• Outside The Rings: John Ourand

        John Ourand has covered all things media for SportsBusiness Journal since 2006. Before then, he spent several years reporting on the media industry for such outlets as Cable World and CableFAX Daily. London will be John’s first Olympics, though he’s certainly familiar with the city — a one-time resident of Crouch End in North London, he’s just hoping to remember to look right when crossing the street.

        You can reach John at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com, or follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

  • Now that I’m back home, London’s security stands out even more

    I can’t rave enough about the security around the London Games. Since I’ve been back in the United States, the way security is being handled in Britain is one of the first things I bring up when asked about my experiences.

    Lines were kept relatively short, and screeners generally kept a good attitude throughout. I was particularly struck by one member of the British armed forces, who was working the security line as I was entering Olympic Park on the first week. The screeners had noticed something in my bag that shouldn’t have been there. (It ended up being two small cans of shaving cream that I had forgotten were in one of my bag’s pockets.) While waiting for one screener to check my bag, the member of the British military casually asked me with a smile, “What’s the deal, mate? Are you hiding a gun in there?”

    I laughed and we casually bantered back and forth. I couldn’t imagine such a casual security attitude in the States.

    Of course, it should be noted that the screener never found the small, travel-sized shaving cream. Neither did the screeners at any of the 20 or so security check points I went through in London. Several screeners spotted it via the X-ray. But nobody found it while searching my bag. It wasn’t until my final trip through security — heading to beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade — that someone checked the pocket that had the shaving cream. The cans were confiscated, and I was on my way.

  • British volunteers learn to say the oh-so-American ‘Have a nice day’

    When I lived in London in the late 1990s, one of the things that Brits loved to lampoon was the way Americans said “Have a nice day” as a common greeting. To the Brits, that saying was perfectly American. At the time, they thought it was pithy and meant nothing.

    That’s why I was so surprised when I was leaving the FoxSports.com set just outside the Olympic Village last week. As I was leaving, a burly British security guard looked at me and said, “Have a nice day.”

    I laughed and said, “I didn’t think Brits said that.”

    He replied, “I know. It’s a nasty habit I picked up.”

    But it wasn’t just the security guard. All over Olympic Park, I heard British volunteers tell people to have a nice day.

    I later found out that McDonald’s trained these Olympic Park volunteers, which may explain why I heard “Have a nice day” so often.

  • In what’s been a pleasant surprise, traffic issues are nonexistent

    One of the most pleasant surprises of my Olympic experience has been the lack of crowds in London. Roads are clear and the Tube hasn’t been packed. It’s like an entire city went on vacation for a week to let Olympic tourists hang out.

    Take Monday night, for instance. NBC’s Greg Hughes and I took a car from Olympic Park to an event at Battersea Power Station in southwest London around 8 p.m., just after rush hour. The roads were nearly empty.

    “It’s like it is at 2 a.m.,” said our driver, John Hallas. “For me to drive around London like this is just a dream.”

    Hallas, a driving instructor who lives in south London, said most of his friends stayed in town “to really embrace the Olympics.” But the warnings about traffic congestion seem to have kept them off the road. Even with the creation of lanes designed for Olympic vehicles, traffic has been moving so far.

    Surprisingly, people aren’t using public transportation as much, either. Known for overcrowded cars, traffic on the London Underground seems relatively light. It’s not that the trains are empty. It’s just that they haven’t been jam-packed.

  • Forget the Games, forget Big Ben and the Queen … I’m here for the curry

    Forget Big Ben and Windsor Castle. The one typically British scene I was particularly looking forward to this week was dining at a traditional curry house. Every neighborhood in Britain has several Indian restaurants, which are known as curry houses. The food is inexpensive and addictive. And every Brit I know has their favorite.

    Last night, I finally made it to one, hitting The Meghna in a north London neighborhood called Crouch End. The Meghna is one of about four curry houses within one block. They’ve all been around for at least a decade.

    My experience last night didn’t disappoint. Colleague Tripp Mickle and I wolfed down enough food to feed an army and satiate my cravings until the next time I travel to England.

  • I don't know anything about team handball, but it sure was thrilling

    GETTY IMAGES
    I had my first official Olympics moment Saturday when I sat in on a women's team handball match last night. It's a sport I know nothing about. But I was completely riveted by a game between Norway and France that went down to the final buzzer. To me, the allure of the Olympics is stumbling upon sports like this.

    Here's how I ended up at the Copper Box for team handball.

