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Other than the intense signage and amount of tourists here, I’ve realized that the Olympics are rather elusive. That is, until you go around any kind of Olympic venue. Last night I went out to Wembley Stadium for a football game: Team Great Britain vs. Brazil. Of course, I had to root for GB. The stadium was crowded, but that was so insignificant. Everyone there was simply thrilled to be at an Olympic game.
Walking up to the stadium, there were Olympic workers everywhere. Each and every one of them were so helpful. One worker even took a picture of my friend and I, and they didn’t seem annoyed if you asked them a question. This was a much different than any stadium I’ve ever been to — normally stadium workers seem like they would rather be anywhere else in the world.
The spirit in Wembley was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was a kind of joyous competition that I’ve never felt in America. It was filled with energy for both teams — the GB fans more reserved and the Brazilian fans with a South American soul that was unmatchable. The crowd would do the wave around the massive stadium about seven or eight times, and every single person would be on their feet.
No one in the stadium was eating or drinking the way they might in an American stadium, and the seats where cushioned and unbelievably comfortable. The seat felt like one of those inflatable cushions you sit on when you hurt your tailbone. Alcohol wasn’t allowed in the stadium other than next to the concession stands, which kept the atmosphere pretty calm — even though generally speaking Europeans tend to handle their alcohol better than Americans.
When GB won the game, the crowd went wild, and even the Brazilians weren’t devastated. I was wearing a GB shirt and a group of Brazilians came up to me and said, “Congratulations!” then asked to take a picture with me. Brazilian drummers were beating drums and girls dancing to the music outside the stadium. They grabbed GB fans and spun them around — the two groups of fans dancing together. It was really touching to see people so happy over sport. Normally, I’m not an advocate of the intense competition that sports create, but this I had nothing against.
The atmosphere extended to the crowd of 70,000 people waiting for the tube. Despite the fact that we were in a crowd that was at a standstill, no one seemed to mind.
Never in my life did I think I’d have the opportunity to go to an Olympic game, but I’m so glad I did. While the spirit you see on TV is infectious, it’s nothing like what exists in an actual Olympic stadium.
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