Triathlon spectators hold their ground in crowds

LONDON — The men’s Triathlon on Tuesday, Aug. .7 drew large crowds specifically for the cycling segment of the race outside of Buckingham Palace. Some spectators went to great lengths to secure their sights on the cyclists.

Cycling Leg
Competitors in the triathlon event on Tuesday raced around Hyde Park during the cycling leg of the race.
Photo by Jillian Felllows

Perry and Jackie Griffis of Peterborough came prepared with a cardboard periscope in an effort to see the event from above the ground level.

“We got this device at the Jubilee,” Perry said. “They were just giving them out for free.”

The two also came prepared with a backup plan.

“There’s the big screen in Hyde Park, so we could just go there and enjoy the atmosphere,” said Jackie.

Others sat on top of the brick barriers surrounding the event. Maria Higginson from Stafford and her two boys ate lunch and watched the cyclists.

“We got up here by pure luck,” said Higginson. “There was a bit of a gap and we climbed up.”

The family arrived at the park during swimming, the first segment of the triathlon.

“It was all very busy still when we got here, but it’s a great showcase for Britain,” she said.

While the Higginsons said they got lucky finding seats, Owen Williams and his family from Wales credited patience.

“We got here about half past 9, ten o’clock to make sure we get a good speck,” said Williams. The family watched from the side of the race closest to Buckingham Palace directly against the barriers, giving them a front row view of the athletes.

The family successfully kept their spot throughout the whole event, but not without tactics.

“I recommend getting there nice and early,” said Williams. “Hold your space, don’t let anybody push you around.”

BT London Live provides unique Olympic experience

Hyde Park— Central London stole the spotlight Tuesday, Aug. 7 as the men’s triathlon tore through Hyde Park’s scenic stage and big screens, making huge strides with spectators in surround sound.

Great Britain fans show their spirit at BT London Live Hyde Park during the men’s triathlon Tuesday, Aug. 7 (Photo by Kaitlynn Grady).

Thousands gathered on the grass to watch the event on five giant television screens situated in the heart of Hyde Park at BT London Live, a free event featuring real-time showings of the games and musical performances.

The all-day celebration allowed fans to trace the race, relish the high-spirited atmosphere and experience the excitement of the games without paying the Olympic Park price.

“We never got tickets for any of the events, so this is the next best thing,” said Andy Carter of Hereford, England.

Going onto its 11th consecutive day, Tuesday’s London Live event was especially packed. After the last competitor zoomed along the outskirts of the park during the biking leg, a massive crowd rushed to London Live to catch the final stretch on screen.

“You could hear the noise echoing all the way down to Marble Arch and Buckingham palace,” Carter said. “Every country from everywhere is here; everyone’s mixing together. Everyone’s shouting.”

Carter, like many, arrived at Hyde Park hours before the competition began to seal a spot along the sidelines. After the bikers passed, he headed to London Live to cheer on Great Britain, he said.

“Seeing the athletes go past was amazing,” Carter said. “Now, we’re hoping to see a little bit on screen. It’s fantastic.”

While some spectators at London Live watched the triathlon on screen, others participated in mimic Olympic games, tasted chocolates inside the Cadbury House, and competed virtually with Olympic athletes in the Great Games Zone.

“We just came here today to watch our sports and check everything out,” said Niamh Richardson of Limerick, Ireland. “It’s a way of passing the time while you’re watching the Olympics.”

Although fans from all over came to enjoy the event, the majority of the crowd waved British flags. Hyde Park echoed with chants and cheers as fans watched Great Britain’s Alistair and Jonny Brownlee take first and third place in the race.

“I’m surprised by how many British people are here,” Al Dahya of Washington, D.C. said. “I thought it was going to be more of an international crowd, but it’s a great group of people and everyone’s having a good time. People are just excited about watching things happen.”

Even though watching the games at London Live isn’t the same as sitting in the stadium, Richardson said the trek to London from her home country was well worth it.

“We’ve been here almost every night to watch the events,” Richardson said.  “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we had to go for it.”

