Postcards From London - 7-28-12

Over the next several days, GoIslanders.com will bring you "Postcards from London," as assistant soccer coach Lauren "Money" Molinaro blogs about her trip to the XXX Olympiad. Here is her first entry, discussing her trip overseas and the events of July 28. 

At 4 a.m. on Thursday, July 27, my trip to the London Olympics begins. I drive to San Antonio, hop a flight to New York, and head on an overnight trip to London. During the process, I lend my cell phone to an Englishman whose flight has been delayed and desperately needs to call his host family, I keep an eye on a single dad's belongings while he brushes his teeth because he slept the night in the Delta terminal, and I swap seats with an 8-year old so she can sit with her aunt during the 6:18 we'll be over the Atlantic Ocean. I wasn't actively trying, but I think I built up enough karma to make it a smooth trip.  

Fortunately, I'm right. Everything goes smoothly, and I arrive at London's Heathrow airport promptly at 7:10 a.m., Saturday, July 28. The excitement and anticipation of this great adventure starts to really hit me as I explain my plans to the customs agent; basketball today, field hockey tomorrow, volleyball Monday, swimming Tuesday, and beach volleyball Wednesday.  

His eyes widen as he says, "Wait, you're going to five events? FIVE? Do you know how lucky you are?" Then he tells me he wishes he were standing in my shoes. I say, "I'm wearing sandals." Just kidding, I thank him for reminding me how lucky I am, and I wish him a happy day.  

A quick coffee, "white", and a cube of sugar, and I'm on my way to catch the Tube, London's version of a subway. Ironically, as I travel the English countryside, I'm surrounded by a group of American students from New Jersey.  Who knew I had to come to all the way to London to chat with people from Jersey?  

But being from the East Coast myself, we remark over how the sights of Metro North are quite different from the cleanly kept, neatly situated row houses lining the Tube. We're all here to see the Olympics. Even the two students just passing through on their way to Kenya are eager to see a swimming event before their 8 p.m. flight.  

The Tube is literally filled with people and baggage, lots of baggage. Well, except I don't have very much because I thought it was a smart idea to travel to London with only a carry on. We'll see how that goes.  

There are so many people headed to the Games it's incredible. I know I have to stop quickly at my friend, Gabe's, in Greenwich before heading to the Olympic Park, but I already feel good vibes in the air. London is buzzing with happy, excited, friendly people. In fact, Londoners are by and large the friendliest people I've met in my 32 years of travel. From the customs agents and the military soldiers to the bus drivers and the men serving fish and chips, their hospitality and genuine desire to help is truly unmatched.  

I reunite with Gabe across from Greenwich Park. A few hugs, an egg sandwich, and about 10 stories about our lives later we hop the train to Stratford. Gabe works with the Olympic Committee assisting the Portuguese speaking nations of Africa and he dresses in official Olympic garb for our ride. "Last stop, Stratford!" echoes the robotic voice coming from the train's speakers and we exit.  

The Olympic Park is bustling with people. It's awesome. There are flags and costumes, people dancing and chanting, and I almost run smack into a man with a spandex American flag suit. If that's not team spirit, I don't know what is! It may have been the best outfit of the day, except I think the British woman who created a "dress" out of small, plastic British flags may have actually taken the cake.

Gabe heads to work, as I head for fun. It's Saturday, and therefore, I'm here to watch basketball. The hike to the basketball stadium is a bit of a marathon in and of itself, but fun. It takes me a good 30 minutes to get there, but there are tons of creatively designed buildings and stadiums along the way to study.  

There is even a rather large, green area with a JumboTron that is playing sports taking place at other venues. It is really cool to see so many different people from all around the world gathered in one spot to celebrate competition. As an athlete my whole life, there is nothing more special, more exciting, more admirable than the Olympics.

Thirty minutes and five conversations with friendly strangers later, I arrive at like cloud-like building where they are housing the basketball contests. I walk in, find my seat, and immediately befriend the two Dutch college students to my left.  I introduce myself, tell them I'm from Corpus Christi, Texas, in the United States, and I even introduce them to Izzy the Islander (as you'll see in one of my pictures.)  

We sit back and watch the stadium fill up with sports fans, and enjoy two great games of women's basketball. Turkey handles Angola quite easily in the 2:30 match, however the 5 p.m. game is a different story. The largely favored United States play Croatia and it is an all-out battle for the first three quarters. On one hand I am happy it is a good game, but on the other hand, as a proud American, I am kind of like, "Um, come on!"  Fortunately, in the fourth quarter, the United States runs away with it and wins by 25, so I am happy.  

I am also really just happy in general that I got to see the United States women's basketball team play live while in London. I was a soccer player at the University of Connecticut when Sue Bird, Swin Cash, and Diana Taurasi were on the UConn women's basketball team. Today, those three players represented the great nation of America in the 2012 Olympics. They fought, they battled, and they won, and in the process they made their family, their friends, their teammates, the UConn community, all of America, and me very proud. It's really cool to see people you know doing big things like representing themselves and their sport so remarkably.

I swear my entry won't be as long tomorrow.

From London 2012 –

It's $$

Go Islanders!