London Olympics: A Report

August 7, 2012

Oh my goodness! It was a quick trip, but so worth it. Here’s a little report on our trip to the Olympics in London accompanied by images from my Instagram stream. Note: we didn’t even have tickets to any events. Hah!

We drove in to the city Sunday morning. We looked into taking the train, but decided to drive instead and it was clear roads the whole way. We parked in a little parking garage at Thomas More Square, which is a short walk from The Tower Bridge. The parking lot was almost empty because it was a Sunday morning. Easy!

We walked to the river, emerged between two buildings and the first great view of the city was the Tower Bridge with the Olympic rings in all their glory! We gasped and cheered. What a sight!!!

Next, we walked toward the Tower of London hoping to get a glimpse of the women’s marathon. The turnaround point was right at the Tower. By the time we arrived, the marathon had been going for about an hour.

The kids climbed on our shoulders, and even on barricades so they could get a view of the runners. We could get really close! Between the 2nd and 3rd loop, the kids played on a playground nearby, then joined the crowd when they were ready to watch again.

These 2 were top finishers on their 3rd loop. Gold (in green) and Bronze medals. They were full out running. Not “jogging” even a little bit. Dang, they are super strong!

After the marathoners ran by for the last time, we went to the House of Nations event on the grounds of the Tower of London. The kids were able to hold the real Olympic torch! At least, we were told it was the real thing. Do you think it really is?

And they played giant checkers on the lawn with the Tower of London in the background. Awesome!

Next we stopped for ice cream and picked up tickets for the Thames Clipper — a ferry that would take use down to Westminster Abbey. This awesome, HUGE (as in 8 or 10 stories high) poster was on the river. Made me happy. Everyone looks so young.

We waved at the London Eye and Big Ben after the ferry ride, then walked to Trafalgar square to say hello to the lions.

The whole area was completely car free because of the marathon. Pedestrian heaven! And such an unusual thing to see in busy London.

Next, we picked up Olympic souvenirs on Regent Street (with a quick stop at Hamleys too — how could we resist with 6 kids in tow?), then took 2 black cabs to Hyde Park. We were dropped off at Speakers Corner. On Sundays, Londoners can stand on a milk crate and speak their mind to the crowd. The man we heard was not too happy. He had strong opinions on Americans, Christians and the State of Israel. We just grinned. : )

Hyde park was open to the public with huge screens for viewing events. We watched weight-lifting and tennis and grabbed an early dinner from one of the many booths. It was festive and fun with people picnic-ing and waving flags everywhere you looked.

After that, we started making our way back to the van, but we stopped in Piccadilly Circus to watch another huge screen. We saw Usain Bolt run his semi-final for the 100 meters. The whole intersection fell silent for those 10 seconds and then absolutely exploded with cheers. Sweet June was asleep in my arms and woke up with the hoorays. We loved being part of it!

From there, it was 2 black cabs back to Thomas More Square, where we hopped in the van and made it back to the motel just in time to see the 100 meter final on the  TV. Hooray! Maude said, “I love that the whole world holds still for those 10 seconds.” That’s what it felt like to me too.

Did you watch the final? Track and field is always my favorite part of the Olympics — most likely because I ran track in high school (sprints and long jump).

As I mentioned, we didn’t even have tickets for any events. We tried, but we couldn’t find enough for the whole family, and we weren’t in the mood to split up. But even so, it really was an amazing day! We were able to soak up the Olympic energy, cheer with the crowds, root for Team USA, and enjoy seeing the locals go crazy for Team GB. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.

How about you? Have you been watching the Olympics? Would you ever want to attend, or do you shy away from events involving big crowds?

P.S. — We stayed at a funny little roadside motel in Maidstone, about 45 minutes outside of London, but we heard later that great rooms, right in the center of the city are still available and can be scored on last minute sites like Hotwire. We didn’t even try, assuming they would all be sold out. Oh well!

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andreina August 7, 2012 at 8:38 am

ja, and I think that in my house are many, beautiful …

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2 Kristina @ Sarcire August 7, 2012 at 8:46 am

What an amazing experience! My husband and I were planning to have our babymoon in London this summer but we decided that we didn’t want to fight crowds on what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation pre-baby. There’s a tiny part of me that wished we went anyway, but my ever growing belly and ever aching back is thanking me that we didn’t.