Parents see Olympics as good teaching tool for children

More than five millions fans have flooded into London over the past two weeks to watch the Olympics first-hand, which doesn’t leave much room for the smallest of spectators.

Despite the congestion and claustrophobic crowds, children aren’t getting lost in the Olympic shuffle. In fact, they are enjoying the free events on London streets and in London’s parks along with their parents.

“We’ve done OK,” said father Martin James.

James and his son Reuben lined the triathlon route in Hyde Park on Tuesday afternoon with thousands of other fans to catch a glimpse of the athletes. In order to see the competitors as they cycled past, James lifted Reuben onto his shoulders, an act mirrored by other parents up and down the boulevard.

Two little fans are given a boost so they can watch the triathlon event in Hyde Park on Tuesday afternoon in London.
Photo by Jillian Fellows

“The way we can access [the events] without needing tickets has been not bad at all,” James said. “I think they’ve been very patient with the children. Routes like [the triathlon] we’ve been able to see what we can.”

Dawn Schmidt and her two sons also took advantage of the free events at the Olympics. They journeyed to London from Peterborough for the triathlon.

“I think it’s brilliant, excellent,” Schmidt said. “Very child-friendly. The atmosphere, the cheering, the flags, the sports people, watching it on the television, watching the medal ceremonies, it’s been absolutely brilliant. I didn’t expect it to be as much fun as it was.”

To prepare her four-year-old son Lucas for the triathlon, Schmidt said she briefly explained to him what the event was about.

Dawn Schmidt’s two sons play with their Union Jack flags at the triathlon event in Hyde Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by Jillian Fellows

“I told them about the triathlon, explained to him about what they’d be doing today and who’s who,” Schmidt said. “I think it’s very important. They get enthusiasm for sport and I think it’s a life-changing experience for them at a young age.”

Mother of two Heidi Kitson also introduced her children to the Olympics in simple terms, although she said it’s difficult for young children to get a full understanding of the games.

“My husband and I explained that the best athletes from all the countries in the world — it is really hard for a three-year-old to understand just how many countries there are — come together to challenge each other and see who is the best between them,” she said.

Kitson used the Olympics as a teaching tool for her oldest son, three-year-old Liam.

“I think that the Olympics is a good opportunity to talk about good sportsmanship, working hard to reach your goals, and with how young my children are, it is a great chance to talk about different countries and where they are.”

James also said he saw the educational benefit to the games. He praised broadcasters for giving in-depth explanations about the events to the television audience and is glad his son is getting to experience so many different sports and cultures.

“For children to see all these different events and to see people at the top of their game is just amazing,” James said. “The Olympics try to teach the children about the different kinds of sports and why certain countries are better at some than others. There’s a lot of tourists in London of all nationalities and it’s great to see them cheering on their team in their national colors.”

Not every element of the Olympics is child-friendly, James said. Spectators with young children may want to avoid attending viewings at public screens in the evening.

Martin James and his son Reuben enjoy the triathlon event in Hyde Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by Jillian Fellows

“We went to Hyde Park last Sunday for the 100m final but we left a bit early before Usain Bolt’s race,” James said. “That was around ten in the evening and there were a lot of people drinking and smoking, so that wasn’t very child-friendly. My son said he wasn’t having a good time so we took him home, but generally during the day it’s quite a good atmosphere.”

Even with a bad experience behind him, Reuben enjoyed watching the triathlon from atop his father’s shoulders.

“I think it’s really, really good because it’s always exciting,” he said.

Men’s Triathlon: Recap

For Great Britain, the men’s triathlon was a family affair.  Brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee both walked away from the grueling 54.5 km race with medals.  The triathlon took place on Tuesday afternoon in Hyde Park in London, which hosted all three stages of the event.  The Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5 km swim, a 43 km cycling route, and a 10 km run.  There were 55 athletes from over 30 countries competing, but the Brownlee brothers kept Great Britain atop the podium.  Older brother Alistair won gold with a time of 1.46.25 hrs.  Jonathan came in third with a time of 1.46.56 hrs and Spain’s Javier Gomez came in second with a time of 1.46.36 hrs.