I was in San Francisco recently. We went to hang out at Samovar Tea Lounge , where we were going to meet Jesse Jacobs and have a tea tasting session! What an experience! Jesse is the owner of this amazing and very successful venture. :) Luckily for us, he had arranged for us to meet him and Shannon Rowbury at the same time.
Meeting her and hearing about her experience pre and during the Olympics was great! I was away at the time so I had no idea how it had gone, how people felt about it etc. However, I do know that many people I spoke with before I left; felt pessimistic about it all. There were concerns about how the tubes would cope with so many more people, the fear that Olympic Lanes would create more traffic than we endure already, that the airport wouldn’t manage etc.
I hesitated in asking Shannon how she felt about her time in London but I’m so glad I did! Shannon was praising everything. It was smooth after she landed and she didn’t have to wait long. The tubes were fine. The roads were great. Was she really in London?!?
Anyway, she has agreed to answer some questions to tell us more about her experience of Olympics 2012 so read on…
1. Have you been to London before?
I have. Many times actually. I first went to London in 2005, as part of a Duke University Study Abroad program for Theater Studies. I have been in love ever since.
2. Did you have any expectations or knowledge about how it might be here during the Olympics?
I had very high expectations for London. The UK has a strong Olympic and running history, so I knew the fans would be great. London’s public transit system is phenomenal, so I knew that would be great as well!
3. Have you competed in the Olympics before?
Yes. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
4. What was this experience like?
The 2008 Olympics was my first US team, so I was a total newbie. Coupling that with the fact that everything in Beijing was done on such a grand scale made for a pretty overwhelming experience.
5. When you arrived at Heathrow, how was the experience?
I came to London early (July 5) and left late (Sept 19), so I travelled through the regular terminals. I had a little trouble with customs since I didn’t have a Pre-Validation card yet, but otherwise, everything moved so smoothly and so efficiently. With few exceptions, everyone was extremely friendly. Honestly, I was amazed by how well things were run!
6. How was it after you left the airport?
I spend my summers in Teddington, where my agent is based. I love it there because things move a little slower and there are endless places to run. I can walk or run to pretty much everything I need. I’ll take the train into London to see a play or to grab dinner, but on the whole I’m usually pretty busy with training.
When it came to moving to the Olympic Village, things went pretty smoothly. There were a lot of people, especially at the Stratford station, so dealing with my bags was a struggle. Despite the huge crowds, though, things still moved well. Slowly, but well.
The crowds stressed me out a little bit. You can’t really get anywhere quickly at the Olympics, which is tough if you are on a schedule or if your coach says “stay off your feet.” But I always felt safe and I was continually impressed by the level of organization.
7. How was the accommodation which was provided for you?
The apartments in the Olympic Village were great. The beds were hard and there wasn’t much in terms of furniture, but the standard of construction seemed good.
8. What did you do outside of training and competing?
I competed near the end of the Olympics, so I didn’t really get to take part in the post-race festivities. But I did appreciate the fact that there were some fun things in the Village (like an arcade and an outdoor food venue) to keep us occupied.
9. Was it is easy to find information when you needed to go somewhere?
The volunteers were AMAZING! They were extremely kind and helpful.
10. How did you find the public?
Excellent. I didn’t encounter a single rude person. I was so touched by the outpouring of hospitality.
11. What were the staff like in terms of security and safety?
It was very high.
There were about 4-5 security checkpoints just to get into the Olympic Village. It made everything take longer, but it was worth it to feel safe.
12. How was the public transport?
Great. I never waited for more than 5 minutes for a train to arrive, but often the wait would only be 1 minute once I reached the platform.
13. Were there enough food options?
Tons! The dining hall was HUGE! It was a little overwhelming at first. You would think you knew what you were craving, but then everything would look so tempting. The first night I think I ended up with 3 different plates of food. But, since I hate wasting food, I soon perfected my approach…each night I would take a walk around the entire cafeteria to check the meal options before I started filling my plate. The people there were very kind as well. On the night before my 1500m final, the American Grill Chef made me grilled Salmon, since that was my favorite prerace meal.
Wow! Does that sounds good?
How was YOUR experience of the Olympics?