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Hughes Olympics blog: The whirlwind continues

Blogger rubs elbows with famous fashion family, catches up with old teammate, takes in beach volleyball

Sarah Hughes holds up a USA sweatshirt at the USA House Store.
Sarah Hughes holds up a USA sweatshirt at the USA House Store. (courtesy of Sarah Hughes)

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By Sarah Hughes, special to icenetwork.com
(07/31/2012) - No stranger to the Olympics, Sarah Hughes is in London to chronicle the 2012 Olympic Summer Games for icenetwork.com.

Sunday, July 30

'So many things to do, so little time' seems to be the mantra of past Olympic experiences, and London 2012 is no exception.

Emily and I started yesterday bright and early with another trip to the ambassador of the United States' residence in Regent's Park. Ambassador Louis B. Susman and his wife hosted a reception with special guest First Lady Michelle Obama for U.S. Olympians, supporters and the United States Olympic Committee.

The lawn was spacious and very green -- completely free of all the games and sporting stations from Friday. There was an elegant tea and coffee service in the foyer, a brunch spread consisting of salads, fruit, sandwiches and petit fours (among other delicacies) -- and a glorious summer's day to enjoy it on the patio overlooking the backyard.

The company was second to none: Tom Brokaw; Dylan Lauren (Ralph's daughter and owner of Dylan's Candy Bar); David Lauren (Ralph's son and a senior VP at Polo Ralph Lauren); David's wife, Lauren Bush; gymnast Shawn Johnson; hockey player Angela Ruggiero; and Al Roker were just a handful of the notable people in attendance.

Dylan Lauren gushed to us about how much she loves watching figure skating, and Tom Brokaw remembered when Emily couldn't get into Club Bud at the 2006 Torino Games -- she was one of four athletes competing there who was under 18 years old -- and the doormen made sure to remind those athletes of that any chance they got.

The First Lady spoke eloquently about her time at the Games and how much fun she had leading the U.S. delegation here in London. She shared a story of how inspired she would get watching the Olympics when she was younger. She would watch for hours on end if she could. Mary Lou Retton is the one she remembers to this day -- when she saw Mary Lou tumbling, she thought she could do the same -- although given that she would grow to 5'11, First Lady Obama might be better suited for a sport where her height would work to her advantage.

After addressing the group, Mrs. Obama took the time to speak to guests one on one before heading to Olympic Park to cheer on the U.S. men's basketball team as it played France.

After the event, IOC member Ruggiero (who was a teammate of both mine and Emily's) generously offered us a ride back since it started pouring immediately as the event concluded. The drive gave us a chance to catch up a bit, something difficult to do with so many events going on simultaneously at the Games.

Before heading to the women's artistic gymnastics event at The O2 arena, I stopped by the USA House to attend DeVry University's reception to celebrate U.S. Olympians and their drive to "Let Nothing Stand in Their Way." CEO Daniel Hamburger spoke about an athletic scholarship program DeVry is offering and the different ways it is trying to help athletes who train unusual hours gain more access to an education. The great Carl Lewis and Benita Fitzgerald-Moseley, the chief of sport performance for USA Track and Field, were in attendance, and with the track and field events about to commence here, there was a lot of interest in these proceedings.

Emily and I watched the women's artistic gymnastics event from a suite -- an added bonus since getting tickets to events here has not been a walk in the park. The one thing we both remarked on was the live commentary being boomed over the PA system after some performances. Can you imagine having that at a national or world championships in figure skating?

"Sally had a slight two-foot on that triple toe, a mistake that will probably cost her the title."

A favorite part of the meet was the team march from one apparatus to the next. With music blaring and the women lined up behind a sign declaring their namesake country, the whole arena erupted in a syncopated cheer that revitalized the stadium.

This morning's event was beach volleyball -- something I had never seen live before. One of the unique aspects of having the Games in a city with as much history as London is how events are held at iconic locations. The beach volleyball competition is in the Horse Guards Parade, where a stadium was erected neighboring Buckingham Palace. One of the highlights of the second match had to be a group of men on the upper concourse draped in Canadian flags and corresponding hockey helmets. Canada is notorious for its tremendous sense of patriotism during the Games.

The match these guys were at? China versus Australia.

I found time to play the role of a tourist a bit today and walked around central London. When I asked our waitress at dinner if she finds herself serving a more international crowd than usual during the Games, she replied she did.

"Actually, just more Americans," she said, on second thought.

I'm not surprised. We do love the Olympic Games. Hope we get to host another one sooner rather than later.