London 2012 Olympics

Olympic event #5 – rowing

The days are starting to run together at this point. Peter and I are running on very little sleep because we have been staying up late at night stalking the London 2012 website hoping LOCOG has released tickets. The Olympics are exhausting.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning Peter and I found out that some sports are better watched on TV than in person. Rowing is one of those sports.

I need to back up briefly to about a month ago when Peter and I visited the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames to educate ourselves on the sport of rowing. Below are some things I learned at the museum.

  • The 4,700 2012 Olympic medals are held in the vaults of the Tower of London. I have no idea what this fact has to do with rowing but it’s a nice fun fact. Share it with your friends.
  • The Eton Dorney Olympic venue expects 30,000 spectators per day. The grounds and venue will be staffed by 3,500 people.
  • Dorney Lake (referred to as Eton Dorney during the 2012 Olympics) is a purpose-built lake. It is privately owned and financed by Eton College which spent £17 million (~$26.5 million) to build it. It was completed in 2006 after 10 years of construction.
  • Dorney Lake is 7,200 feet (~1.36 miles) long with a minimum water depth of 3.5 m / 11.5 ft.
  • The British rowing team spent the five-and-a-half weeks before the Olympics in training camps abroad.
  • The official British goal for Olympic medals was to win four, including two golds. As we know now, the British teams smashed these targets.

Saturday morning came bright and early. Peter and I arrived at the Royal Windsor Racecourse (currently being used as the drop-off/pick-up hub for Eton Dorney spectators) via bus from the Maidenhead train station. The organization of the bus queues was impressive.

We got off the bus and walked at least a mile to Eton Dorney. It was a very, very long walk. After clearing security, we noticed that we were seated in the same section but not next to one another. I was so angry with myself after we noticed this because I double checked our tickets prior to leaving the CoSport ticket collection office and I somehow missed this error.

We went to Ticket Resolution and they denied re-issuing us two tickets seated next to one another. Their reason?

“There are tickets that were sold prior to the stands being built. We are currently experiencing a high number of spectators who were issued tickets for seats which do not exist. Those tickets are a priority. Come back 30 minutes after the event has started and we may be able to re-issue you tickets at that time”.

What?

Ticket Resolution is a service designed to handle situations like ours, where an error was made by the ticket agent and for other situations like if you suddenly break your leg and need an accessible seat. This is what Ticket Resolution should be handling NOT the situation where LOCOG sold tickets for seats that do not exist.

Oh, LOCOG, the more I have to deal with you, the less I like you.

Having been denied a new set of seats, we went to our individual seats and then got dumped on by gallons upon gallons of rain. It absolutely poured during the first hour of the session. I was miserable. Peter was miserable. Everyone around us was miserable. It was just a miserable time and much more miserable than Olympic tennis. At least our seats at Olympic tennis were, for the most part, covered.

Below was my view of Dorney Lake for the first 45 minutes of the session. Warning: May cause jealously.

How fitting, an umbrella from Wimbledon.

As it turns out, umbrellas are not functional when used in very close proximity to one another. The GIANT golf umbrella (per London 2012 rules, golf umbrellas are not allowed in venues) owned by the people seated to my right was angled in a way where all the water on their umbrella fell right on my lap and I walked around the remainder of the day looking like I had wet myself.

Tired of the seating and rain situation, Peter and I went back to Ticket Resolution. We again requested two seats next to one another and our request was granted. We left Ticket Resolution and decided to stand at the entrance to our section and wait for the storm to pass versus trying to crawl over miserable people with umbrellas.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Below are a couple of photos I took to entertain myself while waiting. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from living in England for a year, it’s that people will take shelter anywhere to escape the rain. On more than one occasion, I’ve used an unused dog poo bag as a hat while walking Dexter, ironically, near Dorney Lake.

After 15 minutes of standing in the rain, Peter and I came to the same crossroad we did at Olympic tennis: Do we stay or do we go? We decided to stay and about five minutes later, the rain stopped and the sun came out!

We slid into our new seats and then experienced a rowing race without a sea of umbrellas and, unfortunately, it was as boring as the rowing races we experienced separately with a sea of umbrellas.

Below is the run down of how one watches a rowing race.

(1) Gun or whistle or whatever goes off to start the race. You can’t hear or see the start of the race because it’s a mile away. Literally. It is at the other end of the lake. The only way you know the race has started is to see it on the big screen TV.

(2) Wait. It takes anywhere from 5-9 minutes for the boats to actually get to the stands. If you are a multi-tasker, you can use this time to go to the restroom, maybe get a beer…

…read the paper…

…stand-up to stay awake/allow the wind to dry your clothes…

…or time how long it takes the rowers to row from the starting point to the stands so you can include it in your blog.

The possibilities are endless.

Two-thirds of the race is out of our eyesight and even when the rowers passed the stands, they were the size of ants, so you have to watch it on the big screen TV to see them clearly.

 

In summary, we will not attend another rowing race, Olympic or otherwise. The only thing that saved the day was that the session was a medal round and Team GB won two gold and one silver and USA won one silver. The video below is of the race that was won by Denmark with Team GB coming in second.

It was very moving to be surrounded by British people as their country won three medals. The energy and excitement of the crowd was intense. I even saw tears running down the cheeks of some people. I’ve never seen Brits so emotional!

We left Eton Dorney immediately after the third and final medal race and got home about an hour later. And then we scored tickets to the following sessions:

  • Men’s beach volleyball (semi-finals)
  • Men’s volleyball (gold/silver final)

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