Mount Vernon Family Touches Gold at London Olympics
Rick, Judy, Jack, Jeffrey and Julianne Joyce recently returned from 12 days at the Summer Games in London. Excerpted are some of the memories they shared with Patch.
Mount Vernon residents Rick and Judy Joyce recently returned from a 12-day trip to the London Olympics with their children – Jack (16, junior at Gonzaga College High School) and twins Jeffrey (12, seventh-grader at The Lab School) and Julianne (12, seventh-grader at Carl Sandburg Middle School).
Excerpted is part of my conversation with them, after their trip across the big pond, highlighting parts of their great adventure.
What was behind your decision to attend the London Games?
Rick: The idea actually took root when London won the right to the 2012 Olympics. We’re an active family of sports fans/participants; the kids would be old enough to make a long trip and remember the experience; foreign country but not too foreign, and it would probably be the last time we could do this as a family before the kids head off to college. On all counts, seems to me that the trip met and exceeded my original expectations.
Judy: It was all Rick’s idea. He did it as our surprise as a Christmas present. Not only was it our Christmas present, it was our summer vacation. It had to double up for a lot of our trips.
How long was your visit?
Judy: Basically, 12 days.
What were your Olympic highlights?
Judy: Other than actually being in Olympic Stadium, and that was cool to see the cauldron there … that was very cool. But back in, I think March or April, there was an article in The (Washington) Post about this local Alexandrian who had made the Olympic team for taekwondo. His name is Terrence Jennings, they call him T.J. And he beat out this family named Lopez. They’re always in the Olympics, and he beat out one of the Lopez brothers. There is only one spot for an American in each weight class for taekwondo.
So, this article tells about how excited he was to be going to the Olympics and how excited he was to win a gold for his parents because they did everything for him to get to this point. It went on to say that it was very unlikely his parents were going to be able to go to the Olympics because they could not afford it. The dad originally was a retired bus driver and the mom is a retired cashier at a grocery store. So, that got Rick all going because he said, ‘This is not right. He only wanted to do this for his parents and they should be there.’
So, he (Rick) called the Washington Post writer of the article and found out how to contact them. And through her help, he (helped assist the family) and both parents got to get there. So, Sen. Warner called Rick and called the mom and stuff like that.
So, this all leads up to how we got to do this. Procter and Gamble is a big, big sponsor of the Olympics, so T.J. got us onto the guest list of the P&G, they call it, The Family House. It’s actually, like, it’s in downtown London, and it’s several rooms and floors that they took over and turned into a place for families of Olympic athletes and the athletes themselves to come for downtime or play or whatever. So, that’s where we met all these athletes. So, going there was probably the highlight of mine and the kids’ trip.
Tell me more about the Procter and Gamble Family House?
Judy: We had no idea what it was. I tell you, this place was better than going to the Olympic Village. They had food everywhere. We ate a couple of days there; we had several meals there. And they had big screen TVs everywhere; they had internet rooms; they had a play area for young kids with babysitters. They had what they called the ‘Man Cave,’ which was down in the basement with pool tables, foosball tables, different games set up, like Wiis and Xbox and all that.
Also, down there, because P&G has Gillette, they had a shaving area, like a barber shop. You could get your hair cut or a hot towel shave. And then also because they own Olay and Cover Girl, upstairs, they had a salon for women. So, I got my hair done and I got a make-up session. I didn’t have time to get a manicure or pedicure. Once we knew what it was, we were like, ‘Let’s go back!' It was right near where London Bridge is.
The first time you go, they assign someone to give you a tour and show you what all is available to you. They give you this packet of all kinds of P&G products, tons of stuff. You know the pins they make for the Olympics? Every day you came, they’d give you a new pin. And so the first day I got there this one woman was talking to me and she said, ‘Oh, you’re the mom, right?’ And I go, ‘Yep, I am the mom.’ She thought I was the mom of an Olympic athlete, so she gave me the Olympic mom pin! The kids loved the pins. They gave you a lanyard to put them on. I can’t even imagine what P&G spent on all of this.
Which events did you have tickets for?
