Catonsville councilman sees London prepare for the Olympics

Like many sports fans this week, Tom Quirk will experience the Summer Olympic Games on TV, watching Michael Phelps go for more Olympic glory and enjoying the possibility of an underdog winning a gold medal.

But the view of Catonsville resident is aided by some inside knowledge about the city of London's last-minute preparations for the event.

From July 14 to July 23, Quirk and his family were on a vacation trip to Europe that included five days in London, where the 2012 Olympics kick off Friday.

"It was exciting," a weary Quirk said on Tuesday, the day after he returned from his trip that also included a visit to Norway. "I only wish I could stay."

Quirk said the excitement and energy for the competition, which will feature more than 10,000 athletes from 205 countries competing in 300 events, was palpable weeks before the competition.

During his stay from July 14 to July 18 with his family, Quirk said he saw construction crews roping off areas as they set up benches and amphitheater seating at the various sites.

On one outing, Quirk saw construction in Hyde Park, the largest of London's Royal Parks, where the triathlon and 10-kilometer swim events will take place.

Often the construction would block a main path in the city, forcing Quirk and his family to take detours as they went to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and other traditional tourist attractions.

A Democrat in his first term on the Baltimore County Council representing the 1st District, which includes Catonsville and Arbutus, Quirk noted the city had a visible and strong police presence as it prepared to host the games.

On his way home from Norway, Quirk transferred at London's Heathrow Airport. There, he said he saw a number of athletes, though none he recognized, and volunteers directing visitors.

Now back in Catonsville, Quirk said he is looking forward to watching Baltimore County's Phelps win more gold medals to accompany the eight that he won swimming at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the six he brought home from Athens in 2004.

This story has been updated.

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