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Joe Ryan inside Olympic Stadium

Joe Ryan 2012 London Olympic Blog

Courtesy: Manhattan Athletic Department
Release: 08/10/2012
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Manhattan Assistant Track & Field Coach Joe Ryan is currently in London for the 2012 Olympic Games.  Ryan is serving as a team official for the delegation from Guyana.  He'll be providing regular updates on his Olympic experience at

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August 14: Final Thoughts
Today, I departed the Village at about 12 p.m.  It was a beehive of activity and an enormous logistical challenge for the organizers to move thousands of athletes, mountains of baggage and equipment to various airports around the region.  All night, I have heard UPS heavy trucks parking around the Village to prepare for this enormous undertaking.  My colleagues from Guyana left at 6 a.m. for Gatwick and on to Barbados for eventual transfer to Guyana.  Aliann pompey will leave at 3 p.m. for JFK.  I, of course, will continue on to Dublin for my sister's wedding.  I decided to get a flight from London Airport knowing full well that it would be the least busy.  My instincts were good and I'm waiting in the departure lounge for my flight.  

So, what are we to make of the London Games?  They were a triumph for the British.  They finished third in the medal count and, by all measures, their most successful team in modern history.  They put together a Games that worked, whose goal was to inspire a younger generation of young Britons and revitalize an area of London long neglected by the authorities.  They set out to plan a Games built around principles of sustainability, avoiding waste and the usual "white elephants" that infuriate people when the Games conclude and have to be paid for with taxpayer money.  I'm convinced that this Games will serve as an impetus to change education policy in the UK with regard to physical education and that striving for excellence is a worthwhile.   The legacy of London 2012 will be felt for a long time.

We were thrilled by great performances as we always are during the Olympics.  Personally, watching Aliann Pompey run is reward enough for me as she concluded her career on the big stage.  She gave everything in what has been a challenging year and I'm  glad that her career ended at the pinnacle of sport.  The dominance of the small Caribbean nations in the men's sprints events is remarkable and the US men have a lot of work to do.  On the other hand, the US women's sprinting corps were magnificent and possibly the best that I have seen.  Sportsmanship was on display, as was true raw emotion throughout the Games.  It's so hard these days to make the Olympics  that winning a medal is truly Olympian.  Sports has become global and the talent pool has greatly expanded.  For the first time in Olympic history all 204 countries were represented by women, a truly important development again demonstrating the power of sports to empower people.  The IOC insisted on this representation and I applaud them for it.

I was truly heartened by the display put on by the Irish boxers in winning four medals, a total only exceeded by Great Britain, Russia and one other country.  The conditions that they train under in Ireland is difficult at best.  Conlan trains in St. John Bosco Club in the Falls Road of Belfast.  They have one rickety ring, no showers, no dressing room facilities and little of anything else.  Despite this, over the years they have produced great young boxers for Ireland in one of the toughest neighborhoods around.  Google Falls Road, Belfast, and you will see what I mean.  Ireland's Katie Taylor won the the Olympics' first-ever boxing gold medal for women to universal acclaim.  I will follow her career with great interests knowing that she will become the poster girl for women's boxing.

Anyway, this is my final entry.  I hope that I have given you some insights into this experience.  I've enjoyed putting down my thoughts on these pages and will be happy if young people following this are inspired to the pursuit of excellence in whatever endeavor they are following.  Thanks to Joe and Steve in sports information for keeping up with me.  My athletes at Manhattan better be in shape when I get there on August 27.  Looking forward to seeing my wife in Dublin Airport on Wednesday morning.  Cheers!

Postscript: I just couldn't resist this.  Latest Irish connection is that Usain Bolt's agent is a Co. Donegal man by the name of Ricky Simms.  I knew about this a few years ago.  There is speculation that Bolt will visit Donegal where he will be assured of a Cead Mile Failte welcome.  As I have often said, the Irish are everywhere.

August 13: Closing Ceremony
Every Olympics closes with a spectacle and last night did not disappoint.  We left our apartment at 8 p.m. and followed the route to the stadium.  Aliann was picked to march in with the Guyanese flag, so she left about 30 minutes earlier.

The Closing Ceremony is a more relaxed setting than the Opening Ceremony.  We wore black pants, a red and green t-shirt, and a yellow-colored warmup jacket.  As participants, we marched into the stadium in very loose order.  The center of the track was divided into sectors and we ended up beside the start line of the track very close to the stage.  The Israeli and German teams were directly in front of us.

I felt at home straightaway with the music.  The title of the show was "A Music Symphony" and the idea was to present a slice of the best of British music over the decades.  They paid homage to John Lennon and Freddie Mercury of Queen.  In the meantime, the devices on the spectator seats created an effect very similar to a synthesizer with amazing bright colors.  The vivid colors were incredible and we were bathed in a sea of brilliant light.  George Michael came up through a passage from the stage and launched into his huge hit "Freedom."  I had a great view and George had the stadium in the palm of his hands.  Between entertainers we were treated to costumed actors and dancers acting out very British themes.  Annie Lennox came to the center of the arena in a long boat and she can still belt it out. A huge roar for girl power went up for The Spice Girls when they arrived in London taxis.  A nice touch.  A highlight for me was Brian May of Queen playing a guitar solo and then playing a Queen number.  David Bowie's music was used to highlight British fashion, and they did a clever job turning the stage into a catwalk.  Comedian Russell Brand did some scenes to the Beatles music.  Eric Idle of Monty Python fame provided his brand of odd British honor, and who can forget the "The Human Cannonball."  All the time,I had a great view. Many of the athletes were taking photos and video of the scenes in front of them.

Of course, the Closing Ceremony is also about the official  business of closing out the Olympics.  It began with London mayor Boris Johnson handing the Clympic flag to Jacques Rogge (Head of the IOC), who waved it a few times and then passed it on to the mayor of Rio, who did likewise.  The Brazilians treated us to a sampling of Carnivale on the stage.  Rio promises to be quite lively.  Seb Coe, one of the greatest middle distance runners of the last century and the head of London's Olympic Organizing Committee made some remarks and paid particular attention to the thousands of volunteers who make the Games possible.  It was then up to Jacques Rogge to say his important closing remarks.  He declared that the Olympics were a happy and glorious Games. His remarks serve as a historical endorsement of the success of the Games.  He was obviously pleased.

All that remains is for him is to close out the Games and extinguish the Olympic flame.  This event is usually greeted by cries of "No" by the crowd, and London was no different.  As the flames started to extinguish a giant figure of a phoenix lit up.  It really was spectacular combined with the lighting effects from the seats.  The Who got in to the act and Roger Daltrey was in fine voice.  It all ended with hundreds of performers coming on stage and having some fun for themselves.  An image of a Monty Python skit came to mind of someone in a very British voice telling us all to go home.  The party is over. Oh well.

