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|| News Item: Posted 2012-08-27

2012 Summer Olympics - Mark Humphrey
By Mark Humphrey

Photo by Mark Humphrey

Photo by Mark Humphrey

From left are Elise Amendola, AP photographer from Boston; Chris Torchia, AP Chief of Bureau, Istanbul; Alex Annand, bed and breakfast hostess in Wimbeldon Village; Steve Wine, AP sports writer from Miami; Mark Humphrey, AP photographer from Nashville.
In addition to the events they covered, I’m sure many photographers and editors at the London Olympics have other memories, too. They remember, and probably not too fondly, their daily ventures into large crowds, packed subway cars, slow bus rides, long lines at the entrances to their venues, cookie-cutter hotels and less than memorable food in the media dining rooms.

But some of us will remember things a little differently.

The Associated Press crew covering the tennis competition at Wimbledon had the privilege of being the guests of Alexandra (Alex) and Neil Annand at their bed and breakfast. I arrived at their home shortly after noon on a Sunday, and before I could carry my suitcase to my room, they had me sitting at the kitchen table, joining them for lunch.

That table became the daily starting point for our crew, consisting of photographer Elise Amendola of Boston, sports writer Steve Wine of Miami, Istanbul Chief of Bureau Chris Torchia, and me (I never miss breakfast). Alex would talk about the previous day’s Olympic news while preparing anything and everything we could possibly want, including the full English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, juice, coffee and tea. If we weren’t hungry enough for all that, then cereal, oatmeal, croissants, yogurt and fresh fruit were always options. And no matter what we requested, it would always be followed up by Alex asking, “Are you sure you don’t want anything else?”

Our commute to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club didn’t include subways, buses or javelin trains. Instead it was a 20-minute walk though a residential neighborhood and past the shops and restaurants of Wimbledon Village. It wasn’t without its traffic tie-ups, though, as on more than one morning we had to wait to cross a street as horses from the local stables were ridden to the trails in Wimbledon Common, a large public park a block away from our bed and breakfast.

It doesn’t take long to learn that the horses have the right of way. Alex gave us car rides to the media entrance at Wimbledon when the walk would be soggy because of a morning rain. She insisted we let her drive us to the subway station on the two days we had to make the 90-minute trip to the Main Press Center in the Olympic Village. Each car ride included a few stories about the background of an interesting home, or homeowner. She provided us with restaurant recommendations, directions to the local pubs, and a hand-drawn map on how to get to the local locksmith when we had to buy padlocks for our equipment lockers.

And I also have to admit...she did our laundry.

Besides getting to know Alex and Neil, we got to know their son, daughter, grandchildren, and their “granddog,” Wally the Weimaraner.

When the tennis competition had ended and our staff was leaving for Heathrow Airport, Alex arranged for a car service to pick us up at the house because she knew a regular cab would be too small. Even though it was 5:30 a.m., Alex offered, of course, to fix us breakfast. I’m willing to bet those who stayed at the media hotels can’t remember being hugged goodbye by someone fighting back tears and being told that the house is going to seem empty.

Now that they’re back home, I’m sure others who covered the London Olympics will remember Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas.

For our crew, it will be Andy Murray, Venus Williams, and Alex and Neil.

Mark Humphrey is an Associated Press staff photographer based in Nashville Tenn. You can see his work at his Sports Shooter member page:

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