diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 07, 2005

The London Olympics: 2012

I must confess, I was expecting to be writing about Paris this morning. Hell, I even went to the effort of visiting the city three months ago to grab some tasty shots of the Stade de France. Seems I needn't have bothered. Fabulous, isn't it?

Olympic snapshots: Trafalgar Square
I didn't think Trafalgar Square would be very full yesterday. I was wrong - it was rammed. Thankfully I'd arrived early and was able to weave my way down through the crowd into the central space, just a few rows back from the main stage. The world's media were already in place on the raised piazza in front of the National Gallery, their cameras pointed out over the seething throng below. Most people present were resigned to this being the London bid's last hurrah, a final 'Thank you' celebration for us getting this far through the shortlisting process. It had been a plucky attempt by the British underdog, although surely doomed to ultimate failure. But there was still a real air of tension in the square, especially when it was announced that the final battle was to be fought between Paris and London. And where better for a good old Anglo-French showdown than at the foot of Nelson's Column? A pointless mimed performance by popstar Rachel Stevens dampened the atmosphere somewhat, but a pair of chirpy presenters from Capital Radio rescued the situation by wheeling on a series of top class Olympic athletes. And then the big screens either side of the stage flashed over, live, to the announcement of the result in Singapore.

I have never seen anyone take so long to open an envelope. IOC president Jacques Rogge stood there building up his part for ten of the longest seconds anyone in the crowd will ever remember. 200 miles apart, two capital cities stood in expectant silence. And then, as the wholly unexpected word 'London' dripped from his lips, the crowd around me erupted in jubilant celebration. People gasped, and cheered, and leapt, and hugged, and waved flags in the air... and they carried on doing so for some considerable time. The line of Olympic greats took a second to react, but it was a joy to be close up to Kelly Holmes as she pulled another of her legendary jaw-dropping expressions. Her euphoria was infectious. After a few minutes Heather Small bounded on stage to perform 'Proud' to a delighted audience, and it all felt so right. "I step out of the ordinary, I can feel my soul ascending, I am on my way, Can't stop me now." Somehow, against all the odds, Seb Coe had pulled off one last gold medal-winning performance and the 2012 Olympics were coming here, to our city. Who'd have thought? Alas the next act lined up on stage was a jumped-up rap wannabe with a freshly-signed record contract complete with the dreaded words "and this is my new single". It was a depressing reminder of how easily big business takes priority over sporting achievement, something I suspect we'll see rather more of as 2012 approaches.

A red, white and blue flypast from the Red Arrows restored national pride somewhat, at which point (regrettably) I had to leave the square. I had to be back in the East End within the hour to rendezvous with my landlord for the first time in four years. I wondered whether he might want to evict me from my flat in favour of a foreign camera crew, or at the very least treble my rent now that I live amongst some of the most desirable real estate on the planet. But I needn't have worried. For a start, London's 'obsolete' transport system whisked me back to the Olympic Zone with plenty of time to spare. And my flat inspection went swimmingly, thank you very much (my surfaces have never been so gleaming), with eviction never even on the menu. It seems I'm safe and secure in my stadium-side home for several years to come, so I have every expectation of remaining an Olympic resident until the five-ring circus arrives here in 2012. Bring it on!

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