I fly to Dublin this morning. I intend to have my last breakfast of bangers and bacon at the Best of Britain section.  My final entry will be tomorrow where I will share some final observations. Cheers!

August 11: A Quest Realized
This morning I was out the door at 6:30 a.m. and caught the Javelin, a bullet train to Kings Cross Station.  From there, I took the train to Leeds, an old industrial city in the north of England where I had spent three years from ages 2 to 5.  I have had many memories of those times and resolved to at least go back to the neighborhood during my stay in London.  

I arrived at Leeds station about 10:30 after a journey of two and a half hours.  Did my usual chatting with the locals and decided to walk about a distance of 1.5 miles from the city center.  I have to be honest and admit that I didn't know what to expect.  My memories of living in Leeds were mixed, but the last time that I was there was about 42 years ago, age 12, to see Leeds Utd. play against Burnley in football (sorry, I mean soccer).  We lived in what was then commonly known in England as "Victorian Back-to-Backs."  These houses were built for workers during the Victorian Era.  To put it mildly, they barely met basic housing standards.  A wall ran along a row of houses, so each house was back-to-back.  No gardens obviously.  Space was at a premium with one room downstairs and two rooms upstairs.  The toilets were located every three or four doors on a row of houses.  The area was populated by Irish immigrants and working class English families who worked at the toughest jobs.

I met an older gentlemen who pointed me to an area behind a mosque where I immediately recognized the streets and old memories began to stir.  The area now is populated by immigrants from Asia and students from Leeds Univ.  Rents are very cheap in this area and the many of the older houses have been knocked down.  The ones that have remained have been modified.  The outhouses were now gone and some residents placed  flower boxes and seats to fill in the space.  I took some pictures for my nieces and nephews so that they might know what their grandparents had to do to make a living.  My parents were in their early 20's and this was their second time living in England.  I retraced streets that were familiar to me and walked to Burley Park, where a young mother would take her two young sons to  get out of the house.  Fragments of memories now made more sense to me.  I lingered, walked for two hours, and then started my way back to the city center.  I thought a lot about my parents and was thankful that they found their way back to Dublin and better times.  Leeds has transformed itself into an educational and design center after its industry was hollowed out.  New investment is transforming the city center.  I just wish my old football team, Leeds United, could make it back to the top.

More news.  Michael Conlan lost in his quest to advance to the gold medal round, losing a bruising battle to a very clever boxer from Cuba.  However, he has secured the bronze.  Michael' s proud father texted me this morning and is looking forward to my sister's wedding next week.  We will now have two reasons to celebrate.  John Joe Nevin fights tonight in a gold medal bout.  The Falls Road in Belfast has been celebrating this week with medals from Conlan and Barnes.

Kudos to the women's team from the USA who broke the world 4x100 meter relay record from 1985.  Their time of 40.8 seconds is remarkable, and  their form in the heats certainly indicated it was possible.  Tonight's men's 4x100 could also see a new record.  Weather is now warmer and ripe for faster sprint times. 

Another Irish Connection: David Rudisha, Olympic 800-meter champ and world record-holder is coached by Br. Colm O Connell in Kenya.  Br. Colm is with the Irish Christian   Brothers and has been instrumental in the development of Kenyan athletics.  I spoke to Br. Colm a long time ago and should have realized that Rudisha was from St. Patrick's in Kenya.  As I have said often enough, the Irish are everywhere.

That's all for now!  My next entry will be the Closing Ceremony.

August 10: A Half Mile In 100 Seconds
The Olympic Stadium was electric last night.  I wanted to see in particular the men's 800-meter and 200-meter finals.  I timed my arrival at the stadium just right and snagged a seat in the athletes section.  80,000 people filled the stadium as they have every day.  I really expected a world record from Kenyan, David Rudisha, who runs with an exciting classic middle distance style from the front.  Could he be the first man to run half a mile in less than 100 seconds?  Well, he came very close, running a world record of 1:40.9, leaving his opponents trailing in his wake.  The times of the other competitors were astonishing and would have won every other Olympic 800 meter title to date.  I saw Rudisha run in New York two months ago and I was awed by his talent.  I felt that this event might be the only event to produce a world record on the track, as I felt weather conditions were not conducive to breaking records in the sprints.  The 1500 meters and up are usually tactical in the Olympic arena.  Running from the front in the half requires courage an confidence, traits that Rudisha possesses in abundance.

My appetite for competition was now heightened and I awaited the arrival of Mr. Bolt.  In the meantime, I started up a conversation with national coach from Finland.  We paid close attention to the men's triple jump and witnessed a horrible accident when an athlete from the Bahamas collapsed in the pit when his leg just buckled underneath him.  I have to tell you that everybody in the crowd let out a gasp when it happened.  The British crowds have been very generous in their support of athletes from other countries

and clapped in unison for all the triple jump athletes.  Event was won by American Christian Taylor.

The sprinters came onto the track about 8:50 p.m.  Could Bolt do what has never been done before, namely the Olympic sprint double back-to-back?  The gun went off.  Bolt exploded around the curve.  Headed for home.  Looked at fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake and relaxed coming into the finish line.  Besides his win, second and third place went to Jamaicans Blake and Weir respectively.  What a triumph for this small proud nation.  Bolt is probably the most famous athlete on the planet, and he seems to thrive on the pressure.  I said goodbye to my new friend Jorma from Finland and we exchanged cards.  Found out later that Bolt broke the Twitter record for most tweets about his performance. There were approximately 80,000 tweets per minute and Twitter has confirmed that he smashed the record.

Other news: I got a pass for my brother Liam to come into the Village.  He met Irish marathoner Catriona Jennings, who works at the same firm Price Waterhouse and Coopers in Dublin.  Catriona was on crutches and finished the race in great pain with a leg stress fracture.  He engaged in star-spotting for a while and enjoyed the food in the food hall.  Cafeteria is not as crowded at this point.  Anyway, I was glad for the company and enjoyed a good meal later on that night at a restaurant where Sebastian Coe, organizer of the Olympics was also dining.  Big news for the Irish is that Katie Taylor won the gold in women's boxing.  I did alert you to this young lady and the British media really played up her win.  Her fight was a very tactical cagey affair, but she took control in rounds three and four to beat her Russian opponent.  The headline in The Irish Times today  was "Taylor Made for Gold."

That's all for now.  Tomorrow I'm going  to Leeds in northern England to check out where I lived as a  kid.  Cheers!

