Yesterday we visited the Trafalgar Square area for my Cultures of Empire history class. Though the iconic square was covered in a set-up for celebrating and watching the Paralympics, we could still walk around it and enjoy the sights. It was incredible to see the historical buildings I have read about for years up close and personal. Nelson's Column is an awe-inspiring sight to see, towering overhead and guarded by sculpted lions. The ability to see Whitehall (and Big Ben) directly from the National Gallery's steps is also so impressive to me. It will be a great deal of fun to keep returning to the Trafalgar Square area, as I need to come back to the National Gallery at least weekly for my art history class. It will be interesting to see the square change as the seasons change along with events.
This morning, after a nice little tour (for class) of the area surrounding the Olympic Park, I ventured inside to go watch the cycling. (More pictures from my walking tour and my pictures from the Olympic Park are on a post coming up soon. My ticket did not let me into the aquatics facilities at all, so I will be returning to try capturing photos of the amazing pool.) After an extensive walk, I made it to the Velodrome, where the track cycling takes place.
I met up with Ed, and we got settled in. He helped me understand the various rating system based on a ability. Essentially, those athletes who are less affected will see their times unchanged, while those who compete with more difficulty see their times adjusted to a percentage of their final race time. For example, athletes without one of their legs may see their final times be 89% of their completed time. This helps level the playing field a bit and also helps widen the categories whilst remaining fair and conscious of everyone's ability level. We had great seats (thanks to Ed, yet again, and some of our neighboring seats took pictures of us for us.
The cycling began soon after I arrived. We watched the Women's C1-3 & C4-6 classes compete in the 500m race. This meant two laps around the Velodrome for each woman once it was her turn. This was followed by the Men's 4000m Pursuit. All of the athletes were absolutely incredible and so inspiring. No matter what their ability level, as soon as they got onto their bike, they were graceful, powerful, and completely at ease. It was an incredible afternoon, with multiple world records being broken, and team GB and the US both scoring a few medals as the day went on.
The atmosphere and energy of the crowd was astounding. Though they were loud throughout the entire session, when Team GB athletes were performing, the crowd exploded with noise and waving Union Jacks. it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. It was completely made possible thanks to Ed Senn. He is the epitome of Grinnellian generosity and reciprocity; my grandma taught him a variety of important work lessons at the Forum, and he has done so much for our family, from establishing a scholarship in my grandma's name, to sharing advice over coffee in Grinnell with my brother and me, to taking me out for some amazing London experiences. Enjoy the pictures below (and I will add more after I sort through the nearly one thousand photos I took today.