LONDON – What was the atmosphere like at the Aquatics Centre on Tuesday evening?
The building was jam-packed, the crowd was electric, the noise was consistently loud. And when American Michael Phelps swam the final 50 meters to complete the Americans’ victorious 4×200-meter freestyle relay, the roaring crowd grew louder and louder with each stroke.
The final seconds were an amazing display of emotion from the fans, who knew they were witnessing history being made.
As anyone who has created a film score will tell you, there are times the music needs to reach a crescendo, and it almost seemed that the crowd was on cue with Phelps’ final lap of the race, which earned him his record-breaking 19th Olympic medal.
Watching the greatest Olympian of all time achieve the unfathomable captivated everyone’s attention. There were no distractions, no rush to head out to Olympic Park or one of many live concerts in area locales.
There was nowhere else the thousands in the arena needed/wanted to be.
Phelps was THE STORY on Tuesday evening.
The noise that his record-breaking medal generated, the excitement and decibels, was comparable to what was heard in Glendale, Arizona, after the New York Giants rallied past the New England Patriots to capture Super Bowl XLII. I would say it was, on a slightly smaller scale, but exactly the same per-capita noise; it certainly seemed just as loud.
Tickets were in high demand and media members, too, needed to have a specially issued ticket — in addition to their normal Olympic press pass.
For me, that meant I needed to ask the Japanese Olympic Committee for a ticket.
I did get one, though the seat was in the nosebleed section, far above the action. No worries; the action could be easily followed.
From way up there, I got a true picture of the drama unfolding before my eyes. It was magnificent. Phelps accomplished something that will never be forgotten.
I could not get a pass for the Opening Ceremony.
That brings us to my first tale of Olympian frustration from London: Waiting in line to watch the festivities at Victoria Park in East London with thousands of others, there were mixed messages being sent out from security personnel and people patiently waiting in line.
Free tickets were reserved online for people to watch the Opening Ceremony on a big screen at Victoria Park. But without one, police said, people could get in line.
They didn’t say a second line near the front of a massive crowd of people had tickets available still.
That was after about 90 minutes waiting, with the main line barely moving. To return to the back of the other line was a risky endeavor, with, we were told, no guarantee of enough tickets being available.
Myself and a few new acquaintances from Japan and Taiwan opted to grab a bite at a nearby eatery instead.
And then, I found a lively party at The Crown pub near Victoria Park, which had a big screen in the crowded room.
As a big shock to dozens of customers with no designs on studying geometry or Yiddish grammar in the late-night hours last Friday, staff insisted the pub would observe normal closing hours that night.
An upbeat, downright happy clientele was shown the door at aroud 11:15, while the Parade of Nations had just introduced Mexico to the world.
What a complete disgrace!
Either stay open for the entire Opening Ceremony — there were at least 200 customers in the bar — or close shop before the events begin would be the words of wisdom from anyone with common sense.
A great party had ended prematurely, and it was an unnecessary low point to a fine evening.
Bless their hearts, though, a British group of friends hosted a house party that took place a few blocks away. A crowd, many from The Crown and others, congregated around the outside terrace and watched the Opening Ceremony until the end.