August 9: Stonehenge and Bath
Yesterday's events.  Up at 6 a.m.  Out the door.  Took the CircleLine tube at Stratford.  Train was packed.  Stood on a young lady's foot and she was wearing an open-toed sandal.  I apologized profusely for my clumsiness.  She saw my magic accreditation card and smiled.  She must be thinking that the Prime Minister said in return for free food, lodging and transportation around London with Olympic lanes, we, the people, will get to watch two weeks of games and take our mind off the weather.  A seat opened up and I took it.  As I was getting off at my intended stop, I instinctively put out my hand out to grab a handrail as I would on a New York subway, however, what I actually grabbed was a long thin-shaped cylindrical package held by a gentleman next to me.  I stumbled and quickly recovered to preserve what little dignity I had left.  Shaky start to my day to say the least.

I planned a tour to Stonehenge and Bath.  I took the coach at Victoria Coach Station.  I don't usually like tours and I resolved to get on early to get a window seat with a clear view.  I succeeded.  Our guide looked like a real character and I wondered "What is the story with this bloke?," as a Londoner would say.  He introduced himself as Handsome Alan.  Our first stop was the world famous mysterious Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plains.  Handsome Alan gave us his humorous interpretation of its origins laced with Sean Connery imitations.  We got to Stonehenge after about two hours.  Clouds darkened overhead and the heavens opened.  As I moved around the circle of stones with my Olympic umbrella, I imagined natives and druids holding rituals at the site.  I pictured the Celts cursing at the Druids for bringing them out in the rain and worshipping the sun to make the rain go away.  As good an explanation as any as far as I'm concerned.  I walked the circle thankful that I had the foresight to bring my new Olympic umbrella. 

On to Bath, home of the most extraordinary Roman baths in Europe and the one time home of Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and many others.  There is much renewed interest in Austen's work and much of her work is being newly interpreted on the big screen.  Bath is noted for having most of its buildings built using honey-colored limestone.  The town truly is breathtaking and the Roman Baths are a must see.  Had lunch at the 18th Century Pump Room where no doubt Jane Austen observed the ways of the Victorians whilst drinking tea.

We returned to London with Handsome Alan who I found out had Irish parents from Tipperary and his last name was Doyle.  I guessed as much and told him when I got off the bus that he had the gift of Blarney.  Made a bee line for the track and marveled at the fluid motion of Allyson Felix, who I thought all along was the prohibitive favorite.  Will be interesting to see if the US runs her in the 4x400 meter relay. 

Believe or not, but people are beginning to leave the Village at all hours of the day and night.  Your arrival is carefully choreographed and departure is the same.  Some people have been away for quite a long time and are anxious to get back to their normal lives.  Most Olympians do lead quite normal lives and have to make a living like everybody else.  The Closing Ceremony on Sunday will be informal and I'm really curious to see what the Brits have planned.

Latest news on the Irish.  We are guaranteed at least five medals.  We got a bronze in show jumping from Cian O Connor.  Katie Taylor won the gold today against her Russian opponent.  Catch her on Youtube or TV if you can.  She is tremendous.  Michael Conlan to fight on Friday.  Stay tuned.  Father called me today to see if I can help to get him tickets if his son makes the final.  Go figure!  That's all for now.  Cheers!

August 8: A Day Away From Track & Field
I took advantage of down time today to go to the Imperial War Museum.  A must-see to really understand Britain's central role in 20th Century conflict.  I spent five hours wandering through exhibits and reflecting on the fact that we are at our best and worst during periods of conflict.  To be fair, Irish people have a very suspicious and nuanced view of British power due to 800 years of torturous and tangled history.  I did find myself drawn to the exhibit on how Londoners dealt with the London Blitz, in which at least 35,000 Londoners died and their city was severely damaged.  You can't help but admire their tenacity in the face of murderous warfare.  After my visit, I had a nice lunch in The Three Stags.  A waitress told me that business has been disastrous and tourists have been staying away from central London.  I assured her we would be leaving in a few days.

I walked to Westminster Bridge and admired the view of the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.  I couldn't get into Westminster Abbey, but I did spend time admiring its beautiful architecture.  I continued my walk through Whitehall, the nerve center of British administration.  I peered into Downing Street  and saw 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister, from a distance of about 60 meters.  I stopped at the Cenotaph, the tomb of the unknown soldier and a place of great reverence for the British where they formally observe Poppy Day in memory of their war dead every November 11, the date that ended hostilities in World War I.  It  was built after just World War I.

Went back to the Village satisfied with my exploring.  I decided to forego track & field and instead got a ticket to attend boxing at the Excel Center near the London Docklands.  Very impressed with the  rejuvenation of this area.  The Germans bombed it mercilessly during World War II, but it has come back.  My mission was to see Michael Conlan fight to get into the medal round.  I took my seat in the bleachers and anxiously awaited for the fight.  He was No. 3 on the card and the crowd was warming up.  When Michael was announced, a roar went up from the crowd, no doubt from native Irish and a good sprinkling of the London Irish.  The first two rounds were even, and then Michael exploded in the third round and clearly outscored his gallant French opponent.  I shoved my fist in the air in great delight when the verdict was announced.  What an achievement for this young man and I look forward to seeing him at my sister's wedding in less than two weeks.  Ireland is now guaranteed three medals in boxing and Paddy Barnes will fight tomorrow night.

I took my leave and headed back to the Village.  Last night, I was very impressed with the Caribbean nations of Grenada and the Dominican Republic.  Kirani James won an exciting 400 meters for Grenada  and we were also treated to the spectacle of the Borlee twins from Belgium competing in the 400-meter final.  Very unusual indeed.  Dominican Felix Sanchez, who has had a tough time over the years won his second gold medal in the 400-meter hurdle event.  He ran like a man possessed and broke down in tears after the race.  It was poignant.  His teammate picked up a silver in the 400.  The Caribbean nations are dominating the glamour sprint events for men at the expense of the U.S.  Women are doing much better quite frankly.

A big birthday wish to my wife Julienne '81.  I will see her next week in Dublin.  Well that's  all for now.  Cheers!

August 7: Fighting Irish
In America, the Fighting Irish is more associated with the Notre Dame football team.  However, the Irish dominated boxing in the late 19th and early part of the 20th century.   Names like Sullivan, Dempsey, and Tunney were the rock stars of their day.  In the modern era the Irish have done extremely well in the lighter divisions.  What is not particularly well-known is the great record that they have established in Olympic boxing. 