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3 Amy August 7, 2012 at 8:48 am

I live in Atlanta and vividly remember the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The city was completely overhauled (and did so with private money, so no debt!) and so proud. I was proud too because my first kid was born in June of that year. We packed him up and went downtown to public venues to soak up the atmosphere, and we attended some events without him (had to buy a ticket, even for an infant-in-arms). It was a wonderful experience, one that is intertwined with the stress and joy of becoming a parent for the first time. Memorable.

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4 Kit August 7, 2012 at 8:53 am

This looks like such a fun day out! I decided not to head into town to watch the marathon as I didn’t think I’d get a good view but now wish I had. It sounds like you guys got to soak up a lot of atmosphere – it’s amazing to think that so many people pause, hold still, get excited, scream all at the same time because someone is running well/hitting a ball etc (my moments were Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah, Andy Murray and of course Usain Bolt!)

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5 unfounddoor August 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

I was in tears at Mo Farah – did you see the footage of Colin Jackson, Michael Johnson and Denise Lewis going crazy watching the end of the 10000m? Awesome.

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6 Kit August 8, 2012 at 9:30 am

Yes! I loved it- great that they were so excited. I’ve been in tears for so much of this. Something about people achieving things they’ve worked so hard for gets me every time!

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7 Angeerah August 7, 2012 at 8:56 am

We lived in SLC during the 2002 Winter Olympics and it was amazing. We lived down the hill from the U and could step outside our house to see the post opening ceremonies fireworks and the rings lit up on the hill (if we looked just right!) Although it was a bit spendy, we got tickets to the women’s downhill combined and had a blast cheering on the skiers. We were fortunate to get tickets through a lottery system to see three of the medal ceremonies.

I know some people complained about the hassle but I really didn’t see it as a big deal. I could go back and forth to work with little problem and enjoyed the joyous atmosphere in the city. If I could, I would definitely go to the Olympics again!!

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8 Amelia August 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

That was definitely the real deal torch! They had many for the relay, we got to hold one in Aberdeen where we leave when the torch relay came through. We also got to see the US women’s football team play, one of their early stage games was in Glasgow. It was hectic but so much fun and oh so worth it!

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9 {plum} August 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

I can’t help but marvel at all the amazing experiences and memories you are affording your kids. Travel is such a gift. To witness first hand all the walks-of-life and languages and architecture and differences and similarities opens the mind and the spirit.

hats off to you, Design Mom!

best ~ d.

post script: don’t forget, todays the day.

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10 unfounddoor August 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

Yeah! Glad you all enjoyed your trip to London and soaked up some of the Olympic atmosphere we have going on!

I’m hope June took the cheering better than my wee Gabriel did – we’ve watched quite a lot on the big screens in Hyde Park as that’s our hood and the first Team GB medal we witnessed the place was going nuts and poor G started wailing. Oops.
I’m still trying to get late availability tickets to the Olympic park. I’m typically a little anxious in crowds but I’m all buoyed by the Olympic spirit ;)

And I just need to hear the opening bars of Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire theme and I start weeping these days — The drama! The emotions! I think London 2012 broke me.

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11 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay August 7, 2012 at 9:37 am

This report has inspired me the most of all of your travel reports (and that is a high mark!). You taking the bull by the horns to just go experience what is in the here and now and seeing what happens is genius in this post.

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12 Amy Powell August 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

What an amazing time! I’m sure that’s something your kids will be telling their friends about for a long time! So fun!

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13 Lark August 7, 2012 at 10:02 am

What a great experience! I love your sense of adventure. Women’s soccer has been my favorite sport this time. Although I never played soccer as a kid, I watched the Women’s World Cup final last year and was electrified. The semi-final game between the US and Canada was amazing yesterday. Wish I was there!

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14 julia g blair August 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

I felt I was right there with you! How MARVELOUS!!! This made my enjoyment of the Olympics more real and more thrilling. The wonders and potential of the human body—–and the marvel of family togetherness. I feel like shouting and jumping for joy!!

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15 Karen F August 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

what an exciting, once in a lifetime adventure! You really are making the most of living abroad! I only have 2 kids (ages 5 and 3) and wouldn’t even attempt most of what you do! Maybe I need to try harder :)

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16 Sonya August 7, 2012 at 11:00 am

So glad that you were able to experience this all as a family! As I stated in an earlier post, I am an Olympics nut, perhaps my parents instilled that in me. They took us to the Atlanta games to see some events, the Olympic park and stadium, etc., in 1996 when I was 14 and my sister was 10. It is still one of my best vacations ever. Of course, we lived in Florida, but getting tickets is not an easy feat. My goal is to see a few more summer games and some winter ones as well. I hope that you all enjoyed it very much! London is beautiful as well. The marathon was an excellent choice!