    My colleague Tripp Mickle and I were in the media room at Olympic Park deciding which event to hit. We both shied away from swimming, preferring an event about which we knew little. We heard the Americans were going for gold in archery, but that event was at Lord's Cricket Ground. Too far. I was intrigued by fencing, but that venue also was too far from the media center.

    We settled on team handball, which was in Olympic Park. The Copper Box was packed and loud. Great Britain's team was playing in its first Olympics and lost to Montenegro. We stayed for the next game — defending champion Norway against France — and are glad we did. France upset the Norwegians 24-23 in what was literally a thrilling game, even if I didn't understand the rules.

  • At The Ceremony: U.S. leagues could learn from the ease of the Games

    A strange thing happened during the London 2012 opening ceremony. About 30 minutes into the production, I posted a photo on Facebook with my iPhone. A few minutes later, I updated my Twitter account without the need for WiFi. During the parade of nations, I Skyped with my kids via my Mac.

    With more than 80,000 fans crammed into Olympic Stadium, the Brits figured out how to provide enough cell coverage to allow me to use my iPhone the way it was intended. I can't send an email during early season Wizards games with 10,000 disinterested fans in D.C.'s Verizon Center. But the opening ceremony was no problem.

    Forget about Kenneth Branagh or Mr. Bean, to me the biggest surprise of the opening ceremony was how easy everything was. This has to be the smoothest big event I've ever attended.

    It wasn't just the mobile coverage. Security was no problem, either.

    I realize that as a member of the press, I get certain advantages when it comes to security lines. But the process on Friday couldn't have been smoother, especially when compared to big events in the United States like the Super Bowl. I ran my backpack and sportcoat through an X-ray machine and walked through a metal detector. And that was it. Nobody frisked me. Nobody rifled through my bag. It was quick and painless.

    And it wasn't just the press. My colleague Tripp Mickle and I talked to a small sampling of the general public inside the stadium, and they all said the process for them was smooth and queues were short. This is especially surprising given the number of heads of state who attended, including Queen Elizabeth.

    U.S. leagues could learn something from this process. Going to a sports event doesn't have to be a headache.

  • Wow, that woman sounds just like Adele. … Umm, that’s cause she is

    Adele was doing a sound check at the Holland Heineken House.
    GETTY IMAGES
    While taking a tour of the Holland Heineken House at Alexandra Palace in north London on Thursday afternoon, I entered a huge concert hall filled with Heineken logos and beer taps. A handful of people — maybe 15 — were milling about while a band was on stage rehearsing an Adele song.

    “There’s a fire, starting in my heart …” the woman sang.

    I turned to Heineken’s senior sports manager Dennis Hogenboom and remarked, “That woman is good. She sounds just like Adele.” Hogenboom replied, “That is Adele. She has to do a sound check before her concert tonight.”’

    Ah, of course it was Adele. The Olympics are a big event. And Heineken is a big company.

    My 7- and 11-year-old daughters were plenty jealous when they heard about my private concert with one of their favorite singers.

  • Londoners hit the streets on two wheels a lot these days

    Bicyclists wait at a stoplight near St. Pancras in London.
    JOHN OURAND PHOTO
    The biggest change in London since I lived here more than a decade ago has to be the number of bike commuters pedaling through the city streets.

    I can’t recall seeing any bicyclists commuting to work in the late 1990s. But I’ve seen hundreds over here already using specially built bike lanes on the city streets. The English cyclists I’ve seen have hit virtually every demographic. Just this morning, I spied a woman who looked to be a grandmother pedaling her bike on a busy street while carrying groceries.

    I’ve noticed a lot of differences between London cyclists and ones in the States. Firstly, there’s a lot less spandex. London commuters ride their bikes wearing their work clothes, leaving the bike shorts for the professionals. London cyclists also do not wear helmets. Easily more than half of the cyclists I’ve spotted have not worn helmets, including the grandmother carrying her groceries.

  • Ah, a little taste of home … and a lot of caffeine

    I had a fairly typical experience this morning for an American traveling to London. After an overnight flight, I arrived to check into my hotel at around 9 a.m., only to be told that I couldn’t check in until noon.

    What’s a sleep-deprived Yank to do in London at 9 a.m.?

    The same thing I would do in Washington, D.C. I stored my suitcase and found the nearest Starbucks.

    Two cups of coffee and 90 minutes of free Wi-Fi later, I felt like a new man. The truth is, I rarely go to Starbucks in the U.S. But working in London without an office, I found myself in a Starbucks later in the afternoon to use the Wi-Fi to file a couple of stories.

    The added cups of coffee didn’t hurt, either.

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