Boxing has provided the most Olympic medals for our small nation.  We Irish have been punching above our weight for generations in international sport.  Tonight, Ireland guaranteed itself at least two medals in boxing.  Moreover, women are boxing for the first time in the Olympics, and the Irish have unearthed a young woman by the name of Katie Taylor, who is now being touted as a favorite and is being described as the best female boxer to come along in its short history.  Katie is the current world champion and tonight in the Excel Center, she beat British boxer Natasha Jonas, a tough opponent from Liverpool, in a thrilling bout.  Natasha acknowledged the superiority of Katie after the fight.  An Olympic official measured a decibel level at 115 for Irish fans singing "The Fields of Athenry."  That's as loud as a rock concert.  Katie, according to Irish observers is a true naturally gifted athlete who could excel in a few different sports.  It will be amazing if she can pull this off.

In the same venue, John Joe Nevin (a classic Irish name if I've heard one) beat Oscar Valdez Fierro of Mexico.  John Joe was knocked down in the third round but hung on for the win.  He is now in the medal round.  Irish fans were delirious with delight, and who can blame them.  I'm a big fan of boxing and I'm looking forward to the Michael Conlan fight on Tuesday night.  I wished him luck when I met him again in the cafeteria.  He mentioned that he had heard that I had met his family.  I told him his dad out-talked me and he laughed heartily knowing his dad.

Other news.  I just got back with an interview with a Guyanese reporter who spoke to us in the Village plaza tonight.  I enjoyed the interview and I enjoyed listening to Aliann Pompey talk about her career.  This morning I went to the RAF museum in Hendon, a former airfield which is regarded as the birthplace of British aviation.  Hendon played a pivotal role in the Battle of Britain, played out over the skies of England in 1940 from June to October.  This was Hitler's first defeat due to the bravery of a small number of pilots flying the famous Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane.  The Spitfire was probably the most famous fighter aircraft of World War II.  It's a beautiful aircraft with a sleek design and outstanding aerial characteristics.  I was thrilled to see the Battle of Britain Hall with surviving models of these planes and many others including German and American models.  I have included some photos.  I would encourage anybody traveling to London to come here to learn about British aviation and it's importance to the survival of this nation during the dark days of World War II.

We had a team meeting tonight to decide on our garb for the closing ceremony.  You will have to tune in to find out.  That's all for now!  Cheers!

August 6: The Blue Ribbon of Track & Field
The Olympic Stadium was electrifying last night.  Sanya Richards-Ross finally won her gold in the women's 400 meters in a brilliantly paced race.  She is coached by Clyde Hart, the coach of Michael Johnson, and he has one again proved that he is the master of this event.  We had the spectacle of Kenyans again solidifying their dominance of the 3000 meter steeplechase, an event that is like running cross country on the track. 

The biggest roars of the night, of course, were reserved for the "Blue Ribbon" of track and field.  I'm speaking of course of the Olympic 100 meter men's race.  Over the years, since the 1996 Olympics, I have been present at every world record in either the 100 meters or 200 meters.  Sprinters are the gunslingers of track and field.  They walk and talk with a swagger.  They take quick offense and can be tough to handle.  The greatest of all is Usain Bolt, and I again witnessed his brilliance as I did in Beijing.  Bolt came into these Olympics with a question mark regarding his fitness and form.  He answered those questions last night with a fantastic win in an Olympic Record of 9.63 seconds, not far from his own world record and possibly more impressive given the fact that that it is not that warm.  He was his usual self before the race and even more so after the race as the enthusiastic British crowd screamed his name in unison.  There can be no doubt that he is the greatest short sprinter of all time and I feel privileged to have been present at his greatest moments.  The island of Jamaica will be rocking tonight and more power to them. 

Tomorrow is a down day for me and I have scheduled a trip to the RAF museum in Hendon outside of London.  My liaison person at the village, Ed Leftwich, is a history major and he is enthusiastic about accompanying me to the museum.  I met Irish boxer Michael Conlan in the food hall today and offered my congratulations on his recent win.  He boxes again on Tuesday night and all of Ireland will have their fingers crossed to see if he can get into the medal round.  Met a young man today serving food who proudly proclaimed his Irishness and could actually speak Gaelic.  As I said before, the Irish are everywhere.  London has a large Irish population and we commonly refer to them as London Irish.

On another note, I  would like to offer my congratulations to members of the men's and women's track teams for achieving All-Academic Division I status by the United States Cross Country and Track & Field Track Coaches Association.  A great tribute for the program.

That's all for now.  Cheers!

August 5: An Appreciation
This entry is dedicated to one of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure to be associated with.  That person is Aliann Pompey.  Aliann ended her career last night on the largest stage of the planet.  Her international career has spanned 13 years, during which she was world ranked every single year, winning medals in the Pan Am Games and Commonwealth Games, a world indoor 400 meter finalist, four-time Olympian and three-time semifinalist (noted by the announcer in the Olympic Stadium last night).  She has travelled the world competing in top class competition every year against the greatest 400 meter runners of her era, and more often than not she has given them something to think about when they run against her.  World-class athletes give her that nod of respect that athletes give to each other as a mark of respect.  She is a national hero in her native country of Guyana and an inspiration to young girls and women in that part of the world.

I remember the first day I saw Aliann at Manhattan College, a shy young lady with a keen intelligence and a respectful attitude.  A young lady who put family first and  tended to family needs at the drop of a hat.  I have gotten to know the Pompey family over the years and appreciated the fact that they embodied the immigrant attitude that education and hard work was the means to a better life.  I used to kid her about her scrawny frame and told her we will have to put some meat on those bones.  I recognized an unusual talent, but freshman year was a learning experience, as it is for most.  

A key moment occurred for me during the her final competition of freshman year.  She had a poor race in the 400 meters at the ECAC Championships at George Mason University.  After the race I told her  exactly what I thought and then she went out and ran a PR in the 200.  I knew from then onwards, that she was a real athlete who could take it to another level and could handle my high expectations for her.   

Over the next few years, she developed her physical capacities and mental toughness.  This process culminated in her her winning the  400-meter NCAA title at the University of Arkansas in 2000.  Jake Freeman and Coach Mecca had a great competition in the weight throw.  Things were going well.  That night she brought the crowd to her feet with a thrilling come-from-behind victory that I will never forget.  Before the race, a nationally-renowned coach from a major university spoke to me in the warmup area and told me how impressed he was and that she would maybe place.  I listened and then told him in my Irish way that I appreciated his sentiments but that my sentiment is that she will win.  If athletes put their faith in you, then it must be returned.  It was a great night for Manhattan athletics.

I always appreciated the fact that Aliann stayed with the Manhattan family after graduation.  She recognized that the system worked and over the years training became a lot more sophisticated and tougher.  During this time Aliann became a real part of my own family and became very close to my wife Julienne, also an 1981 graduate.  Manhattan women sure have kept me on my toes and thank God for that.

