the "2012 Benefit Gala for Team USA." Olympic gold medalist swimmer Rowdy Gaines emceed the star-studded event, where two-time Olympic champion in fencing, Mariel Zagunis -- who will carry the flag for Team USA in the Opening Ceremony -- was honored in front of a backdrop that featured the names of previous flag bearers. Olympic legends Bob Beamon and Carl Lewis were in attendance to welcome the man of the hour: Muhammad Ali.
It is estimated that 700 people were there to see Ali in person, but neither I nor Emily can attest to that; we missed him by a hair! However, by the time we arrived, there was no shortage of Ali tales. USOC executives, who have seen and met most everybody, were floored by the reaction to Ali's presence. Apparently, it was a sea of camera phones trying to get whatever snapshot they could of one of the greatest fighters -- and most visible athletes -- to ever live. Ali's commitment and service to the Olympic movement knows no bounds. Who can forget the moment he lit the cauldron at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta? Now that was the way to conduct and produce an Opening Ceremony.
I'm looking forward to a great Opening Ceremony on Friday evening and hoping Team USA is able to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" throughout the Games.