Judy: Julianne and I went to gymnastics at the same time as Rick, Jack and Jeffrey went to fencing. But the fencing one was the gold medal fencing one. Jeffrey does fencing. Rick had planned it so that each kid would get to see an event which was something that they did. That all took place the day after we got there.
And one other day was when Jack and Julianne went to the diving. And then the day before we left, all five of us went to what’s called ‘Athletics,’ but it was at the main Olympic Stadium in the Olympic Village, and we saw a mixture of women’s javelin, some of the triple jump, some 110-meter hurdles. There were heats and stuff. We saw Usain Bolt. They had the 200-meter preliminaries, and they had some women’s 5000-meter, some really long ones. It was almost like a three-ring circus. So much was going on at the same time.
Did you actually see Usain Bolt run? What was that like, seeing him live?
Judy: Oh yeah. Because it was a preliminary, he wasn’t even trying. It was so weird. It was like he was jogging, and he was way ahead of everybody. And he even did it in the semis. We watched that on TV the next day. He just eased up at the end because he knew he was going to win. It was like a millisecond of some type of record and he just eased up because he knew he won. Yeah, that was pretty cool to see him.
Did anything about the Olympics surprise you?
Judy: Other than the disappointment of seeing those empty seats, just how well everything was run. It was so easy to get to and find where you needed to be. And everyone was so helpful. I felt bad that they were getting such bad press for all of the unused seats, because everything else was really top-notch.
What was your most British experience while you were there?
Judy: Actually staying in a British home and walking to the Tube every day. And the other really British thing was that we actually rented a car. Driving. That was hard. Rick did the driving and I did the navigating. It’s hard navigating with all of the roundabouts.
We stayed in Wimbledon. We didn’t go to any tennis events, but we saw all the comings and goings. It’s in a really nice section of town. You’d compare it to like a Great Falls.
For perspective, where is Wimbledon in relation to Olympic Village?
Judy: Quite a ways. I don’t know how many miles. But Wimbledon is southwest; Olympic Village was northeast. It’s still considered London. Like we’re the southeast portion of Fairfax County, and it would be like Great Falls or even further. The greatest thing though is it’s all accessible by their transit system.
And was the transit system user-friendly? Easy to follow?
Judy: Oh yes. It was so good.
Better than Metro? (laughing)
Judy: Oh my God, 100 times better, because they have the Tube and all these lines that criss-cross and line up. They have something called an oyster card; that is kind of like the SmartTrip card here, and you can top it off as you go and you can use all the lines with that card.
And the other beauty of it is that whenever you had a ticket to an Olympic show, you got something else that was called a travel card. And they would give you a travel card for the day of your Olympic event so you could travel for free all day long. So, we didn’t use our oyster card on those days. The other great thing about the transportation system was that they had so many volunteers to help you at any given point. It was unbelievable. The volunteers were incredible. They were everywhere and so helpful.
How was your experience with the home swap?
Judy: We found the house on a website, called www.homeexchange.com. The family was similar to ours. They have four kids, but one kid didn’t come. She was in some kind of class.
When we were advertising our house, we said they could also stay at our house at Bryce, too, so you get like two houses. We were trying to sweeten the pot so that somebody would pick us over somebody else. Their house had chickens. But it wasn’t like they lived in the country. Every house on the street was a duplex. It wasn’t big by any stretch. So, we took care of the chickens; we got free eggs every morning. We took care of their cat. They took care of our cat. No neighbors ever spoke to us. So, we didn’t know if that was the British reserve or what.
Would you do the home swap again? Was it a positive experience?
Judy: I would. I definitely would. Usually, you don’t meet the people you swap with. But they were there (in London) when we got there, and that was helpful. Because, I’m telling you everything is very different. The plumbing is very different.
And I have something funny … that I noticed with their dishwasher ... is that they don’t have the baskets where the utensils go, up and down, like ours have. They have this small shelf at the very top, that you pull out that you can’t really see, and you kind of lay them down there. Well, I went to Bryce yesterday to check on things there and my dishwasher has this thing that flaps down on the top for a wine glass stem. So, they thought that was the shelf for the utensils! So, all the utensils were on there and all of the baskets were empty. And it wasn’t big enough to hold all of the utensils so they just crammed all of the utensils on this wine glass holder area. It’s just a different ways of doing things.