The Manhattan community was fortunate the day that Ms. Pompey stepped through its doors.  She has given us many thrilling moments and her story is a testament to the good that can come from participation in sport and collegiate athletics when it is done the right way.  Aliann now closes one chapter on her life and is getting ready to write a new one.  I look forward to reading and sharing it with her.  Thanks for all the wonderful memories and great times that we shared.  I salute you.

August 4
Early start to the day.  Awoke to heavy showers and a brisk morning.  Today, Winston George, best of 45.85, will compete in the men's 400 meters. He is warming up in front of us and it is starting to rain again.  Winston is very anxious, but that is to be expected for one so young. Between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., Jeremy Bascomb, best of 10.19, will compete in round one of the 100 meters.  We are awaiting the start list for that event and expect to get it around 10:30 a.m.

Ms. Pompey will run the semifinals at about 8:15 p.m.  I spent some time with Aliann and Avard Moncur, former world champion in the 400 and a true gentleman.  Avard had his physio in the Village and he suggested that he look at Aliann.  At this point, I had gone back to my room and got a call to come back.  I walked into the room and noted that a gentleman was giving physio to Aliann.  He turned around to greet me and started talking in fluent Gaelic.  I gave him that look and responded in Gaelic that I was doing well and "Who are you?"  As it turned out, his name as Mick and he was from County Carlow in the midlands of Ireland.  Mick is considered one of the best physios around.  Avard at this point was having a good laugh at two Irishmen jawing and quickly running through the population of Ireland to see who we both knew.  As it turned out, he knew Conor Boyle, a young man from Carlow that I had recommended to Coach Fred Dwyer in the 1980s.  Conor had a great career at Manhattan and works in the banking industry in Ireland.

My next adventure was again to secure two tickets for Aliann.  The organizers have come under serious criticism with regard to ticket allocation.  I related my experiences in the last blog, but I did not mention that Aliann had to pay for those tickets, a total of 130 pounds.  If you qualify for the next round, you are then to get two tickets at cost.  We were told that we had to walk to a ticket booth out of the area, supposedly a 20-minute walk from the Village.  I protested vociferously at the fact that we couldn't take a bus to the area even though I was allowed to use the bus the previous day.  I was with two Spanish athletes and I was amazed that they would ask participants to follow this procedure given the fact that there is a ticket office in the Village.  I followed the map with my new friends, probably asking volunteers numerous times if we were on the right track.  Bear in mind that there are tens of thousands of people in the area.  We eventually got to this ticket office and I  gave them Aliann's accreditation number, a requirement to assure that it going to the right people.  I was offered two tickets at cost for a total of 300 British pounds.  These were the cheapest. In two days, Aliann had now spent approximately 450 British pounds (about $700 US) for tickets.  I have no problem paying for tickets, but that is a lot  to ask athletes to pay considering they are putting on the show.  Most athletes at these Olympics have struggled financially, sacrificed job prospects and dedicated themselves to their craft.  The Conlan family related the same issues to me last Monday.  The British are doing wonderful work at these Games and, as I understand it, this is the first Olympics where they are making a ticket provision for friends and families of athletes.  I applaud them for this, but I think we can do a little better.  Enough said.

Great news. Michael Conlan, nephew of my soon-to-be brother-law won his bout last night.  He clearly outclassed his opponent and my Guyanese colleagues watched the fight with me.  They were rootIng for him and we had great fun.  My sister Jackie was all excited and called me from Dublin to share the news.  He is now in the last eight and if he wins his next one, he is in the medal round.  That's all for now.  Cheers!

August 3: Competition
Today is the big day for Aliann and I have been awake since 6 a.m.  She runs a little after noon and I am happy to report that I awoke to a beautiful bright morning.  I made my way to the cafeteria and picked up hot tea and a scone for Aliann.  The "Breakfast of Champions" if you will.  The Olympic Stadium is now open for business today, and a ticket can't be found anywhere.  

Speaking of which, I frantically spent hours yesterday trying to locate twp tickets for her.  I had no luck acquiring the tickets in the Village area.  However, late in the afternoon I connected with an official who got me the tickets, but that necessitated travel to the London Bridge area.  A number of Guyanese were being driven to other locations in London.  I tagged along but quickly realized that it would take too long.  I told our driver to stop the car and ran to a station to grab a train.  It was just as well that I took that course of action. I got to London Bridge Station and made a b-line for a local hotel which serves as ground central for ticket issues.  When I went to the concierge, he told me that the office was closed.  I politely told him that it wasn't and I would appreciate it if he could knock on the door and get me somebody.  Tell him there is a maniacal Irishman who needs tickets for one of his runners.  It worked.  I met a gentleman who was a New Yorker by birth and he kindly gave me the tickets.  I was relieved and calmly walked back to London Bridge with a smile of satisfaction that one gets from taking the initiative.  They should introduce a new Olympic event called "ticket hunting".

The night wasn't over.  One of our swimming officials is leaving on Saturday, so I accompanied him, along with one of our liaison people, Ed Leftwich, to Parliament Square, home of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.  I reflected on this most important building where so many decisions have been made that have shaped world history for centuries.  We made our way over to Trafalgar Square.  The whole area looks so much better than I remember it from my last stay in London.  A short walk over the Thames River and we headed for the train.  A very satisfying night indeed.

It's 9 a.m. and I will leave for the track in a few minutes.  Wish us luck.


1 p.m.--Pompey has  qualified for the semifinals running a gutsy race from lane 8 and qualifying on time.  After her heat, I immediately headed back to the warmup area and watched the remaining races from there.  I think I said at least 20 Cur Fathers and my prayers were answered.  I met Aliann coming out of the tunnel just as the sixth heat had concluded.  She knew I was excited.  We talked briefly.  Her leg cramped just as she exploded from the blocks, probably due more to the uneven temperature conditions.  She ran a storming 300 meters and was holding onto third place.  She was just nipped at the post by Shana Cox from Great Britain for third place and automatic qualification.  I did recognize that the time was good and might hold up.  After our debrief, I took her over to the medical tent where they worked on her hamstring.  She was fine 30 minutes later and will get more work done at the Village when we get back.  A fine performance!

Up next, Michael Conlan fights tonight in round two of the Flyweight Division in boxing.  I will watch the fight with great interest.

That's all for now.  Cheers!

August 2: Busy Day
Yesterday, undoubtedly, was the busiest since my arrival.  It began with an orientation session at the Olympic stadium at 9:30 a.m.  A British official spent an hour taking us through the call and check-in procedures that the athletes will go through.  In general, they leave the warmup area an hour before they compete and are isolated in a series of areas where they are processed for competition.  Everything gets checked, including every piece of uniform for advertising violations.  In fact, when you get to the Village, all uniforms must be photographed and logged.  When you check in your uniform, it's then compared with the photograph of the logged outfit.

