The London Olympics have been going for over a week now. After watching the events on TV for seven days, I finally got a chance to go to the Games myself on Saturday. My tickets were for the Olympics rowing at Eton Dorney, and I couldn’t wait to experience the events firsthand.
I met some friends at Paddington train station at 6:30am for an early train to Slough. From there we traveled by shuttle bus to the Royal Windsor Racecourse, where we walked through the grass to the entrance of the Olympic rowing venue.
We sped through security, where the staff was surprisingly congenial (a far cry from their counterparts at nearby Heathrow). The Olympics volunteers lining the way from the entrance to the stands were equally friendly, encouraging us to cheer for Team GB and wishing us a great day at the regatta.
When we got to the stands, we spent some time walking along the water and waiting in a massive queue for sausages. Everywhere we looked, people were draped in flags and costumes and there was a sense of anticipation in the air.
Before the races began, we took our seats in the grandstand. We were right across from a giant screen that played footage of the week’s races and informational videos about how rowing regattas work.
They must have made a similar video for every Olympic sport, because the video started off with an overview of the “tournament” (wrong terminology for rowing). Still, it was informative for those of us that were novices.
The rowing commenced at 9:40am and didn’t let up until 1:30pm. This being England, the rain commenced at 9:45am and thundered down until around 11am. After that the sun blazed so mightily that by the end of the day I bore a striking resemblance to a certain reindeer we sing about at Christmastime.
But rain or shine, the rowing went on. We saw everything from the women’s single and double skulls to the men’s fours. We were also lucky enough to be there on the final day, when four races produced medal winners.
Team GB won two gold medals—one in the men’s fours and one in the women’s lightweight double skulls—and one silver medal in the men’s lightweight double skulls. A friend of mine competed in the last of these, and it was the highlight of the Olympics for me to see him win a medal.
But I wasn’t just cheering for Team GB. I am American, after all. I was excited to see the USA win bronze in the men’s fours. Additionally, the USA overtook China in both the overall gold medal count and the total medal count that day. All around it was a great day for the countries I love.
When the regatta was over, my friends and I walked back to the Royal Windsor Racecourse and hopped on a ferry to Windsor and Eton. The short ride was beautiful, passing through idyllic fields and alongside beautiful homes.
Once in Windsor, we crossed the bridge to Eton and found ourselves at the King Henry VI pub, where we sat in the beer garden with a huge group of rowers that my friend knew. Sitting with them while enjoying a glass of Pimm’s and a plate of fish and chips was a fitting way to end my day at the London Olympics rowing finals, and a perfect way to celebrate so many victories.