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London Olympics Photo Journal (from a mostly street-photography perspective)

In 2000, my home town of Sydney hosted the Olympic Games. I went to four ticketed events and went to none of the road events, and took maybe three rolls of APS (!) film and two of 35mm film.

Twelve years later, in defiance of the belief that the Olympics are a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ my hometown is now London. I came too late to join the ticket ballot in the UK, and left Australia too soon to apply for tickets there once I knew where I’d be, but via friends and desperation and a determination to see ANYTHING, especially if it was free, I did okay.

For sixteen days I’ve managed to make it in to London, seen 4 ticketed events and NINE free events, and spent all other days wandering the streets and photographing everything. FIFTEEN THOUSAND photos later….. here’s a selection of 0.3% of those. The full set of some 300 photos, including each of the the 82x two-meter mascots are in my facebook album

Anyway. London. Olympics. Here’s how it went down for somebody who ISN’T in a privileged ticketing and sponsorship position, but can fortunately wander around with a camera and stool…


London 2012. 1 year earlier, it was 1 year to go!!


“So, to summarise, it might not end up being as good as Sydney, but we’ll do our best” Prime minister David Cameron, (some guy), LOCOG chief Lord Sebastian Coe and Princess Anne are in attendance, filled with the confidence that comes with knowing free tickets will no doubt be heading their way as long as they don’t lose their jobs in the next year.


T-minus 7 days and I’ve discovered that the city of London has ‘hidden’ 82 giant mascots in the capital, each with a weird little theme. There are two types, one called “Wenlock” (for the Olympics) the other “Mandeville” (for the Paralympics). This one I’m guessing is “post-stockmarket crash yuppie” Wenlock.


… and this one might be “Elizabethan Charlatan” Wenlock.


T-minus 1 day, and the Olympic Torch is scheduled to arrive at Kings Cross St Pancras station. Since I pass through it most days, I figured I’d stay (I’m being greedy, though – I saw the torch in St Albans about two weeks earlier)


On any other day, you might be arrested for carrying an open flame through St Pancras. I might test the theory sometime in October. I’ll make sure to wear white.


Day 0. London? Do this thing. AND DO IT RIGHT.


Day 1. The mens cycling road race. The eagle-eyed with a view for sideburns will recognise Team GB’s Bradley Wiggins in the front centre-left. He will go on to win Gold in the cycling time trials a few days later.


A couple of hours later, and I’m about 1500m from the finish, and the Colombian in second place makes a move on the Kazakhstani in first. He succeeds but the Kazkh takes the first place back closer to the line. So the 1-2 is as it was in this photo!


Day 2. This time it’s the Womens Cycling road race. I’ve selected a spot near Harrods that provides a long-range view up the course, about 2km from the start/finish. … but more excitingly in this picture I like how, in the centre left, the two Canadian teammates are having a chat. The R-Patz / K-Stewz thing is on EVERYBODY’S lips…


Several seconds later, and the pack passes. Eventual Team GB silver medallist Lizzie Armistead is on the right, based on earring similarity. The orange/red jersey in the back may belong to the ultimate winner, who is from Netherlands and whose facial structure is pretty similar to the winner


Day 3. It’s a Monday and far from being a seething mass of people, London actually seems weirdly quiet. Seems everyone is working from home in fear, and/or at the venues themselves. I’ve decided that on all days I don’t have tickets, I’m going to wander around London and just photograph things. In particular, these mascots. I’m determined to photograph them all before the Olympics are over. This one might be called “Who ya callin’ Yellow” Wenlock.


Even my ‘home soil’ of Leicester Square, home of premieres (all of which are on hold during the Olympics) has a mascot. I’m calling this one “JJ Abrams Commemorative Lens Flare” Wenlock.


Day 4. I’m at an event – a non-medal day at the rowing. Early Fan Favourite “Hamadou The Hippo” of Niger only took up rowing 3 months earlier but gained entry to the games. He came last by a long way even in his SLOW heat.


Much more professional are the Dutch Womens Eights.


Ah… patriotism!


Day 5. I can’t believe they took this sign down!! Bah… the IOC have no sense of humour. Time to scout out some more mascots…


Possibly my favourite so far.. the “Oscar Wilde Memorial” Wenlock.


Day 6. I’m hunting Mascots near Tower Bridge and have found several, however this shot of the Rings (retracted… but why??) on Tower Bridge are kind of cool.


It’s a beautiful view, and from where I’m standing there’s also a large TV screen I was using to watch Michael Phelps win yet more gold medals. But the rings… why aren’t the rings lit up? I leave disappointed and confused.


Day 7. I’m back and the rings are down (woo!)


The live site is drawing the crowds (and the hamburgers they were selling were both tasty and not at all overpriced. Well played, London!)