From the check-in area, athletes will then have to walk through a tunnel about 400 meters to the next check-in area, where they receive another number to be placed on the front.  This number also has the name of the competitor.  There is a small warmup area at this point where athletes can do any final preparations as needed.  At some point, athletes in each heat will be then be escorted into the stadium for competition.  It's a nerve-wracking process for individuals with less experience, and there are cameras throughout the area.  I took the precaution of videotaping everything to show to our athletes.  I spent a few minutes inside the stadium and I can assure you people were feverishly working to complete preparations for opening session on Friday.  Aliann will compete at 12 p.m. GMT (7 a.m. EDT) and is in heat 2, lane 8.

My colleague Colin Boyce and I then headed back to the Village, met up with the athletes and continued on to the Newham track, our training base.  Videotaped starting practice with Aliann.  Happy with her technique.  Spent time with Jeremy Bascomb, assisting him with acceleration work.  Looked very good.  Athletes then spent about an hour with the massage therapists.  Top class, and athletes are very happy with their work.  I spent some time taking to British officials.  They are very anxious to know how they are doing.  I always give them a thumbs up!

We took the bus back and then hurried on to a technical meeting at which final adjustments to competition issues were agreed upon.  The head of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, who holds one  of the most powerful positions in all of sports, was present. I can only describe this meeting as similar to a UN of coaches. The meeting was conducted in six languages--English, French, Russian, Arabic, Indian and Spanish.  Surprisingly, it was a very low-key and efficient meeting.

At this point, I was looking forward to leaving the Village and heading off to St. Paul's Cathedral.  I got there by the London Tube and met Manhattan Alum Niall Dunne in front of the magnificent cathedral built by Christopher Wren.  Niall is the Chief Sustainability Officer for British Telecom, a true 21st. Century  occupation.  Niall had made a reservation at The Bread St. Kitchen, one of celebrated chef Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. I'm a big fan of Gordon Ramsay and I watch Hell's Kitchen on FOX without fail.  I think Niall knew this.  We spent four hours chatting and I found his views on the whole issue of sustainability fascinating.  Cuisine lived up to Ramsay's reputation.  Would love to meet him some day.

That's all for now.  I have another jam-packed day tomorrow!  Cheers.

August 1: Home Away From Home
17,000+ athletes and officials live  the Village.  1.2 million meals served throughout the Games.  232 tons of potatoes will be eaten.  100+ tons of meat will be consumed.  880 double-decker buses could fit in the main food hall.  The village consists of 2818 townhouses and apartments.  English and French are the official languages.  There are social venues where athletes can socialize.  No alcohol is allowed in the Village.  Religious services for all creeds are available.  Medical services are truly top notch, as you can imagine.  Resident centers are available on every block where all sorts of services are available.  Each apartment has a hi-def TV with dedicated sports channels for each sport being contested.  It's a great way to follow the action in the other sports.  We even have our own daily newspaper called Village Life.

On a lighter note, what man wouldn't be happy with a situation where you drop off your laundry in the basement of your apartment block ready for pickup in four hours, and food is freely available 24 hours a day?  The Village has its own police force consisting of British Bobbies who spend more time posing for photographs with athletes than policing.  Yes, they still wear those funny hats.  They look very content and probably consider themselves fortunate to have drawn this duty.

The Village is populated by gangs of people proudly wearing their gang colors.  I'm speaking ,of course, of thousands of young people in the national uniforms of their countries at all times.  National pride is prominently on display.  Athletes, coaches and officials usually have multiple outfits to suit the occasion.  Athletes taking photos of each other is a very popular activity.  Aliann Pompey is a master at getting athletes to pose with her.  We coaches don't have to worry about this.  As you can imagine, its very easy to differentiate coaches and athletes.

I was amused the other day when I walked by a designated smoking area in the village and it was populated by coaches sneaking a cigarette.  I had a wonderful moment yesterday when a young person manning a security area asked me what event I was competing in.  I was delighted with myself and thoughts ran through my head to quickly select a plausible event  for myself.  Sad to say, I failed at the task and thanked her for making my day.

The NOC's (National Olympic Committees, one for each country competing at the Games) do expect decorum and enforce a code of conduct upon athletes and officials.  People are under a microscope, now more so than ever, and just in the past few days a soccer player and a track athlete from Switzerland and Greece respectively were sent home for inappropriate tweets.  Each team has a Chef D'Equipe (Delegation Leader), whose word is law and is responsible for their respective delegation.  It's a tough assignment, and I can tell you from experience that they work hard at the practical and political dimensions of the job.

I want to say hello to students at Nanuet who I'm told have been following the blog.  I received a few e-mails from some of my students today.  Aliann Pompey's high school in Cohoes has linked to the blog and are following events.  Cheers!

July 31: Practice and Preparation
Happy to report that Aliann's workout went very well yesterday.  "400 The Hard Way" involves running a series of 100-meter sprints.  Every 50 meters of a quarter of a mile in a predetermined time usually faster than race pace.  When you finish one repetition, you only recover for 50 meters and repeat.  This is repeated a total of seven times, and the last repetition brings you to the end of the 400. 

I worked with Jeremy Bascomb, videotaping his starts with my new iPad.  Jeremy has a best of 10.19 seconds for 100 meters and is one of the fastest sprinters in South America.  He graduated from Erasmus High School and LIU in Brooklyn.  Jeremy  possesses a rocket start and I'm looking forward to seeing him compete on Saturday.  He is a keen student of sprinting and appreciated the taping capabilities of the iPad.  Wilson George, our 400-meter runner, has a best of 45.85 and he did the same workout as Pompey.  Wilson lives in Guyana and serves on the police force in Georgetown, the capital city.

In the afternoon, I met up with the Conlan family (see picture) from Belfast outside the village.  Their son Michael, as I have mentioned before, is boxing for Ireland.  He was supposed to box last night, but he got a bye into the second round.  He is now ranked sixth in the flyweight division and will now compete on Friday night.  I talked with his family for quite awhile and we had a good laugh, as Irish people usually do talking about the ins and outs of athletics.  One of Michael's siblings is also a professional boxer and he is based in Belfast.  The Irish have had a good long term Olympic record in the lower weight divisions and I have my fingers crossed for good fortune for Michael.

In the late afternoon, I spent time at the Olympic warmup track adjacent to the stadium.  Tomorrow I have scheduled an orientation tour which will take us through the check-in procedures which are very involved at this level.  Once athletes check in for their event, they are alone and sequestered in various stations before they enter the stadium to compete.  I estimate that an athlete could spend up to one hour sequestered in these areas.  It adds to the tension and is vey difficult for less experienced athletes to handle.  Pompey, of course, has experienced these conditions many times and she will handle it like the professional she is.

