London Log-In - August 4, 2012
UCLA athletes, coaches, alumni and staff share their experiences at the 2012 Olympics. UCLA Men's Volleyball head coach John Speraw talks about food at the Olympic Village, and UCLA Associate AD Mike Sondheimer discusses the empty seating issues at the venues.
Aug. 4, 2012
After my first post about my interactions with a North Korean boxing coach and the various cultural exposures of the Olympic Village, including the cuisine, I received a number of very nice responses. But my favorite was a direct text from my sister: "So I read your FB post and I know I should be reflecting on how cool the Olympics are, but really I'm thinking 'Wow, you've eaten a lot in the first 24 hours.'" I laughed and told her she should post that response but she continued, "Everyone else was so inspired but the cultural message of your post, I didn't want to be the only shallow person thinking about food."
But food is a common topic around here. We all talk about it, and it's an important component to both the experience in the village and the nutritional impact on our success in competition. So far, the food has been great and, in my opinion, better than Beijing.
The dining hall is huge and has different areas dedicated to various regional cuisine. When you walk in the first option is "The Best of Britain." I usually swing by there first, but I must say, I haven't had much luck. One time I saw an item labled Hershire Pie with Bacon. I decided to ask the server for more information.
Me: "Excuse me, but what is in a Hershire Pie?"
Server: "Uhhh ... Bacon."
Me: I pause waiting for further description.
Server: Nothing but a blank stare.
Me: "Good sales pitch. I'll take it."
It wasn't bad! Except there wasn't any bacon, just chunks of ham.
Today for lunch, I spotted Hebridean Black Faced Mutton Rogan Josh. Again I asked, "What is in this one?" This server was much more helpful. "It's lamb curry," she said.
I took a scoop but had to pass on Toad in the Hole. It was some sort of sausage. Not sure a nondescript sausage is ever worth the risk.
Most of the time I end up over at the Europe, Americas and Mediterranean section. It has everything you need, and much of it healthy ... and plentiful. Every portion that gets served is more appropriate for an athlete. Portion control is tough on the non-athlete. It's easy to put on weight around here.
On the more adventuresome days, we make our way back to India and Asia's Finest or Africa and the Caribbean. And I have to admit, all of us have made a trip or two (or ten) to the massive McDonald's in the back. It usually is a popular late night snack for us. Ronnie is good for a cookie, Gary loves the chocolate chip muffin, AB goes for the fries, and I have been known to crush a filet o' fish. We are not the only ones. Our Brazil match was at 8 pm, so we didn't arrive back at the village for dinner until after 11 pm. The McDonald's was packed and much of the seating in that section filled. It's become the best late night social scene in the village. At least when you are there, you will never have to ask someone to describe a Toad in the Hole.
Aug. 4, 2012
I have several friends who have come back to London and have had difficulty finding seats for Olympic events even though you can see a lot of open seats on television.
I can tell you the same thing has happened at Earl's Court for Indoor Volleyball. This is especially true when the Great Britain men or women are not playing in the venue. The main reason, according to the venue, for the open seats are seats that are allocated for the 24 teams in the competition to come and watch other matches, along with the allocation that goes to the various Olympic Committees and sponsors.
While I know that at other Olympics a lot of the athletes have gone and supported their fellow countrymen and countrywomen, it is much tougher here in London with the way the venues are spread out, combined with traffic concerns. The athletes are not likely to go on the Tube Train to venues, and the bus transportation from the Olympic Village to Earl's Court, for example, is at least a hour. If you are a coach, you don't want your athletes on a bus for two hours coming and going during competition time. This accounts for a lot of the open seats.
NBC has some connections to get a limited number of seats to take care of its sponsors and key personnel. The best thing about being a NBC employee at the Olympics is your Olympic Pass has a code that gets you into any venue to visit. Our staff has been able to attend track & field, swimming & diving, tennis and beach volleyball by getting on the Tube Train and using our passes to get into the venues. NBC passes allow us to sit in the media section that is usually not completely full.
The easiest place to go (if you ever have this pass in future Olympics) is in the television section and sitting where a country isn't competing. For example, if Bulgaria is playing Argentina in volleyball (by the way UCLA's Gonzalo Quiroga's brother is captain of the Argentina men's team), you can find a seat in the Japan or China media section. If those teams play, look into the European section, such as Poland. They are usually great seats to watch the action.
Heading into Saturday's matches, the USA has started unbeaten in both men's and women's volleyball, and Karch Kiraly and John Speraw have gotten a lot of TV time on NBC. I'm trying to find as many UCLA stories as possible connected to volleyball. I gave our announcer Paul Sunderland the Quiroga connection (see above), and he worked it into the NBC broadcast. I'm working on a Hugh McCutcheon being married to former Bruin All-American 'Wiz' Bachman as another reason he is moving to Minnesota to be head coach. Check future broadcasts to see if I accomplish it.
Weather is blistering here for the past two days, with the wind very noticeable when we walk over and walk back, but at least the rain has been limited. The weather has been totally different than when I worked in Sydney, where it was sunny and in the 70's or 80's every day. Regardless, I'm still enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience with just over a week to go.
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