Recording artist Paul McCartney performs at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
LONDON — The song suddenly cut through the steamy humidity like a familiar breeze.
Somebody inside Olympic Stadium was singing "Hey Jude."
We walked up to an Olympic worker and asked where the song was coming from.
The guy shrugged and said, "Sir Paul is in there training."
Yes, he was talking about Paul McCartney. And, yes, as we discovered moments later when we entered the mostly empty stadium, McCartney and his band were on an end-zone stage rehearsing.
The scene was surreal. My sweat became chills. We stood and swayed with a couple of hundred workers listening to McCartney booming one of the most memorable refrains in music history.
"Na na na na na, na na na …"
When McCartney finished, he pumped his fists and waved as if he were performing for 80,000 people. The cheers from our small group sounded like 80,000 people. By the time the music stopped, we had walked behind the stage for a closer look at a 70-year-old man who looks 20 years younger and was excitedly bouncing around like a teenager.
Clearly, the reports were true: McCartney will be singing this song at Friday's opening ceremony. Its slot has not been confirmed, but wouldn't it be the perfect ending?
For me, it was a perfect Olympic beginning.
Soccer's slow start
The British claim to have invented soccer. But apparently they aren't too fond of the Olympic version of the sport.
Free tickets might not even fill the stands.
When about 1 million soccer tickets remained unsold last week, Games organizers withdrew half of the available seats by reducing the capacity at the six soccer venues, closing tiers and, in some cases, entire sections.
Even after the reductions, 250,000 tickets were still available, with another 200,000 — returned from the Olympic committees of various countries — scheduled to go on sale this week.
The women's tournament begins Wednesday, and the games include a doubleheader at historic Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The top-ranked U.S. faces No. 6 France in the first game, followed by North Korea and Colombia.
But only about 5,000 tickets have been sold for the doubleheader, said Andy Mitchell, media manager at Hampden. The Scottish government distributed another 34,000 tickets free of charge, yet Mitchell said he expected about half the stadium's 52,000 seats to be empty.
"We only focus on the game, playing two times 45 minutes," U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage said of the small crowd. "Of course, sometimes it makes a difference with a big crowd. But this is the Olympics and we want to win the next game.
"Answering that question as an ambassador for women's football, it's a little bit unlucky. It could have been better. Because they will be great games."
Loyola Marymount cut its men's volleyball team during Reid Priddy's senior season. That was 12 years ago, and since then Priddy has played in pro leagues in Russia, Italy, South Korea and Greece.
As the U.S. men's volleyball team prepares to defend its gold medal — with Russia, Poland, Brazil and Italy considered the strongest challengers — Priddy said he hopes the best aspiring men's volleyball players realize they do not need to choose between playing the sport beyond college and earning a living.
"When I graduated college, I didn't know you could be a professional player indoors," he said. "I thought all I could do was beach volleyball, because that's all I saw.
"Salaries overseas are significant enough that you could pay back your student loans within a season or two."
Not that the overseas experience is easy. Pro clubs have little patience for development, so play well or go home.
"It feels like an episode of 'Survivor,' " Priddy said. "You have a bunch of people just trying not to get voted off."
Priddy, 34, lives in Huntington Beach. He would love to play for a Southern California team in a U.S. pro league, but he admits such a league is a fantasy without a sugar daddy, the role Lamar Hunt and Phil Anschutz played for Major League Soccer.
"MLS is a great model," Priddy said, "if you have somebody who has $50 million to lose."