From Princess Diana's Memorial Playground in Hyde Park to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Piccadilly Circus, the mystique of London during the Games of the XXX Olympiad will surely fascinate the 20 participants of the Tiffin University Olympic Academic Experience, let alone, the world. On the heels of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the British are still coming out ready to throw one heck of a party - and Tiffin University will be there to join the festivities. Highlights include the selection of five TU students to serve as official greeters Friday at the Olympic Reunion Center immediately following the worldwide broadcast of the 2012 Opening Ceremonies.
Among the 20 participants in London as part of the TU Olympic Academic Experience is Kevin Baron, a student originally from the University of Oregon who already has been backpacking in Europe since April. All 20 are studying or working in the sport management field with the exception of TU's Chris Wolcott, a track athlete studying criminal justice, and 14-year-old Katie Tiell, a swimmer and track athlete from Calvert High. (Incidentally, Katie is one of five Tiffin teens who swam a four-mile open water event in Lake Erie this month from Kellys Island to Lakeside Dock. Columbian High's Chris Gate's finished ahead of all competitors while Lindsay Young, Jordan Jarrett, and Alexis DesJardins rounded out Tiffin's Teen-Extreme Aquatic Crew.)
So far, Katie and one of the graduate students are the only participants with tickets to watch Ryan Lotche, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin at the Olympic Aquatic Center on Sunday. The graduate student, Darci Santella, is a math teacher from New Jersey who worked last year's Canadian Basketball Pro Draft Day. TU's eclectic group also includes an aspiring minister, a student originally from Oregon State who worked the 2012 Olympic Track trials, another who has experience working with NFL agents, a former collegiate rower, and a recent University of Texas grad who intends to extend her stay if she lands the job she will interview for while overseas.
Speaking of rowing, one of Tiffin University's former tennis stars (Julia Grove) is related to Caroline Queen, the only female on the USA Olympic kayak team. Upon learning the news and contacting Caroline through a Facebook message, the Olympic hopeful immediately responded with an invitation to connect in London. Queen took a semester off from Davidson College to train for her Olympic dream which will take place through the rapids near Hertfordshire, England.
The white water venue is one of the few which are not within walking distance of the Clink261 Hostel on Grays Inn Road which serves as the temporary residence for TU's academic delegates. Public transportation is free with an Olympic ticket in hand for venues such as the White Water Rafting Center, Wembley's Futbol Stadium, Wimbledon Tennis Courts, and the main Olympic Park. Fortunately, within walking distance of the hostel are many venues including Hyde Park where the group is attending the Torch Relay Finale' Concert featuring The Wanted and other British band sensations. Prince Albert's road is also close enough for a brisk walk to Regent's Park for road cycling, Horse Guards Parade for beach volleyball and Lord's Cricket Ground for archery. Interestingly, one of the Olympic archery competitors is Jacob Wukie of Oak Harbor, a graduate from James Madison University. The entire TU group will watch Jacob on Friday morning before the Opening Ceremonies as he competes in the men's preliminaries.
The Olympic Reunion Center where five TU students will serve as greeters after the 2012 Opening Ceremonies is also within walking distance. On Monday, the entire TU's academic delegation will join a dozen of London's underprivileged children and selected Olympians at the Reunion Center in Wellington Barracks adjacent to Buckingham Palace. The Reunion Center is the location for an event co-sponsored by Tiffin University and the World Olympian Association (WOA). A "Color Wars" competition will feature four teams participating in races, trivia contests, and fun games leading to an Olympic-style medal ceremony and a rockin' closing celebration party. The event has been in the planning stages more than eight months as part of the WOA's vision to partner with educational initiatives and use the Games as a vehicle to promote humanitarian values, peace, diversity, and fair play.
While there are promises of many amazing and exciting events planned for TU's group throughout the London Games, there is conservative rationalization that promises can easily be broken when global politics and inappropriate human behavior take center stage. In Beijing, a trip to the Olympic Village was canceled after the fatal stabbing to the father-in-law of the USA men's volleyball head coach on top of the Drum Tower. At the 2004 Athens Games in the economically unstable country of Greece, security in the aftermath of 9/11 created numerous restrictions. Security in London will continue to remain a top priority in the age of global terrorism and unyielding violence in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The first scar immortalizing these upcoming summer Games took place in 2005 when 52 London residents were murdered by suicide bombers on the day following the announcement of the 2012 official host city. Despite these harsh realities influenced by war, politics, and murderous behavior, the true spirit and glory of the Olympic Games seems to always shine through and Tiffin University is embracing another global - and golden - opportunity of a lifetime.
Stay tuned for periodic reports from London throughout the Games as the Tiffin University Olympic Academic Experience ventures onward to another quadrennial global journey into sport, politics, education, and culture. Follow the TU Olympic Academic Experience via FaceBook, live interviews broadcasted on www(dot)senecacountyradio(dot)com, and brief articles transmitted via e-mail to the Advertiser-Tribune. Indeed, London is calling and Tiffin, Ohio is again present and ready to share the international sport stage known as the Olympic Games.
Bonnie Tiell is the associate dean of graduate studies at Tiffin University