I have to ask, why would anyone who lived in London want to leave their city when the Olympics are in town?
Judy: There was a big controversy about Londoners getting tickets. A lot of them just didn’t get tickets. They were upset.
Any advice you'd offer to someone interested in attending a future Olympics?
Judy: I’m anal about any vacation. I go to the library and I get Fodor’s and Frommer’s and everything I can find.
Did you partake in any of London's other offerings while you were there?
Judy: By having the car, we got to do the things outside. We went to Stonehenge, Brighton and Windsor. We did things like Tower of London, a lot of things. We got to a point where there was a day where the kids totally rebelled and said, ‘We need a down day.’ They wanted to do nothing. That, to me, goes totally against me.
So, I got on the train by myself and went to Hampton Court, which is the Castle of King Henry the VIII and William and Mary (of which Judy is an alum). We did shopping. We went to Harrod’s.
We happened to go to Greenwich, where the time line is, the Greenwich mean time. And there’s an observatory right there in the middle of Greenwich Park. Well, it was closed for the entire time of the Olympics because that’s where they held the equestrian events.
But Rick still wanted them (the kids) to see Greenwich, so we went there, and lo and behold, there’s one of those volunteer guys, and we start talking to him, and said, ‘Oh, we’re so disappointed we can’t get to the Greenwich mean time line.’ And he said, ‘There’s not just one point, it’s a line. I can tell you where to go and where to see it where it’s not in the closed part.’
So, we went over there, and he also recommended this little pub that was right there next to the line. We stood on the line and took pictures and then went into the pub. And the pub was showing the equestrian event, which was literally a half a block away. So, the coolest thing … this was the day where Britain ended up winning the gold medal, and it had been 60 years or something. So, we’re in this pub watching it on TV, and you could hear the crowd cheer before it came on TV.
Any celebrity sightings?
Judy: I saw a lot of athletes, but I didn’t know who they all were. Some of them were really friendly, some of them weren’t. You know who I ran into? The little gymnast who won last year, Shawn Johnson. And it was right when Julianne and Jack had gone to the dive competition. So, I was back at the P&G House waiting for them. So, here’s Shawn Johnson, walking right in front of me. She’s actually a P&G athlete. A lot of them are signed up to be spokespersons for their products.
So, here she was there. I’m like, ‘Shawn?’ She turned around and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, my daughter’s not here. Are you going to be here awhile?’ And she said, ‘No, I’m leaving,’ and just turned around and walked away. She wasn’t very friendly. (Laughing)
We know the Ledecky family. Katie Ledecky from Bethesda. She’s 15 years old, and she won the gold for the 800-meter. I kept hoping they’d come in, but they never came in. Her brother just graduated from Gonzaga, and Jack knows him. We watched her on TV just like everybody else.
But the big disappointment about being there and watching it on TV was that it was a total British perspective. In fact, for that particular event, you know, Rebecca Addington was the third place winner from Britain, and they all thought she was going to win, of course. So, the ceremony was starting, and they’re giving Rebecca her bronze and I’m yelling at everyone to ‘hurry up’ so we can see Katie get her gold. You know that they cut it? Right after Rebecca got her bronze. There was nothing more of the ceremony. But, they have no commercials during their Olympics, which was great.
[The Joyce family also encountered gold-winning U.S. judo athlete Kayla Harrison (pictured with the Joyce family above) while in the Procter and Gamble Family House. Judy struck up a conversation with her, not because she recognized her as a gold-winning athlete, but rather because she was wearing Dr. Dre Beats' headphones that Judy’s son, Jack, had expressed interest in owning. Quickly though, Judy’s kids pointed out to her who she was actually talking to. The Joyce family asked if she would pose with them for a picture. Harrison readily agreed to it, even pulling her gold medal out of her pocket and placing it around her neck for the photo op. Harrison also let every member of the Joyce family hold her medal and, per Judy, was “wonderful, super friendly”.]
How would you grade London as a host?
Judy: I’d have to give it 100 percent, AAA rating, everything great. They were all volunteers. There were just masses of them everywhere. Along the route, if you had to walk from the station to the venue. It couldn’t have been better.