Sam Kouvaris: Tourist in London
LONDON – London is a big city, a diverse city; a true international city.
With nearly 10 million people living here, a football game could get lost in everything else that's going on. So to get your bearings when you first arrive, there's no better place than the London Eye.
Sitting by the Westminster Bridge on the Thames, the Eye gives a view of London never seen before. As it rotates around, each trip taking 30 minutes, you see the city that Dickens wrote about, that Churchill conducted the British effort in World War II from, and where millions and millions of tourists flock to every year.
From a jotting on a back of a napkin by a husband and wife architectural team, the London Eye changed the skyline of London forever. Recently the Eye welcomed their 50-millionth visitor in just 13 years of operation. If you're coming to London, it's the place to start.
"People do tend to come here first just so they can orient themselves," Lauren Mitcham, press officer of the London Eye told me during a trip around Eye. "They can pick what they want to see, Westminster, Big Ben, maybe St. Paul's Cathedral, so yes, it's a really good way of checking out what you can do in this city which obviously has a lot to offer.
During our trip, we had spectacular weather, clear bright skies and visibility nearly unknown in London. They Eye is 443 feet high at the top, and we had a view of Wembley Stadium, where the Jaguars will play Sunday, far in the distance.
"The London Olympics were a really big driver for putting London on the map internationally," Mitcham explained. "The London Eye got a lot of coverage from that. We were in the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony so we've gotten a lot of visitors from that, which is great."
Not far from the Eye is Trafalgar Square. It's an iconic landmark for all kinds of honors and celebrations throughout London's history. Saturday, the NFL will take it over with a fan fest. We followed league and Jaguars representatives as they did a walk through, getting ready to set things up.
"We've been given a great opportunity to be custodians of this event, certainly for our fans and for our brand internationally," Hussein Naqi, Jaguars senior VP of fan engagement, told me while surveying Trafalgar. "We're certainly committed to providing the best experience we can for our fans. The league really trusted us to do something special that's never been done before in the NFL and that's a special honor for us."
This is the 7th game here in London for the NFL and the second this year so a lot of sports fans here know what to expect. It's a bit surprising that there's a buzz about an American game here in town, but the league is doing what they can to make sure Londoners and visitors alike now about the game.
"People underestimate the excitement that's in this town for this game," Naqi continued. "You'll see about 40,000 people here Saturday over the course of a 4 hour period."
The Jaguars will recreate the prowl in Trafalgar Square with the team walking through the crowd. They'll be up on stage, Shad Khan, Gus Bradley and some players will address the crowd in pep rally style.
By the way, I got thrown out of thrown out of Trafalgar on Thursday. It seems you have to have a permit to do interviews on the square proper. A very polite guard stopped me and questioned me about our intentions and wanted to see my papers. He then instructed me to move about 10 feet "on the other side of that cobble," explaining that I'd be fine.
International incident avoided.
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