LONDON – Thumping music and a promise of a great experience lured thousands clad in the attire of their home countries to the entrance of historic Hyde Park. Unfortunately, most couldn’t foot the bill – about $75 U.S.- to enter the Opening Ceremony live concert.
So they set up outside.
Emma Wicks, a native of England, along with her family and friends, sprawled on a bright pink blanket. The ticket price, about 60 pounds, deterred them from attending the event but didn’t break their spirit to watch from the sidelines.
“It’s OK, really. I can hear Duran Duran from here,” she said.
With that optimism, she, her family and her friends donned matching pink and purple ponchos. Three cheeks bore small British flag tattoos. Occasionally, they’d throw up a real British flag after a loud cheer from the crowd.
Gemma, Emma’s 20-year-old daughter, wanted to come to Hyde Park because of its history of great festivals and concerts. She noted the green fences and white tents enclosing the area six weeks prior.
“They’ve been setting up for a while,” she said.
And while Olympic officials were clearly prepared, the proud natives were ready.
“We got here at 5 so we’ve been here for about three hours,” said Emma. “We plan on staying until 11 or 12, or until they chuck us out.”
They had more than enough supplies to last the night – their area was filled with food and drink. None hesitated to suggest a good drink to passers-by of different countries. It was easy to spot, as dozens wore flags as capes.
Alison Dunlap, a long-time friend of the Wickses, proudly displayed her gear, encouraging Americans hoisting a small flag nearby to try Pimm’s.
Looking at their supplies in comparison to the simple setups of those close by, the group confirmed the ticket prices didn’t affect their moods.
“I mean, what didn’t we bring?” Dunlap said. “We have newspapers, so we could sleep if we wanted to.”
And while they couldn’t see anything from the concert due to barriers, they knew exactly which British athletes they wanted to look for.
Tom Daley, a young diver for Team Great Britain, won the hearts of the girls and their mothers due to his looks, while a cycler named Chris Froome stole the affection due to his talent.
As the time grew closer to 9 p.m., the group felt a little discouraged because of the ticket prices and lack of screens. But, making the best of their situation as thousands of others did, they kept their spirits up.
“[Being outside] is fun. It’s free,” Emma said. “It’s a way to get in with the Olympics.”