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Heather Lende

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You Can Feel the Energy the Games are About to Begin

Posted: 07/30/2012 2:07 pm

Turns out we didn't have tickets to Friday night's opening ceremony.

Karen was being optimistic when she said she could find some, or maybe she was serious about eBay? The good news is that she's not going, either. None of the equestrian eventers are. If they did, they would have to be dressed in the Ralph Lauren white outfits, which we all agree are awful, by 3:30 today and then wait backstage at the stadium until it's time to parade in, about 11:20. What with all the logistics they figure they wouldn't be in bed until 2:00 AM at the earliest and they begin competing first thing in the morning with the dressage phase -- that's those compulsory movements ("horse dancing" as Steven Colbert says.) The rest of our Karen O'Connor fan club has all arrived and the little row house on Black Heath is full. (Gill slept on the sofa.) Nancy, the United Airlines flight attendant who befriended Karen and her husband David on the way home from the Sydney Olympics and has become a fast friend and follower of the horses, arrived with American flags for all of us.

Gill says she looks just like Pasty on Absolutely Fabulous and Nancy says she hears that a lot when she's in England. Suzanne is also here. She owns part of Karen's horse, Mr. Medicott, who is syndicated. Her family farms fish in Virginia where she also keeps horses and teaches eventing. Suzanne has a thick drawl, and lugged in a duffle bag full of patriotic clothing. When she and Nancy compared their team USA polo shirts she was very pleased that she paid half of what Nancy did for hers. (Which is no doubt why she can afford to own part of a horse.) Gill remains our eager and intrepid tour guide as well as a booster of all things British. Yesterday, while everyone else fought off jet lag, she and I took the train downtown and marched to St. Paul's and climbed the circular stairway to the dome. We are also the only early risers. She is off to buy bacon sandwiches for breakfast now, which she says we must eat, and I have just returned from a morning jog around the perimeter of Greenwich Park, as the whole thing is barricaded off now. A carnival has sprung up on Black Heath overnight, complete with a Ferris wheel and carousels and all kinds of game and food booths. The weather has changed and it is gray and drizzling, which seems to suit London better than the bright sunshine of the last few days. On my run, I got a peak of the horses and riders having what they call a "trot out" through the park fences. This is a final inspection before the games begin to make sure the horses are sound. I happened to arrive just as the Americans were going, and to my eyes they all looked wonderful, but we'll see. I cut across the narrow streets to the Thames and saw the restored Cutty Sark and the Old Royal Naval College.

It is almost surreal to be treading on the same ground that Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I have. Greenwich Park is the oldest royal park in England, and the site of a now gone castle where Henry VIII and Elizabeth were both born. When you think about it, horses have trod this ground since time immemorial. But I can't think about that now, as Gill has just returned with the food, "It is all so exciting," she says. "They've got a massive screen up in the park opposite the pub to view the opening ceremony on." She says we'll watch it from there and that it will better than the stadium. "I'll bring a chair for Joanne and a large blanket for all of us to sit on. It will be brilliant, won't it?"

 
 
 
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