Busy day tomorrow with practice, and I have to attend a technical meeting of athletic

officials in the village to review last-minute details and rules of competition.  An alumnus from Manhattan who works in London has kindly extended an invitation to dinner in East London.  Looking forward to that.  Cheers!

July 30: Day to Relax
Today was a recovery day for most of us.  We got to practice at 8 a.m. at the Newham Track & Leisure Center.  The center is a coach's dream.  Facilities are top-class and there is an indoor facility with a top-class weight room adjacent to the track, a wise decision given the uncertainty of British weather.  In addition, we have massage and physical therapists at the facility throughout the day.  Experienced British track officials are manning the facility and are doing a great job tending to our every need.  The piece de resistance for me personally is having coffee and snacks freely available at the track (see picture by Jeremy Bascomb).  It's much appreciated and sure beats walking across Broadway to the local deli to get my coffee before practice at Van Cortlandt Park.  Athletes at Manhattan know that I appreciate a good coffee.  Speaking of which, I want to offer my congratulations to our javelin thrower, Phil Ragan, who won the National Junior Olympic Javelin title on Saturday at Morgan State.  Great job Phil!

I spent most of the afternoon catching up on other Olympic events.  Watched Brazil's soccer team play a great match against Belarus, winning 3-1 and giving a great demonstration of the beautiful game.  I watched some of the swimming events with my swimming colleagues on the Guyanese team.  The swimming sprint events were truly exciting and, of course, Michael Phelps has now won an unprecedented 17 medals, having swam the second leg of the 4x100m freestyle relay final to secure second place.  I watched Phelps in Beijing win his eight gold medals, and it's amazing that he has been able to maintain such levels of motivation.  Guyana's swimmers compete on Wednesday and Thursday.  Our female swimmer Brittany is only 15 and highly ranked in the Caribbean region.  Niall Roberts is our other swimmer, and he was on the team in Beijing.  I always kid him that his name is Gaelic and have told him about the Irish legendary figure Niall of the Nine Hostages.

Weather is a major topic here.  We had thunder and a number of showers today.  Everybody, however, was relieved that it was dry for the Opening Ceremony despite a shower a few hours previous to the start of the proceedings.  Don't go anywhere without an umbrella.  Tomorrow we will go back to Newham and do Pompey's most important workout of the week.  She has to do a workout called "400 Meters the Hard Way."  She runs on Friday at 12 p.m. (7 a.m. EDT) and we are well into the acclimatization process at this point.  That's all for now.  Cheers!

July 29: Olympic Duties
Last night I attended a reception at the Guyanese Consulate in Notting Hill.  We travelled by London Tube since our guides insisted it would be much faster.  We didn't argue given our limited experience with London traffic.  We caused quite a stir in the station since we wore our yellow jackets, but with with black pants this time.  We just learned that Fox Sports ranked our sharp outfits No. 29 of the Opening Ceremony, so we are feeling pretty comfortable with the suits.  You can catch a picture of us on the Fox Sports website according to Aliann.  No doubt our suit designer in Guyana is probably happy right now.  They certainly are great for starting a conversation.  We received a lot of smiles and compliments.  Some  people recognized us from the Opening Ceremony.

Having attended a similar reception in Beijing in 2008, I thought I knew what to expect.  But the circumstances were quite different this time.  Far more people were present.  We  were greeted by a large number of Guyanese residing in Britain.  The High Commissioner of the Consulate was very gracious in his comments, as he introduced Dr. Karen Pilgrim, our Chef D'Equipe, who introduced us to the crowd.  Upon conclusion, I was treated to a fantastic traditional Guyanese meal of cook-up and chicken curry that I wolfed down without mercy.

Then a curious thing happened which which gives truth to the notion that the Irish are everywhere.  I was introduced to a Co. Mayo woman from the west of Ireland who has been involved with the Guyanese community in London and also in Guyana since the 1960s.  I immediately picked up on her accent and she couldn't believe that I was from Dublin.  Her name was Patsy and it seemed that everybody in the room knew her.  From then on, she introduced me as "The Irishman" and said that we will have no problem winning the gold.  I vainly attempted to dampen expectations but you can't hold a Mayo woman in line.  Anyway, we had a great time conversing about Ireland and Guyana.

When our leader decided it was time to depart we were deluged with requests for photos, particularly Aliann, and it probably took another 45 minutes to get to the door.  We were faced with more requests for photo ops outside the consulate and passersby were quite willing to help out.  We made our goodbyes, and again turned eyes as we walked the streets of Notting Hill to get back to the Tube.  It will be an early night for a tired group.  Practice is at 8 a.m. and I am anxious to get back to business.

July 28: Opening Ceremony
The Parade of Nations is always a highlight for every athlete and official at the Olympic Games.  Last night did not disappoint.  I'm  only sorry that I didn't get to see the Danny Boyle show live. It all started in our apartment when my colleagues and I donned our Olympic outfits (see picture).  The uniform was a yellow suit with a cravat in the colors of the Guyanese flag.  We all had a good laugh taking pictures and commenting on our sartorial splendor.  Our guides then directed us on the long march to the stadium.

Once we left the village, each side of the passage was thronged with children holding flags and giving us great encouragement.  A lot of the athletes posed for pictures and gave autographs.  Naturally, the Jamaican contingent with Usain Bolt got a lot of attention.  Bolt is now so famous that he has his own bodyguards, an unusual circumstance for a track and field athlete, but it appears to be necessary.  As we approached the opening into the stadium, we really smartened up as announcer introduced us to the crowd.  The seats appeared blue and we really couldn't see the spectators, but the effect was spectacular.  At the end of our march, we turned left and walked in a tight circle to get to our assigned spot.  From there, we watched the proceedings and took pictures with people from other countries.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with an old friend from my days on the Irish team and, as is  usual with Irishmen, we started talking as if it was yesterday.  I also met up with Irish boxer Michael Conlan who will fight on Friday night in the Flyweight Division, and is the  nephew of my future brother-in-law.  

The biggest roar of the night went to the host British team.  The official proceedings for opening the Games then began and concluded with Queen Elizabeth declaring the Games open. Of course, the big mystery is always the Torch and who is going to light it.  David Beckham took it up the Thames River looking like James Bond and then handed it over to Sir Steven Redgrave, Britain's winner of more Olympic medals than anybody else.  The big surprise of course was that the torch was lit by a number of young people, a departure from normal practice.  I was very fortunate because I was so close to the torch when it rose from the ground.  I could clearly feel the heat as it burst into flame, a great technical feat of coordination.  We heard the sound of Paul McCartney's voice as he launched into "Hey Jude," one of my favorite Beatles songs and I was happy to see that a lot of young people were able to sing along to the words.  A perfect and classic ending to a very British night.  

