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London Scene: Trafalgar Square cheers as clock ticks down to games

Editor’s Note: In addition to covering athletes and events at the Summer Olympics, Cronkite News Service reporters are offering occasional observations about their experiences.

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LONDON – 9 p.m. in Trafalgar Square.

There was no champagne toast, no midnight kiss, no confetti or party hats Thursday night, but the countdown to the 24-hour mark until the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony in Trafalgar Square was as exciting and memorable as any countdown I’ve been a part of.

On Wednesday, my second night in England, I wandered into Trafalgar Square, located in the heart of central London, with a group of fellow student reporters. It was one of the many places each of us had on our lists of places to visit while in England, and we were thrilled to not only find the Olympic Countdown Clock but to be arriving just in time to hear the crowd gathered around it chanting down “10, nine, eight…”

With the opening ceremonies still two days away, we agreed it was an event we would attend the next night at 9 p.m., when the clock would hit the one-day mark, and this time we’d be prepared.

The clock, which one local told me has been counting down since 500 days prior to opening of the games, seems to have a never-ending line of those eager to climb the platform it stands on to have their picture snapped and a record a bit of Olympic history.

Thursday night’s crowd was even bigger and more enthusiastic, with many sporting their individual countries’ colors and flags. And at 8:59 p.m. we readied our cameras and chimed in with the masses “…three, two, one!”

If the last two nights are any indication, Trafalgar Square is sure to be a place you’d want to find yourself Friday, when the ceremony will be broadcast live and people from all walks of life come together to kick off one the world’s greatest traditions.