London? Is looking pretty.


Day 8. It’s Saturday, and the Mens 20km walk is taking place near Buckingham Palace and The Mall. The crucial thing to know is that (a) Race Walkers walk funny, and (b) they’re meant to have one foot on the ground at any given time.


This photo is notable because the three guys who are IN MIDAIR in this photo will go on to win the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal. Ummmm…. should somebody be emailing the International Athletics Foundation about this? (don’t worry… I have)


The eventual winner on the last of his ten laps. Reach for the sky, dude…


“Modern Art Wenlock” hangs around the Tate Modern. They’ve got a Damien Hirst exhibit on at the moment. The shark in formaldehyde and the butterfly wing works are pretty awesome, but I think the splatter paintings and the stuff with dead flies and drunk butterflies are pretty dumb. (Hey… I paid admission : I’m allowed to have an opinion!)


Day 9 and it’s the Womens marathon. Cue some Biblical rain on lap one that later clears but leaves me, my moleskine and many of my posessions soaked!


For lap 3 I’ve chosen a spot where my 10-20mm lens at 10mm puts me about ten centimeters from the competitors. Amazingly, this photo contains the three ultimate medal winners. Ethiopia’s Gelana will win gold, Kenya’s Jeptoo silver, and Russia’s Petrova Arkhipova bronze.


Still day 9 and I’ve shifted location to the ExCeL and I’m watching the mens foil fencing final! (hey…do you know how hard it was just to get THOSE tickets??). This? Is what low-gravity wire-fu fencing might look like. (incidentally : I had no trouble getting my 70-200mm f2.8 into the venue – good news given I’m literally in the last row)


In the Gold Medal match, Japan (at right) were off to an early lead – nice blend of speed and aggression. However, from about the third Italian onwards, the Italians maintained a slender lead and ended up winning.


Day 10 and I’m off to Wembley to watch the Womens football semi final between… I’m not sure! It doesn’t matter….


It’s the second half and Japan make it 2-0 against France. The game is looking over…


But France make it 2-1 and the game shifts momentum, culminating in France being awarded a penalty which they MISS, and Japan ends up winning 2-1. They’ll be in the final. (I have tickets to that!!)


Day 11. I hadn’t intended to see the Triathlon’s cycle leg, and therefore found myself with only my ultra-wide angle lens (and a step-ladder). Still, the crowds were out, it wasn’t raining, and the view wasn’t all that shabby.


I did all I could with the 10-20mm and a lot of panning motions. This is about as artistic as I could manage…


I’m running out of time for photographing all these mascots, so I head to Brick lane. And look! It’s “Celebrating Urban Decay” Wenlock!!


And here’s “Three Amigoes” Mandeville.


Day 12. In the absence of events to attend, it’s time to take a huge chunk out of my Mascot-Photographing objectives. Not one, but TWO of the Mayor Of London ‘STROLL’ walks – Red and Purple. This is presumably “Fare Evasion” Wenlock, PICCADILLY CIRCUS


“Stoically looking into the Audi Dealership” Wenlock, near The Ritz.


Patriotic Street Artists have already stencilled both Jessica Ennis and also Mo Farah (Gold Medal – 10000m) on the South Bank skate area! Very impressed.


Day 13. It’s the womens 10km open water swim, and I’m guessing this is the right place.


So to summarise, it’s not exactly the most spectator-friendly sport at these games


The best detail that 16MP and a really aggressive photoshop filter can get you at 40 or 50 meters


Day 13. And now I’m at Wembley for the Womens Football gold medal match!


An outstanding save keeps the score 1-0 for the USA. I’m even more impressed because she’d been practicing diving across-wards not upwards!


.. .and that’s halftime. Great game so far. Crowd : 80,023. Not small. Not quiet. Given to doing the wave at inopportune time and shouting USA! USA! (or Ni-ppon! Ni-ppon!)


So what’s going on here is that it’s 5 minutes into the second half, and the Usain Bolt 200m final is on. Hundreds of people (like me) have left their seats and are at the TV screens to watch it – a tough call, but sometimes you’ve got to make them. That noise you’re hearing? Is the USA scoring again to make it USA 2, Japan 0. Aaaaargh. I feel rather foolish now.. (but then Usain wins and it’s all pretty awesome again!)


The USA’s keeper makes another spectacular save to keep the score at 2-1, which is what the final score ends up being


I get to see some medals handed out (and then race 80,000 people to the exit!)


Day 14 and I set off on my final Mascot Hunt walk – this one is at Regents Park… and this one? “The Twirly Moustache Means He’s an 1800s Supervillain” Mandevilla


And then I head back to Brick Lane…. And this? Is pretty awesome. Jamaican double-dual gold medallist Usain Bolt on the side of a building. They need to get Bolt to pose in front of that!


