July 24, 2012
LONDON CALLING (DAY 1)
Actually, it may be London longing just a bit
By Michael Lewis
GLASGOW -- Before I left to cover the Summer Olympics, I had friends and family wishing me well, safe travels and saying things like, "Enjoy London."
Well, not exactly.
Don't get me wrong. Every time I visit London, I enjoy the city.
But for yours truly, I will be spending the majority of these Olympics outside England's capital. That's just the way the Olympic soccer tournament is.
In 1976, I watched the Olympic soccer tournament in one of Montreal '76's satellite cities -- Toronto.
Likewise in 1984 and Los Angeles, when a four-team group called Cambridge, Mass. home.
When the Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996, I had only two days in the Georgia city -- to watch an Olympic baseball game during a rare day off from the soccer tournament and the day I left. The rest of the time I spent shuttling between Birmingham, Ala., Orlando and Washington, D.C. before watching the medal-round matches at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., miles away from Atlanta.
In 2000, I did not fly into Sydney until the final week after bouncing from Canberra to Melbourne and to Adelaide.
In 2004, I did some shutting between Heraklion and Thessaloniki before finding landing in Athens for good for the final week to watch Carlos Tevez and Argentina earn its first Olympic soccer gold medal.
And in 2008, while I did have a headquarters in Beijing, had had to cover games in three outside venues, including my favorite Chinese city, Shanghai, where I had the best dumplings in the world.
So, why should these Olympics be any different than the rest?
Not surprisingly, I have mixed emotions about not being based in London. It's a fabulous city, steeped in so much history and culture to last a lifetime and a half, book stores, theater (I once saw the legendary Maggie Smith in The Importance of Being Earnest), and of course, my favorite sport.
There are advantages of being away as well. I am out of the maelstrom. There are predictions that a million visitors will invade London. As for someone who tries to avoid crowds like the plague, that could be considered torture over a long period of time.
So, here I am in Glasgow for the first time in my life as the U.S. plays the first of its two group-stage matches at Hampden Park against France on Wednesday. Then I move to Manchester on Sunday.
In fact, if things go according to plan, the American women could play the quarterfinals in Newcastle on Aug. 3 and the semifinals on Aug. 6. If they do, then we all get an opportunity to go to London.
When I had to make hotel reservations for London, it was six or seven months prior to the Olympic draw. I had to play it safe and a book a hotel for Aug. 5. Now, I might not get there until Aug. 6, unless the U.S. finishes second in Group G and takes another route to London (playing a semifinal match on Aug. 6).
London is calling. It just will take a little longer than expected to get there.