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17 Barchbo August 7, 2012 at 11:05 am

What a wonderful experience! We went to the Atlanta Games in 1996 and it was amazing to see it LIVE! I am pulling for Lolo Jones this week!

Aside: How do you keep your hands off June’s curls?! I LOVE THEM!

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18 susan August 7, 2012 at 11:15 am

Thanks for the GREAT Olympic report. I love the pictures and feel like I have been on a mini trip to London seeing pictures that aren’t on the TV or net:)

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19 Darci August 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

My coworker just got back from London. She saw a soccer game, women’s beach volleyball and some platform diving finals. She had a great time and said it was one of the best things she has ever done!

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20 Tan August 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

Fantastic! Yes just being there right in the thick of it all is all you need to get olympic fever! I went to one hockey game at the Vancouver olympic games and it was phenomenal, but it was just walking around the city amongst the crowds that you really felt all the hype. Could have been though that it was Germany vs Belarus…not as exciting a game as the final (oh man I wish I was there for that)

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21 The New Diplomats Wife August 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

what a fantastic adventure – i love the spirit of improvisation. sometimes you just to go things to be “part” of the energy and the experience. just b/c you weren’t in a seat at the olympics doesn’t mean that you weren’t there. loved all the pictures!

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22 Lindsay August 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I’m really glad you got a chance to come over and soak up some of this amazing atmosphere. We made a quick trip down from York (where we were staying for a little family break, our home town is Edinburgh in Scotland) to see the trampolining. I just wish we’d been able to spend a little longer actually in London, but I’d been worried it would be too busy. That’s definitely one of the real Olympic torches – each person who carried the flame had their own one (presumably plus a few spares), so I’m sure they would have got an authentic one for the House of Nations!

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23 Summer August 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Color me impressed! You got a lot done!!! I’ll land there this Friday, but am afraid I won’t have much time before heading off to Edinburgh ( ^ hi, Lindsay! :)) for the Fringe Fest. Plus, i’ll have my luggage in tow. the. whole. time. :( Lame. I’m going to try to do something anyway, though!

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24 Elizabeth August 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Such wonderful photos and notes — I think I’d actually like seeing the Olympics in the exact way that you did! I haven’t been to into them this year, but I was quite moved by the South African “blade runner.” If you have a chance to watch the NBC video of his semi-final run, you would love it. The person who won exchanged numbers with him on the track — it was quite moving and particularly so to those of us in the world of disability.

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25 trish August 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I was lucky enough to get to see the athletics on Sunday night with my 9 year old.We had amazing seats.It was non-stop action and the highlight was getting to watch Usain Bolt win the 100m sprint. I have been an avid olympic watcher since I was 8years old and my daughter is now obsessed. Once in a lifetime opportunity and one we will never forget.

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26 Best of Two Sisters August 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

This sounds like so much FUN! We were in London during the round of to the Olympics, getting all geared up along side the locals for the up and coming mega event! The city was alive – both with enthusiastic fans and grumpy farts eager to cancel the Olympics due to the predicted traffic chaos.

My sister LIVES in London and got the chance to see the cycling LIVE from her house (more or less) http://bestof2sisters.com/2012/07/31/cycling-heroes/
Too exciting for words!

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27 Cheryl Burchett August 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I lived 2 hours north of Atlanta in 1996 and enjoyed visiting the area, but even where I lived you felt a part of the magic. Other than that, my daughter was born shortly before the summer games in 2008 and as a first time mom I totally missed the games in the blur. Now Four years layer, we just had our second and I have been able to relax and enjoy the coverage. It’s funny how those three games will always be linked in my mind!

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28 Geralyn Murray August 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Love your sense of adventure, Gabrielle. You are putting so much life into your lives there!

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29 Lisa August 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm

You inspire people to get out there and DO things, with six kids in a huge city, in the high season and in the peek of such an event. You deserve lots of hoorays :) And I am glad I finally got to see new pics of sweet June, as you had not posted pics of her in a while :) She looks such a classy little doll !!

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30 Azra August 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

WOW! I am always amazed and inspired by you. What a great trip.

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31 Julie August 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm

You really made the most of your trip and made it sound so wonderful. I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Sydney Olympics which was amazing but I agree that some of the best times at these events are outside the stadiums milling around the big screens and soaking up the atmosphere. Thanks for sharing.

