Heathrow was not nearly as crowded as we had expected. Grandma Joanne and I whisked right through, thanks to cheerful volunteers in pink London 2012 shirts. Gill (that's Jill), met us at baggage claim and announced it would take 3 ½ hours to drive into London proper, thanks to the "horrible" Olympic traffic. It only took about half that time, and I think she was disappointed. She frowned when she said had never seen Heathrow so clean. Her husband, who is "retired military," is volunteering for the Olympic security, which is massive. "Nothing will happen," Gill said, waving it all off, "They have to do this." There are gates, barricades, British troops, and police officers everywhere around Greenwich Park and the neighborhood adjacent to it where we are staying in Gill's 100-year-old four-story rental townhouse, which is between tenants. Gill decided that her generously proportioned country house would be too long of a commute for us, since many of the roads will be closed except to official vehicles. "The only problem with the house is that there is just one loo," Gill says showing us up the narrow staircase. Grandma Joanne and I share a double bed on the third floor. A flight attendant friend of Karen's and one of the owners of her horse, Mr. Medicott, arrive later today. They will be taking up residence on a pullout couch up in the top-floor study and the spare room across the hall. Gill will sleep on the sofa in the ground floor living room if she stays overnight.
While the area is about to be closed to all but official vehicles, we can walk across nearby Black Heath (a big field in front of Greenwich Park) right to the entrance of the equestrian venue. Karen jogged over shortly after we arrived, following her horse's morning warm-up in the park. She wore riding britches, flowered boot stockings, and neon green running shoes, as well as a U.S. Olympic team polo shirt. She also had a huge Olympic backpack. The gear is clearly designed for 20-year-olds not 50-year-olds. Luckily at 54 Karen is still built like a teenager. The largest ID tag I ever have seen in my life was on a ribbon around her neck, it is about 5 by 7. Karen said she has never seen so much security (and this is her fifth Olympics). There are six guards assigned to the five-person team. (The U.S. eventing delegation includes the coach, Captain Mark Phillips, as well as grooms, vets, massage therapists for the horses, and a farrier.) Karen couldn't stay long, as she said they do not like the athletes to leave the secured area around the park and their hotel. As Grandma Joanne said, "This is the way the world is now, and it is a shame, however it is what it is. Aren't we fortunate just to be here?"