Living with the Olympics: Days 1 – 3

WE ARRIVED into London Heathrow on Friday, returning from Berlin (more about that later). I was fully expecting to queue for a long time, whilst tracksuited athletes whisked through. In fact, I queued longer to enter Berlin (a city which is surely the last word in efficient transport). The Immigration Officer even smiled when I wished him a Happy Olympics. Didn’t say anything, just smiled. Presumably he was too overcome with joy to get the words out.


Sports Day.

Two tube journeys later, we were home in Greenwich. I counted fifteen Olympics volunteers on our journey. They’re everywhere in London – encouraged to wear their uniforms as much as possible.

Here to Help.

Notice London 2012 Games

As if you wouldn’t

Like 22 million others across the UK, we watched the opening ceremony that same evening. Yes I’d seen the volunteers. Yes I’d seen the erection of a vast stadium in Greenwich park. Yes I knew it was all happening here. But it still felt like I was watching a show millions of miles away, happening somewhere in TV land. Until the fireworks started. Stratford is across the river from us, maybe 5 or 6 miles away. We couldn’t see the fireworks, but we could hear them. And we could feel their reverberations coming through the floor. There goes the neighbourhood, I thought.

Welcome to the Games.

Greenwich is where the equestrian events are.

But it was the Beach Volleyball that won me over. I was watching it whilst chopping onions to make a bolognese sauce. Suddenly I found myself whooping and fist pumping the air as team GB staged a comeback to beat the Canadians. I know nothing  about beach volleyball but it’s being played at Horseguard’s Parade and I Iove it. What other sports have been kept from me my whole life? Perhaps I will discover a passion for archery? There were tears in my eyes when Dampney and Mullin scored the winning point (it was the onions).

So, today we went out onto the heath which sits on our doorstep, side by side with Greenwich park.

As I say, equestrian events. On the Heath.

But the Heath is mainly for queueing. The real events are in the park.

The sun was shining, for once it wasn’t raining and even the people queueing looked happy (and, let’s be honest, this is the real British Olympic Sport – queueing. We’d sweep the board in it). Police were everywhere, which was comforting. There were surface to air missiles. The addition of a radar site was comforting, I thought – at least they’ll know what to shoot at. And there was generally a bit of a carnival atmosphere.

Britain’s guaranteed gold: queueing.

This man thought he’d won a medal in the queueing.

We even saw Charles and Camilla drive by, accompanied by four police motorcycle outriders.. Unfortunately I was too slow with the camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

If you’ve ever been to London before, you’ll know that all the pedestrian crossings have big words painted on the road saying <—– LOOK LEFT or LOOK RIGHT —–> This is so all the foreign tourists don’t get run over because they look the wrong way crossing the road. But this is the Olympics and the world is watching so we don’t want any tourists getting run over. So now there are lollypop ladies (and men) to help you cross the road.

This does make it difficult to taunt tourists from the other side of the road. They’re less likely to get run over when they run after you. Instead I’ll have to settle for tutting at them when they stand on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ESCALATOR (a heinous crime in London – the left is for walking up or down the escalator, the right is for non-Londoners).

The police were out to enforce the rules, though.

Point and Shoot.

There’s a funfair and a big screen showing the Olympics at the end of the heath next to Blackheath village. Over the weekend people were sitting out with picnics, watching sports  and making the most of the sunshine.

All in all it’s very sedate and civilised – or at least it is in Greenwich. Families, orderly queues, plenty of flags. What’s not to like about having the Olympics in town?

Flags on the heath. All very civilsed. Actually there were flags everywhere, which is a problem for me, as I can’t help myself taking pictures of them (“but look at it ripple in the wind! I need a picture of that!”). At least it was windy. If it’s not I’ve been known to insist that we wait until a gust of wind unfurls the entire flag. I get the impression that this can be a little tiresome for anyone travelling with me (“It’ll be dark soon, we have to go now.”)

See what I mean?

So, satisfied with the Olympics being on our doorstep, we headed home. Then I saw this, and it hit me:

Even the post is disrupted by the Olympics.

Getting to work tomorrow is going to be a bugger.

Olympic route (n). 1. A route specifically for members of the Olympic family (athletes, coaches, etc). 2. The contorted route to work via zone 6, 2 and 4 that you take in order to avoid the Olympic crowds (everyone else).