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32 Kathy August 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm

You really are inspiring. The photo of your kids in the photo booth is adorable. Your trip sounds incredible. Our family loves to watch the Olympics.

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33 Aly August 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Oh my goodness! What a wonderful experience for your family. We live just outside of SLC and we definitely took in the Olympic spirit when it was here. I was able to go to the dress rehearsal of the 2002 Opening Ceremonies – even though it was just a rehearsal it was amazing (and cold) to be apart of it. We bought tickets to the speed skating and saw Apollo win gold and see the men’s rely team qualify for the finals. It was hold your breath excitement! It’s been 10 years but still remember it – at the time we didn’t have kids and if we did they would have been apart of it too!!

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34 Gina August 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I LOVED the olympics when they were in my hometown. I did not have tickets to any events but was lucky enough to have some given to me for free! Still, it was an amazing experience that I will remember forever. Great pics.

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35 Anneliese August 7, 2012 at 9:54 pm

What a great trip! I love the photos. Looks like a blast. We were talking during Opening Ceremonies about how great it would be to take our famil to see some Olympics…some day… It’s so great you have the stamina to take advantage of all these things while you’re living in Europe!

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36 Mom in Mendon August 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm

“Citius! Altius! Fortius!”
So glad you all had a great time, Blairs.
Love you.

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37 Catherine VanBuskirk August 7, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Wow! I have not been on your site for a little while, but I have to say that everytime I go here, I experience a visual feast. Your photos are just amazing! And your family is so fun to follow, such a group of adventurers!
Thanks for your story and for continuing to share. I love your view of the Olympics!
All the Best=
Catherine

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38 Margarida August 8, 2012 at 1:45 am

London is hosting it well.

I love to play games.

Jogo de moto

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39 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux August 8, 2012 at 2:49 am

Wow, what an amazing experience for your family. We have been cheering from Southern France – it’s been really neat to watch it on French TV – but cheer for Team USA! My kids are enjoying the Synchronized swimming – but truthfully most events are interesting! Loved following your instagram photos!

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40 Anna August 8, 2012 at 5:44 am

Why not come back to London at the end of Aug/ early Sept for the Paralympic’s? Tickets are cheaper & easier to get & that way you can all get into the amazing stadium / velodrome / arena buildings http://www.tickets.london2012.com/browse?tab=para

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41 Patty August 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm

We live in Idaho. We spent the month of June in England (Hampshire). We intentially went before the Olympics because our friends and family (my husband is English) said that travel during the games would be a nightmare and that the city would be basically shut down except for the Olympics. I wish we could have visited for just a day like you did. We did get to see the Olympic park and some of the venues during our holiday. I can also relate to the “two” black cabs :o) We are a family of 6 and we were traveling with my brother-in-law and his family (3 of them) for a total of 9 of us. We had to take two cabs everywhere, not too pleasent on the pocket book but not as bad as the “three” rooms we had to book everywhere to accomodate the nine of us as we traveled (but we are kind of used to it :o)

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42 julianna August 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Your baby. In that first picture. Is to die for. She is so so so sweet!

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43 invitation consultants August 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

what a fun trip!!

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44 Shannon { A Mom's Year } August 9, 2012 at 8:17 am

Thank you so much for posting this! We’ve been glued to the television, completely enthralled with the events and so many great stories. Your day looked amazing, and I love how the event planners made it possible for everyone to experience the events via big screens even if they couldn’t attend.

I would love to go the Olympics some day. I was fortunate enough to work for Special Olympics International and to experience much of the same magic at our World Games. Crowds at their best. :-)

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45 Alix August 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

I can’t tell you how much I loved watching all these images appear on my Instagram feed. Your sweet family is so much fun! I love that you took them to London—what a once in a lifetime opportunity! I keep telling Wolfie, “You’re going to be TWELVE by the time the next Summer Olympics comes around!” Amazing. Bravo for being such amazing adventurers, Blair Family! xoxo

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46 Mary August 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm

So wonderful, Gabby. Thank you for sharing … so inspiring! I agree with some other commenters that the charming photo in the the phone booth is a bigtime keeper – they will look back on that with such fond memories. Your children are beautiful and you are giving them such valuable experiences. Good for you!

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47 Tam August 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I only have four kids (do you know how rarely I can use that line?) and you amaze me. Taking them all to the grocery store is such a trial that I often give up. And you just got back from a transcontinental trip. I am in awe.

