Day – It’s the Final Countdown!


USA Basketball – story by Mark Purdy – pix by me

Close Ceremonies – story by Elliott Almond – pix by me

“It’s just like saying goodbye at summer camp” Smiley was saying to us as I said goodbye to him at the photo work room for the last time in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium.  I did summer camp when I was little – at first you think everyone is weird – but then you get to meet them and you have an instant connection because you are from the States and then you really bond – and then just when you finally feel comfortable – it’s time to go!  Here is John, center, saying goodbye to Smiley, far left, shortly after I did… (that’s Vernon from the Dallas Morning News, center, Dave Eulitt from the KC Star, right, and the lady in the center is from the Washington Post, but I’m spacing her name right now):

Today was it!  Finally – the last day!  since the Men’s water polo and volleyball teams fizzled out – that left Men’s basketball as the big story for us.  In Beijing both teams were in the gold medal match – that’s when Michael Goulding, Robert Gauthier and I ran from volleyball to water polo to closing!  Today was a bit less strenuous.  A few people went to the marathon in the morning – but I knew closing was at 9 – so it wasn’t worth it for me.

Basketball is at North Greenwich arena now – so took the DLR to Canning Town to the Jubilee tube – one stop to the arena.  Planned it so I arrived at noon – the bronze match started at 11 – so figured i’d miss the crowds.  Was supposed to grab food with Paul and John but John bailed.  So Paul and I decided to eat at the arena – which is normally known as The O2 – which I think is a cellular carrier here.  But there are a bunch of restaurants.  We asked Bruce Chambers to join us, he’s from the Orange County Register – he’s a cool guy who has covered a few Olympics – but wasn’t supposed to cover this one.  Michael Goulding was – but Goulding had some sort of heart health problem and pulled out at the last minute.  Bruce was telling us some cool stories from the ’84 Olympics while eating some decent Japanese food.  Here was the view:

We got down to the court two hours before the game – right after the bronze medal game ended.  We all kinda congregated close to each other – but I saw Wally and I found a spot close behind him and since he usually covers the Lakers (and their many championship runs) then I figured I must be doing okay.  Hanging out, from left to right, Wally, Bruce, Paul and Smiley.

 Normally when we cover basketball games we switch at half time – but it was so busy we just stayed – so everyone figured out that we’d get the USA offense towards us in the second half – plus we all had a good view of the bench.  So at half time we just hung out – went by quickly.  It ended up being a sorta close game.  Our stuff holds our spot before the game – don’t worry someone was always put in charge of watching it if one of us left:

The nice thing about working at a paper is that I get a variety of different sports to cover – whatever our local athletes are doing well in leads our way – or if something is a huge story.  This was my third basketball game (the first two I went on my own and just for the first half of a Men’s game and a first half of a Women’s game).  If you work for the wires you typically have to cover one event for the whole Olympics.  This was Larry Smith’s 72nd basketball game, he works for EPA (European Pressphoto Agency)!!!  And the NBA season starts up in a few months!  Here is the view from my spot – second row on a bench:

The game was pretty good – was kinda close until the fourth quarter.  Post game was a little dicy with a gillion people running around.  After it calmed down here is, from left to right, John, Paul and John Biever (SI) shooting the awards ceremony.

After the game I bolted – I left Paul behind (oops sorry) – I ran out and grabbed the bus – I was the second to last one on, John was already on it – we waved to Smiley and Vernon as we pulled away.  I was sweating bullets cause I was running with all my gear and it was hot and they don’t believe in AC in London for some reason – I guess it’s normally always cool.  I downloaded some disks on the 20 minute ride to the MPC – once we hit the MPC John and I lugged our bags up the stairs – went through security and booked it to the internal Olympic Park bus to the stadium… that one took off only a few minutes after getting there.  Paul, Smiley and Vernon showed up about 20 minute after we got there.  They ended up taking the subway in.

We did a bit of scanning and headed to our spot at 7 (closing started at 9).  Paul and John made it into a packed elevator but I had to take the stairs.  By the time I got up and figured out where I was supposed to be, in photo position ‘C’ Paul had somehow walked to the other side of the stadium.  He eventually made it back.. dropped off his stuff and was nice enough to go and grab us some dinner – got me a meatball sandwich and some pringles.  We ate and edited images…

Pre-closing stuff started around 8:30… Closing was kind a bummer – well it always is kinda anticlimactic – but everything was dark – I mean literally dark – darkly lit – which doesn’t make for good pictures.  I sat next to a really cool lady from London who works in London now but used to work in India too.  She used some local British slang – and was embarrassed by some of the performers representing England – it was funny.  A couple in front of me was from the Bay Area – they wanted me to take their picture for the paper.  I said I’d think about it.  Amazingly, and thankfully, the photo position was not even close to being full.  It was a pretty bad spot – midway up and nearly right behind the Olympic Flame.

Closing lasted over three hours!!!  It was quite painful.  But it did actually go by quickly – it was more like a rock concert than anything – George Michael, Fat Boy Slim, Spice Girls and a bunch of other people.  After it was all over we stayed in our seat and edited for a bit until the crowd cleared out.  Here are the LA Times’ Wally and Robert finishing up:

John packing up his ThinkTank Photo rolling bag:

Right in the middle of editing an announcement came over the speaker that something dangerous happened and everyone needed to leave the building.  We were all like “whatever” but then the photo workroom people said we all had to leave.  So we all started packing up and we were joking that they couldn’t make our final assignment easy – they had to do something to make it difficult.  Then right as we were about to leave another announcement said “disregard the previous message.”  ha.  Paul still editing:

I had to leave at 1:30 – because I had to make sure I made the 2 am DLR train cause it stops running round 2-2:30 and I couldn’t remember which – and didn’t want to find out.  So John and I said our goodbyes to a bunch Yanks still working and headed out to the busses.  Well someone must have complained about how bad it was the other night (when we waited over an hour for a bus to show up) because there were actually THREE busses lined up!  Yea good job!  John had someone take our picture in front of our last bus ride together:):

I’ll be doing one last post tomorrow probably – just a wrap up – thanks for reading if you don’t read the last one!


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