Someone Has to Be Last

The street leading up to the women’s marathon finish line was virtually deserted. The lead runners had crossed the finish over an hour ago, and most pectators had already headed to other venues, except for the group of tourists huddled at the last turn of the racecourse. Most of the huddle held green, white and orange flags and wore jester and leprechaun hats of the same colors.

The group of Irish spectators had been waiting for five hours for Irish runner Caitriona Jennings. Jennings was the last of 107 runners to reach the final leg of the race.

“Someone’s got to be last,” said one of the painted Irish faces. Jennings’ fans were not down-trodden, they weren’t even slightly disappointed.

Transport for London reported that nearly 11 million people are expected to attend the Olympic Games throughout the 17 days of competition. The mass of fans this large could be seen all over London with flags draped around their shoulders and hands waving.

“[The Games] give everyone a sense of pride, especially for people that live in London,” Adrian Vaughn said, father of two and native Londoner, who was watching off to the side of the Irish crowd.

Vaughn and his sons, Connor, 12, and Felix, 7, were dressed in all blue, red and white, with flags tied around them like capes and faces painted with the Union Jack flag of Great Britain. Though all Team GB runners had previously finished, Vaughn said his sons were the ones who insisted on staying.

“I would definitely consider ourselves to be super fans,” Vaughn said. “We’ve spent enough money to be anyway.”

With a single ticket to grant Olympic Stadium ranging from £50 to £295 (about $75 to $442), it can be a hefty sum to be a super fan at the Olympic Games. However, the free events like the marathons, cycling and triathlons seem to draw out the most patriotic.

“We’re dressed up just to have a good time. It’s fun and we want to show our support,” Martin Bakker of the Netherlands, who had made friends earlier with a smaller group of the Irish females said.

Bakker and his eight friends have been in London for a week and attended two of the three free Olympic events. For every event, they dress in the orange Netherland’s soccer jersey, orange cowboy hats and their home flags tied around their waists.

“I love the atmosphere, seeing all the colors and meeting the people,” Bakker said. “Events like these bring all the fans together.”

Two Americans named Tim and Erica Olsen were also a part of the lingering spectators. Both raced cross-country in high school and college and understood the importance of support at the end of a race.

“Running that distance is so difficult,” Tim said. “Even when it’s a rival team, at that point every bit of encouragement makes a huge difference.”

The couple, wearing matching American flag shirts and blue Olympic baseball hats, was proud to show all the Olympic competitors the same support they received as athletes in their younger years.

“You’ll hear someone next to you yelling for Britain. And then the ones across the street are chanting for Jamaica or something. And then you just join in,” Tim added.

After another 20 minutes, shouts of “There she is!” rose up from the quiet crowd. Jennings rounded the last corner, a mere 800 meters away. Every spectator yelled the name Caitriona Jennings, final racer in the women’s marathon. Irish flags waved and hands clapped as she ran for the finish line. As she finally crossed, all fans, Irish or otherwise, cheered in congratulations of Jennings’ achievement.