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48 Karin August 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

How neat! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure.
One question though — and I mean this seriously — how in the WORLD do you manage to get six independent kids into cute color coordinated clothes when you go places. Or at least how do you do it without being a complete control freak? I’d really like to know!

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49 My Traveling Troop August 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm

What an amazing experience to watch an Olympic event up close & feel the excitement in the air! Thanks for sharing. I feel like I was right there with you all!

Cheers,
Kristina

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50 Heather August 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Lucky!!

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51 insurtipsonline.com March 7, 2014 at 6:40 am

You’ve really impressed me with that answer!

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52 Karyl August 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Wow, what a wonderful experience you’ve had. I absolutely love London, and to be there at this time must just be phenomenal, even without event tickets. Way to go!

We temporarily live in Jamaica and boy, feel so lucky to be here for the Olympics. What a great time to be here between the 50th Independence celebrations and all these Olympic wins. Today when all 3 medals for the Mens’ 200m race were won by Jamaicans, everyone went crazy celebrating! Pots and pans clanging, everyone cheering in front of televisions and also out in the streets. You could practically feel and touch national pride. Sorry to say but sometimes I can’t decide to root for U.S. or Jamaica :-) How about for both?

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53 Whitney August 10, 2012 at 12:16 am

Love your family pic in the phone booth! We have one in Santa Barbara, CA near where I live, and I did my own nod to London and the Olympics! Thought I’d share: http://www.whitneyhartmann.com/_blog/Whitney_Hartmann_Blog/post/2012_Olympics/

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54 Audacese August 10, 2012 at 3:41 am

Wow, it’s admirable that you brought all of your kids along too! The Olympics is such an inspiring world event. We think that it presents many valuable lessons that kids can learn too from sports! I’d like to share some of our thoughts: http://www.audacese.com/2012/08/08/olympic-life-lessons-family/

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55 ellen patton August 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I loved when the Olympics were in LA (84). I worked at UCLA and saw the marathon and a baseball game. It was a really exciting time for the city!

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56 Erin August 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm

We live in Vancouver and LOVED being here for the last winter Olympics.
We were able to attend a few events, but had just as much fun at the public viewing areas with the live screens and all the extras – street performers, people from different nations walking the streets with their flags, public streets closed down for pedestrians. Our kids had a blast – I’m so excited your family got to experience London!
Paralympics are also fun to attend – smaller, cheaper – but the athletes work just as hard to see their Olympic dreams come true.

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57 Margaret August 11, 2012 at 7:55 am

I was in London on the same day as you!! Watching the women’s marathon. So glad you enjoyed your trip to London and as you say, so much going on there before you even think about attending the Olympics. I’m pretty lucky as I live near London and was fortunate to have tickets for athletics Tuesday – the roar of the stadium for Usain Bolt (200m qualifiers) was just amazing. I remember the day still that London “won” the games and have been looking forward to it since, visiting the site in Stratford and watching the building progress. It’s been so incredible I am really going to miss it – sounds crazy I know but I feel very proud!

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58 Stephanie August 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

We live in London and have loved the fantastic energy the Olympics has bought to our hometown! We have thrilled in all the victories, the wonderful coverage, terrific events, and kind and gracious Olympic volunteers!

We are from the states and loved seeing the women’s volleyball team victory to head to the finals! We also had tickets to the women’s gold medal football match and what a thrill that was! Congrats to the people of London for making the 2012 summer games so wonderful!

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59 Alisha August 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I was 18 and worked the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta right after my freshman year of college. It was the most amazing experience and I met so many wonderful people. I was able to attend a few events and the hum of the crowd watching the atheletes was amazing. Everyone was caught up cheering for one of the teams even if it wasn’t their country.

Fast forward a bit and I found myself cheering on all of the atheletes for the 2012 Olympics. USA was great. I’ve always loved gymnastics (I was a big Mary Lou fan as a young girl). It was the first time I really got to share them with my daughters too. It was so cool to watch them point out which sport they’d want to participate in going forward. My 2 year old watched Gabby on the vault and immediately said she wanted to do what Gabby just did. It was so awesome. I love the Olympics. Glad your entire family got to witness it even if it was just the hum of the city with locals and visitors and outside events on the big screen. It must be amazing to travel a little bit of Europe at a time with all of them. You are creating some of the most amazing family memories ever. Hopefully I can do the same with mine before they are all grown up!

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