It ended and then we madly rushed back to the village for food.  It was packed and great fun to see all the different outfits reflecting some aspect of the national character of the country.  My favorite memory as an educator will be the central role that young people played in the actual ceremony, and I thought the concept of a group of them lighting the torch was reflective of the desire of British Olympic officials to place emphasis on the future to inspire them to excellence. 

Today, we got back on the track and are now rushing back to the village to get ready to attend a reception at the Guyanese Embassy in London.

July 27: Raising the Flag
Last night we participated in a ceremony where the flag of Guyana was raised in the village.  This is a ceremony that all delegations must attend when it is their turn.  We were led into the area to the sounds of the legendary rock band Queen (disclaimer: I saw Queen perform in MSG in 1980 and they were brilliant) performed by the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, all of whom were under 18.  Very impressive and it was a nice creative touch by the organizers.  They were dressed in fantasy and medieval outfits.  Acting out a fantasy play, they used background music from Queen to welcome the athletes.  It made sense to me because Queen always had a fantasy and classical influence in their music. 

We were accompanied by delegations from Iceland, The Seychelles, Laos, and the Cape Verde Islands. The mayor of the village gave an address of greeting to the assembled delegations and then called for a representative of each delegation to come to the dais.  The national anthem was then played for that country and an exchange of gifts then took place.  Each flag was raised by a member of a branch of the British military services.  

At the conclusion of the ceremony we met with the leader of the Guyanese NOC (National Olympic Committee), Mr. Jumman Yassin.  He talked with us for a few moments and made particular note of one individual in charge of the judo team.  His name is Geoffrey Sankies and we learned the story of his involvement with the Olympics in the 1970s.  He was selected to compete in judo for Guyana, but because of an administrative issue he was not allowed to compete.  He was selected again to compete in Montreal in 1976, but Guyana observed the famous boycott against South Africa in that Olympics.  Again he was denied the opportunity to compete.  Mr. Yassin understood the significance of his return to the Olympics.  I spoke to him after the ceremony and was impressed by how well he had dealt with the disappointment.  A very touching moment for all of us and one that I won't forget.

I spent a restless night, probably due more to my diverse culinary selections in the cafeteria (see photos of cafeteria).  A funny moment occurred at about 1 a.m. when somebody used a vuvuzela, that very loud instrument that created a controversy at the last World Cup.  Loud screaming could be heard in different languages coming from a number of balconies. I'm sure the language was colorful.  I started laughing and appreciated the moment.  Next up the Opening Ceremony and my Olympic outfit.  Cheers!

July 26: Arrival
Greetings from London.  We finally made it to the village which is located in a formerly rundown area of East London.  As I write this, I am resting in my room recovering from the journey and listening to a live band covering Queen songs.  Not too bad.

Of course, we all went to check out the vast cafeteria with food selections from all over the world.  All athletes do this.  I immediately headed to the Best of Britain section and treated myself to a plate of British bangers and bacon with black pudding (don't ask what is in it, but it tastes awfully good).  This village is definitely busier than Beijing and feels more like a small bustling town.  The competition facilities are within walking distance of the village.  I still don't have my bearings yet, but I intend to go exploring shortly. 

Despite media reports, the immigration control at the airport was quick and efficient.  We were met by a group of volunteers who ushered us through immigration with ease.  Our bags had Olympic tags and the bags were waiting for us when we reached baggage claim.  One of my bags was missing, but a Cockney Londoner made it his mission to locate the bag.  All of a sudden I saw him on the luggage ramp frantically jumping over other bags to get the missing bag!  This does not happen in normal real life.  

The drive from the airport took two hours, even with a designated Olympic lane.  The problem was that the lanes were not continuous and London streets can be quite narrow.  There was a lot of traffic on the outskirts, but surprisingly, traffic was minimal in the center of London.  However, there were many people biking.  London has made a concerted effort over the years to get traffic out of central London by charging stiff tolls and exorbitant parking fees.  It's working and I believe New York is looking closely at this development. The bus driver treated us to some of the famed London sights.  We drove along the Chelsea embankment flanked by the Thames River.  We got great views of London Bridge, Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament.  A nice bonus for us.

Tonight, I have to attend a ceremony where the Guyanese flag will be raised in the village. It's an important tradition and all 204 delegations have to do the same thing. That's all for now.  Cheers!

July 25: Connections to England
Tonight begins my journey to the Olympic Village in London.  Aliann Pompey and I will  leave JFK airport at 7:10 pm, and so begins her fourth Olympic experience and my second.  Beijing in 2008 was about as far from Dublin as you can get, and London is about as close to Dublin you can get.  Beijing was exotic and a big coming out party for the Chinese.  London for me will be a much more personal experience.  

My parents met there on a blind date as immigrants from Ireland and eventually returned to Ireland to start a new life only to have to emigrate a few years later with two young kids, myself included.  We lived in Leeds in northern England for a number of years until our eventual return to Ireland in the mid 1960s.  Over the years, I returned to England for different reasons, including athletic competitions in soccer and track & field.  In the 1980s my wife Julienne, Class of 1981, and I spent part of our honeymoon in London.

As you can imagine, I am thrilled to return to London as a member of the delegation from Guyana, a country that I have had a long association with through my coaching involvement with Aliann Pompey for the past 17 years beginning in her freshman year.  Since graduation, Aliann has travelled the world, winning medals in major competitions and establishing a reputation as a first-class individual among elite athletes.  I have witnessed personally the respect that other athletes have for her and she has been a wonderful ambassador for Guyana. A fourth Olympics is a rare feat in track & field.

Over the next three weeks I will be blogging about my experiences in London.  My address will be the Olympic Village.  Simple enough.  Joe Clifford and Steve Dombroski from sports information convinced me to do this in Beijing so I certainly was not getting out of this one.  I celebrated my 54th birthday on Tuesday and I feel it.  After the Olympics I will travel to Ireland for my sister's wedding, and I will not be blogging about that.  The nephew of her fiancée is boxing for Ireland and I am hoping to see him compete on August 30 in the Excel Center.  His name is Michael Conlan and he lives in Belfast, a quiet corner of the Emerald Isle.

I want to send a big thanks to the boys in sports information.  Thank you Dan Mecca for your continuing support.  I really want to thank my wife Julienne, who took over the onerous task of packing my luggage after watching me in desperation trying to pack enough gear for four weeks.  She is a saint.  No doubt you have read about the poor weather in London and, believe me, Ireland right now is not much better.  You will hear from me when I arrive in the village.  Cheers!
-Joe Ryan

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