By: Kristina Hart, Living Sport London 2018 Participant & Media Relations Intern at the University of Maryland Athletic Department
We walked up to a majestic building, standing tall and wide with pointed tips on the roof. It towered over us, looking very similar to a castle. This we were told, was our home for the next nine days. The Royal Holloway University was nothing like I had ever seen before. It was in fact, the very opposite of what I had come to know as a typical college dormitory in the United States. In that moment, I have to admit, I felt a little bit like royalty. After a 3,500-mile journey, with 27 strangers, to a country I had never been, I couldn’t have been more excited for what was ahead in my Living Sport experience.
A few days into our trip we began our work with the Royal Windsor Triathlon. On day one, I was lucky enough to get to explore Windsor. My job was distributing letters to houses around the town to ensure everyone was aware of road closures and parking enforcements for race day. I never really considered how important a task like this was in ensuring a smooth triathlon for residents in the race area. In addition to this role, I had other tasks that taught me a crucial lesson – thinking of how to prevent every possible worst-case scenario when organizing an athletic event of this magnitude.
My second work day I was assigned to registration, which as a Communications major, fit perfectly. What made the experience even better, was the opportunity I had to work closely with the former event owner, Jasmine Flatters. Jasmine had previously been awarded an MBE, Member of the Order of the British Empire. This is a prestigious British honor given to a person by the Queen for a special achievement, and in Jasmine’s case, for all of her work and dedication in the British Triathlon world. In speaking with Jasmine, she gave me some words of wisdom like telling me to enjoy every moment and to talk to everyone I meet, because I never knew when I would get that opportunity again. I took this to heart and interacted with all of the athletes picking up their race day gear. Sure enough, I learned new words from the athletes and registration workers. For instance, a line is referred to as a “que”, and “cheers” can mean thank you, you’re welcome, or a variety of things depending on the scenario.
Something else fascinating I learned that day was that having “Royal” in the title of the race, was a huge deal. It hadn’t been long since the event name switched from the Windsor Triathlon to the Royal Windsor Triathlon. Again, I didn’t think much of it. But quickly learned this was a major accomplishment. In the United Kingdom, the use of the word “Royal”, as well as the use of “King,” “Queen,” “Prince/Princess,” and “Duke/Duchess” in the name of a business, company or product must be granted special permission. This is said to be done to avoid misleading the public. To secure approval you must send an application to the Cabinet Office in London. The Royal Windsor Triathlon is the UK’s longest running triathlon – dating back to 1990 – and for the first time in 2017, with its new name, the triathlon took participants fully onto Royal grounds, running from the gates of the castle into the unique Long Walk directly in front of the Windsor Castle.
After two days of preparation, and learning much about the race history, race day had arrived! With a wake-up call well before the sun, we made our way to the course, received our tasks for the day, and finally got to see all of the hard work in action. At first my eyes were tired from an early wake-up and the cold and rainy weather, but I was quickly energized and amazed by seeing the whole triathlon come to life. And knowing we had a major part in what was about to take place was incredible.
The royal adventure continued post-race as some of my teammates saw the Queen with Prince Harry & Meghan Markle and Prince William & Kate Middleton, in horse-drawn carriages at the Royal Ascot annual procession. The Royal Ascot, which has been a tradition in the UK since 1711, is a hugely notable and famed five-day horse race. The event attracts the world’s best racehorses as they compete for millions of pounds (dollars) in prize money. Here is the video from my teammates spotting the Queen of England!
Traveling to London may have not originally been on must-do list, but as we boarded the bus to London Heathrow Airport for the last time, I thought back to the day I decided to apply to Living Sport’s unique sport study abroad program on a whim never thinking I would be considered. When I had gotten the opportunity (and was so shocked and elated), I realized there was no way I could pass this up. When else would I get the opportunity to go to London for an International Sports Business Program?
It was a once-in-a-lifetime peek into the world of the sports industry. I met students from colleges all over the United States and together we impacted the lives of athletes all the way across the pond. I got a peek into the “behind the scenes” action that brought a renowned triathlon to fruition. This event drew people from all around the world simply for their love of sports. I knew our efforts did not go unnoticed because everyone – from athletes to spectators - was so curious and interested to figure out who all us Americans were. Living Sport allowed me this unique opportunity to expand my sport industry experience and knowledge – and I learned lessons that cannot be recreated or taught. So who knows, maybe you will be browsing for summer sports opportunities and end up in another continent in a new country where you start speaking with a little bit of an accent. Cheers!