LONDON – No one on Team Cronkite won a medal at the Olympic Games, which concluded Sunday with the Closing Ceremonies.
But 19 Arizona State University journalism majors who covered the London Games for Cronkite News leave the U.K. Monday with golden memories wrapped around their necks.
Here are some share the most unforgettable moments of their three-week journey.
I think the little things will be what I remember most about this trip. The way the street corners have “look left” or “look right” to help pedestrians figure out which direction the aggressive London traffic will be assailing them from. The sound of the bells of the bikes from the bike shares. The admonitions from the tube station PAs to “mind the gap between the platform and the train” and to “stand on the right, walk on the left” for the escalators. It’ll be the moments like the time I talked to Patrick McEvoy, a carpenter whose world was so shattered by the financial crisis he’s trying to piece it back together by becoming an aspiring intellectual giving speeches to the crowds at Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner every Sunday, and those pints of bitter downed at the local after a hard day’s work. I think those will mean as much to me as the Olympic millieu and the press conferences with athletes. Of course, now that I mention it, the opportunity to report on the likes of Boris Becker, Teresa Edwards and Natalie Coughlin was pretty unforgettable too …
My most memorable moment came at a baseball game. Yes, a baseball game in Finsbury Park where I watched players of various pedigrees and nationalities play. I figured sitting on the bench behind the gate would be my best bet, but quickly learned I didn’t belong. “Why is a girl sitting in the dugout?” someone asked. “This is YOUR dugout?” I retorted. It made it very clear to me how little Britain offers in terms of support and funding for baseball here in London, and it made me miss my American pastime. Once they got used to me and two other female reporters being there, they lightened up. They were funny, in fact. When one of them asked me if One Direction was popular in America, he didn’t even bother to hear my response — he just started singing “What Makes You Beautiful” loudly. They kept playing until the sun went down, and then everyone got together and tidied the park. An old shack to the side of the field was their clubhouse where they stored equipment. It basically reminded me of a Little League field, but to them it was paradise, and it was great to see them have such fun playing my favorite sport in the world.
There are many iconic images associated with London, and on this trip I was honored to recreate one of the most famous. Abbey Road is a scene that was immortalized on the cover of the Beatles album by the same name in the 1969, and a group of four students and I made the journey up to the crossing to make our own photograph. It wasn’t easy. Cars, lorries, and double-decker buses whizzed up and down the road, and then several groups of tourists attempted to get their own versions of the photo. The only way to get it done was to turn into a drill sergeant. I ran into the middle of the road, shouted, “Cronkite girls, GO!” and they all ran into the crosswalk and posed. We had to run through this several more times to get it right – and I was stopped at least twice by other tourists who wanted me to take their photo “because [I] look like a professional” – but it was great fun.
“If you practice and try really hard, you can go to the Olympics,” my dad told me. I was 10, maybe younger, and my sister and I were practicing our “ice skating” around the living room floor as we watched athletes like Michelle Kwan and Tara Lapinski represent the United States. These were my first memories of the Olympics. Eight years later, a sophomore in high school, I was sprawled out in front of my grandparents’ TV, cheering on the women’s volleyball team during the 2004 Games in Athens. Playing high school volleyball at the time, I knew I would probably never be at the playing level of the athletes I watched, but I promised myself that one day I’d attend the Olympics and see the games I’d watched religiously every two years unfold in person. Another eight years later, I find myself in London at the 2012 Summer Games. Watching the U.S. women’s soccer team defeat Japan in the gold medal match brought my trip full circle both professionally and personally. Seeing my country’s athletes awarded their medals and hearing my national anthem ring out in Wembley Stadium, I was filled with emotion, pride and appreciation. After 17 years of academia and working towards a profession, my dad was right. If I practiced and worked really hard, I could make it to the Olympics!
While making contacts in London with British Jewish organizations, I secured a place at the official Munich memorial ceremony on Aug. 6 commemorating the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed during the ’72 Munich Games. I know I will remember the haunting sound of “Lu-Yehi” (“Let It Be”) for the rest of my life. Chills ran down my spine and tears sprang into my eyes as the Israeli scouts youth group beautifully sang the words as 11 guests lit 11 candles. The two widows of the victims present expressed their outrage and sadness, and we remembered what the Olympic Games are all about. Those men were athletes at the peak of their lives trying to fulfill lifelong dreams of competing at the Olympics. They were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. They did not deserve to die, and they do not deserve to be ignored by the International Olympic Committee, which has never officially honored them with a moment of silence during the games. I can only hope that Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, and other committee members listen to the words of “Lu-Yehi” and make a change at the next Olympics in four years. “There is a still a white sail on the horizon opposite a heavy black cloud. All that we ask for – let it be.”