Previously photographed on Day 14, this collection of items previously included gold medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis, but now includes Team GB time trial cycling gold medallist Bradley Wiggins as well. These street artists must be working overtime. Isn’t Team GB up to 22 golds??


Hee!! Love it. I’m surprised agents of the International Olympic Committee haven’t napalmed the entire block in retaliation.


Day 15. I’m seriously short on sleep and food after almost two weeks of this, but I’ve made it to just outside Buckingham Palace for the Mens 50km walk. If it’s as much of a debacle as the 20km, I’m not staying. (thankfully it wasn’t!)


Every lap, the Australian Tallent would slide wide to his left of the group and avail himself of the mist-station. Good call, or needless waste? Time would tell… I was barely functioning at this stage, and was off for breakfast.


By the way, did you know that Lord Nelson on top of Nelson’s column has new hat for the duration of the games? Now you do!


I miss the Australian coming second, but I stay for this : the very last finisher was Team GB’s own KING. IN a rather AWESOME conclusion, he spent his entire last lap high-fiving/side-fiving the members of the wildly enthusiastic crowd. Outstanding stuff – even my cynicism dissipated considerably as a result. Time for lunch.


Three hours later, and it’s now the Womens 20km walk, I had my spot next to a dude with dual Nikons and a 400mm or 500mm lens on one, and it? Was on.


It’s the 9th of 10 laps and the front-walking Russian (who I’m calling Lady Gaga because she looks remarkably like a non-makeup wearing, non-meat-dress wearing pop star) is keeping her lead…. barely… over the two shadowy, blurry figures in the background…


Russia’s Lashmanova is about to make her move. Is there enough time? (To overtake Lady Gaga before they move out of view, I mean…) (answer : No to overtaking, but yes to the Gold Medal. She overtook with a couple of hundred meters to go)


Day 16. It’s the Mens Marathon. And these guys? Are just lazy.


It’s not like I didn’t give a fair bit of thought to my spot for this race!!


One of the most apt tattoos I’ve seen on a runner!


The final lap and the three front runners will go on to win Gold-Silver-Bronze, albeit in the order Bronze-Silver-Gold based on this photo.


And here we have the very last runner – the East Timorese, passing by to the huge cheers of the crowd. And one cheerful bulldog. And that…..?


…. is pretty much it. Goodbye Olympics! (wait… waddaya mean London is hosting the PARALYMPICS as well??)

So… that was that. It pretty much explains my absence from Redbubble for a fortnight, and my lack of sleep and why my Pentax K-5 is still humming and warm from all the shutter actuations! Somehow I managed to get through this. The longer journal is ‘funnier’ and more like premieres, because the Olympics fortnight really has pretty much been like having 16 premieres in 16 days even when all I’ve been doing is hitting the streets. If you can stomach 307 photos, the full journal is

London Olympics Journal

Now how in the hell do I condense some 15000 photos into ONE PHOTO PER DAY? Find out in a couple of weeks.

Comments

  • ElRobbo
    ElRobboover 2 years ago

    That’s pretty prolific there, Berndt!
    Love the account – sounds like you had a ball!

  • Mel Brackstone
    Mel Brackstoneover 2 years ago

    Wow, what a marathon effort, you’ve excelled yourself! I’d also like to congratulate you on keeping my interest from start to finish, the only olympix stuff I’ve looked at the whole 16 days. :)

  • Mieke Boynton
    Mieke Boyntonover 2 years ago

    AWESOME!!!!!!!! And call me a critic, but I do find it very amusing that EVERY photo you have of the walkers has at least one of them clearly in mid-air, unanchored to the ground in any way. I have a sneaking suspicion you share my inner glee though, since you had150 000 photos to choose from… :) :) :)

  • goddarb
    goddarbover 2 years ago

    Great collection. I agree with Mieke Boynton – at least one, usually more – those walkers are surely deceptive – great shots of racing and soccer (oops, football) and I love those manikins all over the place – never knew they were there at all. They are wonderful as are the street artists!

  • Adriana Glackin
    Adriana Glackinover 2 years ago

    What a great collection!!

  • Mojca Savicki
    Mojca Savickiabout 2 years ago

    Love your collection!! Hehe, i don’t have 15.000 but have a lot too and haven’t even started sorting them yet…..huhhhhh….Great memories! :)))

  • It was an awesome time to be in London and though I think it took me a full week afterwards to properly recover I’m really pleased that I was able to get out there and experience as much as I did. London really was a buzz to be in – good times! Hopefully you were also able to make the most of it?

    – berndt2

  • Mojca Savicki
    Mojca Savickiabout 2 years ago

    And I recognize a lot of spots, esp graffiti :-)))!!