Students and faculty participating in The University of Southern Mississippi summer British Studies Program (BSP) typically learn about London’s past while visiting its venerable historic sites, including Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. But this year’s group also witnessed history in the making as the international city hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics, the first time for the city to host the games since 1948.
“Not many people get to say they were in London at the same time as the Olympics,” said Ashley Ward of Daphne, Ala., a communications studies major. “It was packed and crowded, but exciting.”
“The pageantry of the Olympics is exciting, everybody was getting into it,” said Southern Miss student Cory Gunkel of Gulfport, Miss. “You saw a lot of the Olympic atmosphere defining the city. It was an exciting and unique experience.”
Included among those in London for the program were students in Southern Miss associate professor Dr. Dennis Phillips’ Sport Global Studies class. Designed to give a worldwide perspective about how sport bridges geographical and cultural barriers, the class examined economics, politics, sociology, business management and marketing, event operations, security, and the legacy of sport in Great Britain.
“Since the Modern Day Olympics was conceived in the mind of William Penny Brookes in Much Wenlock England, and then implemented by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin in 1896, it is very fitting that we studied here during the Summer Olympic Games,” Phillips said.
The BSP began preparing for the 2012 Olympics six years ago when it created the course lead by Phillips. Each summer since, the course focused on the planning and preparations for the games.
When the games began July 27, students, faculty and British friends of the program took part in a special Thames River cruise hosted by Southern Miss university partner King’s College during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Fireworks shined the way for the group through London's night sky as the ceremonial torch was lit for the opening for the games.
On Saturday morning, the group gathered across the river from their dormitory to watch the start and end of the men's cycling event. Meanwhile, sports management students were joined by a representative from each of the program’s 15 other classes at Olympic volleyball and basketball events as holders of very highly coveted tickets.
Students participated in Olympic Park tours, met with the cycling, marathon and beach volleyball venue and operations director, toured Olympic Training Centres, met with the stadium safety and security operations director of the Olympic Stadium, and had an educational session with architects at POPULOUS, the foremost stadium and arena builders in the world and creators of Wembley Stadium and the Olympic village and competition venues.
They also attended the women's basketball games of Czech Republic vs. China Canada vs. Russia, visited Olympic Park and the stadium seen by all viewing the games on TV for the opening ceremonies, viewed all of the venues used for many of the events, saw the "Orbit" up close and personal and grabbed a meal at the world's largest McDonald’s.
“It was fantastic to be a part of something so global in nature (Olympics) that for many is a once in a lifetime experience,” Phillips said.
The students’ itinerary also included St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf; Twickenham Rugby, the worldwide headquarters of Rugby; Manchester United FC, the most valued sport club in the world according to Forbes Magazine; Wimbledon, the iconic tennis location; Lords Cricket, the home of cricket; and Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.
“The significance of visiting these sites as part of our studies cannot be over-emphasized or replicated anywhere else in the world,” Phillips said.
For more information about British Studies and other international programs at Southern Miss, online visit http://www.usm.edu/study-abroad