As the doors of the train were closing at the Green Park Tube station, I heard the conductor say, “Alight here for Buckingham Palace,” my destination. Stuck on the wrong side of the packed train car, it was clear I would not be pushing my way through to the door in time to “alight.” Overheated (thanks to a severe lack of air conditioning in this country) and frustrated, I decided to go on to the next stop: Hyde Park Corner. I never would have guessed that one of my best memories in London would result from a misstep with public transportation. When I walked through the gates of Hyde Park, it was crowded with tourists. But there was one area in particular where people seemed to be gathering. Barricades lining one of the main paths in the park formed a barrier where people were packed in tightly, trying to get the best view. I discovered the Olympic Torch was about to be run through Hyde Park on its way to Buckingham Palace where Will, Kate and Harry were awaiting its arrival. We took a spot right in the front, up against the fence and waited for the torch to run past. Watching as the official Olympic flame ran only a few feet in front of us was an experience I will never forget. Seeing the excitement of the torch runner and feeling the energy of the crowd, I instantly caught Olympic fever.
Everyone’s shoes squeaked but mine. But in a basketball gym, that is pretty standard. On the court, several U.S. men’s players horsed around under the hoop. I took in their overwhelming presence. Not just their larger-than-life physical size, but also their grandiose celebrity. These were the world’s greatest basketball players. As I was questioning how I could have possibly landed myself in this Olympic mecca of sports journalism, my editor called me over to the bleachers: “There’s someone I want you to meet.” I followed him through the throng of reporters vying for attention from the players and landed toe to toe with Kobe Bryant. The three of us formed an intimate circle and just talked. Bryant is a nice guy and even had some advice for me. He told me to trust my instincts and be unique. He said to make my own observations and not follow the crowd, pack journalism it’s called. Pretty sound advice. What he said and what I saw in that gym, I took to heart. I mean, you’re not just going to blow off Kobe Bryant.
One of my best moments came when I ventured to quirky Camden Town with three colleagues. While sitting on the back of old scooter, eating Indian food and facing a canal, two locals began to chat with us, first asking if we were Canadian. Responding that we were American, they laughed and said they thought so but had to make sure. We were all obviously confused, so they explained. “Whenever someone speaks English, we ask if they’re Canadian first because if they are and we asked if they are American first, they’d be offended.” I found the statement hilarious – and one of my top memories. Then again, so is getting to see the city from the London Eye; finding great restaurants hidden among the plentiful pubs; interviewing U.S. track athletes (my favorite event to watch); watching the U.S. women win gold in soccer; working in the melting pot of all these countries; watching an Olympic torch runner …
Some photographers spend their entire careers trying to get this gig, and here I am at age 20 right beside the guys from NBC, AP, Getty. It is unreal. It didn’t really sink in until the day after opening ceremonies. I was on the course of the men’s cycling road race shooting athletes from all around the world. Later, I shot the women’s race. I was so close to the action and snapped the greatest pictures I have ever been able to take. The anticipation. The rush. The blur. Then there was the moment I went through the nearly 2,000 photos I took of the women’s road race only to see a shot of Marianne Vos, the gold medalist, looking straight back at me through my lens. That was a favorite moment; you can’t plan shots like that. What I am taking away from this trip most is a new optimism. I love photography. I this job, I love this life. Some days were long and others a lot lighter, but there was never a single moment where I was sent on assignment and I didn’t want to go. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life, and on this trip I discovered on a new level of how much I really do love what I do. This won’t be the last the Olympics sees of me.
My favorite part of working in London was the opportunity to meet so many interesting people from around the world. Whether it was for a story or just a casual conversation on the Tube, I’ve talked to so many people with such interesting stories to tell. But I’ve also loved the experience of being in the host city for the Olympics, and nothing was more exciting than watching Team USA take the gold in women’s soccer. I’ve never been a huge soccer fan, but how can you not be when the energy is that electric? I’ve noticed a common bond from everyone here in London experiencing the games and whether you’re watching at Olympic Park or at a local pub, you can’t help but be proud to be part of the London 2012 experience.
My favorite part about this trip was when I watched both of my countries win a gold medal. We went to the U.S. women’s soccer game and I went to a Mexican restaurant to see Mexico’s men’s soccer team take the gold for the first time. Mestizo, the Mexican restaurant, was probably my favorite memory, spending time there, meeting cheering fans, the owners, the chef and reporters from Mexico. I know that I’ll stay in touch with some of them. Who knows, I might end up working in Mexico perfecting my Spanish and then I could work in the U.S. I love being so international – I’m a Mexican-American working in London at the Summer Olympics!