When I told people that we were going to England the last week of July, they automatically assumed that we were headed to the Olympics (shh! can I say that without being McDonald’s?) Well, no, but we were attempting an endurance event, which we believed would start with UK customs. But, through a combination of luck, and the fact that we landed at eight o’clock in the morning, we flew through customs, line and all, in about twenty minutes. It helped that there were forty of us, so by the time we got to Glaswegian Customs Guy, we didn’t even need to say why we were there. So much for olympian levels of queueing.
Out first stop was Coventry, staying at the Hotel Britannia (our experience there being a subject for another post). The place is situated right next to this big open, concrete plaza that was overlooked by a large high-def screen that broadcasted the BBC feed of the events throughout the day and into the night. The volume was such that we could hear it through our open windows at a quarter-second delay from the TV in our room. So, when we switched it on, we heard all the music in a two-part canon, which worked especially well with Emeli Sandé’s “Abide With Me.” It was less effective with anything Lord Coe said.
When the parade of nations started, we threw caution to the wind, and went out (Me, the Wife, and Daughter #1) to watch the screen along with a varied group of a couple of hundred others. There was a little nip in the air which led to a magical feeling in my gut, and a crystalline edge to everything I was seeing around me. We talked about all the tiny countries, and their outfits, and the size of their delegations. The unique part of the evening happened when countries like China, and India appeared. The space was also close to Coventry University, home to large groups of students from places like Russia, and Nigeria, and Jamaica. It was heart-warming to see these kids, so far away from home, cheering on their countrymen. We let out a cry for the US, but it seemed we were the only ones to do so. We hurried back to the relative warmth of the room to watch the rest.
We caught a bunch of the coverage, through the BBC, over the following week. It was great to see sports that NBC never touches: Judo, Cycling, Equestrian, Rowing, simply because there were British athletes in them. I have yet to see any Gymnastics, thankfully. Actually, when we were home in the evenings, our viewing centered around a different kind of game: Panel Shows. These are game shows, but a format that was abandoned in the US many moons ago, save for an import like Who’s Line is it, Anyway. Shows like QI, Have I Got A Bit More News For You, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, are ostensibly game shows, but they’re really just an excuse for smart and funny people to showcase their talents. It’s a brand of television that it would be almost impossible to import. We don’t even have public intellectuals, let alone public intellectual comedians.
Oh, yes, and there were a couple of episodes of Top Gear, which is apparently the most successful BBC show in the world right now. Boy, it was great now to have cable when we returned to the states; everything else would just have been a disappointment.
Needless to say, most of us were much more concerned with that afternoon’s anthem than our country’s national anthem, so when asked by a British person something or other about Team USA, I could only shrug my shoulders.