An Olympics Warm-Up | By Katie Arbuthnot

Throughout the upcoming year, The Wanderer Online will feature several Bears and Pandas varsity student-athletes, as they share their thoughts on competitive sports. You will see on-the-road blogs, pre- and post-game analyses, and much more. Today marks the beginning of these contributions, starting with fifth-year Pandas basketball player, Katie Arbuthnot. At the moment, Katie is in London, England, taking in the Olympics experience. Here is her first post for you!

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A fortnight ago, I was flying over the ice-covered waters of Northern Canada whilst pondering the validity of global warming. Today I am sitting comfortably, lounged in a lazy boy in England. My final destination: London, England, a city that is currently under heavy global scrutiny due to the upcoming Olympic Summer games. My reasons for travelling to the UK are not simply Olympics-centered, however. (It appears that wherever I find myself in the country, I am exposed.)

Obviously, the games extend greatly beyond the athletes and events and reflect deeper themes of global politics and economy, a fact which has revealed itself in the abundance of advertising, merchandise, television coverage and sponsors. And more recently, global defense tactics (see: the missile-covered stadiums in London). Although I am able to identify the many unconscious goings-on at the game, I must admittedly confess that I am an Olympics purest. As an athlete, I completely revel in watching fellow athletes on the biggest stage in sport competing, winning, and displaying a wonderful amount of human spirit. I like to think it brings people from all corners of the globe together, and I like to think that for two weeks every two years, the athletes, coaches and fans can set an example of cooperation and unwavering dedication. Unfortunately, I was not able to take part in the Vancouver Olympics in any other capacity than on my bottom in front of a television, so the prospect of being able to participate in an event I hold in such esteem is incredibly exciting.

So it is my goal to provide you, the reader, with a Canadian perspective of the London Olympics. Giving insight to the culture, the atmosphere, and perhaps even what goes into a mega event such as this. What makes me qualified to do so you ask? I suppose curiosity, and a profound love and respect for sport and its participants. After four years of CIS basketball under my belt, I can respect what goes into a commitment that unquestionably exceeds my own. One important thing to also consider is that each Olympics is molded by the host city. Therefore, I will aim to discover what it is that makes London and the United Kingdom so unique. Why, beyond the obvious historical value, is this place consistently romanticized, and is it the same as is shown through television and film? I doubt it. Hence, what is special about it? I can say from previous experience that England really is a special place – well to me anyway – so, perhaps in articulating it on paper, we can both gain a better understanding.

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 Now that I have spent exactly thirteen glorious days on English soil I have gained a much more comprehensive idea of London 2012. There is no shortage of advertising, for one. There are billboards, magazines, buses, commercials and special television presentations all aimed at product promotion, building “Olympic spirit”, and most importantly, justifying the outrageous overspending of the British Government. One of my favorite things in the build-up to the Games has been the “Official London 2012” shops. Here you can buy your general merchandise of t-shirts, hats, or foam fingers; however, if you are really feeling the Olympic spirit, why not buy a bathrobe? How about a collectible stone? No? Ok… a scooter? What I am trying to say is the incredible amount of irrelevant products they have is astounding!

The scarier thing, I assume, is it all will fly off the shelves, because let’s face it: everyone needs a London 2012 dining set for sophisticated entertaining. Aside from the commercial aspect, there has been a special atmosphere around the land, especially when in London (I am living in Cambridge at the moment, which is removed from the events by about an hour, yet still promoting the games as much as ever). There are many warning signs of high traffic for the tubes, as well as specially-marked lanes for Olympic vehicles only, which has become a designated area of complaint for Londoners. Adding to the Olympic excitement (and/or drama), has been the failure of the G4S security company to provide its contractual number of security personnel, resulting in the use of British Armed Forces for Olympic security. I must say it is rather unnerving walking the streets of London with military men on every corner. It is comparable to some sort if impromptu Marshall Law. Another bump in the Olympic road for the public has been the inconvenience of the London Ticketing website, not only in the elusiveness of tickets in all events and categories, but also complicated delivery stipulations.

Regardless of these minor difficulties, as each day grows closer to the fabled Opening Ceremonies, it seems people are becoming more enthusiastic, even with the inconvenience of pesky tourists such as myself, and the Olympic spirit is striving to alleviate hostility and surround the tiny island in good humor. This is certainly helped by the daily torch relay which has provided endless stories of inspiration from unsung heroes across the country, as well as a giddy squeal when a known celebrity runs across the screen. I myself am very impatiently waiting for the weekend to arrive so that I may bask in the madness of pre-Olympic London, and then dive into the games. The only thing left to do now is practice painting a maple leaf on my face, and indulge in the unnecessary (above-mentioned) merchandising frenzy!

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