diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics-9h (Tower of London): The Royal Barge, Gloriana, comes to a halt on the river outside City Hall. The Olympic Flame is burning from a cauldron at the prow, having been rowed all the way down the Thames from Hampton Court. Viewed from the southern bank, five coloured rings and Tower Bridge form a most impressive backdrop. Alas viewed from the northern bank, the back of the rings is white and pretty much blocks Gloriana from view. Nothing much happens for about half an hour, or nothing we can see from the Tower of London. A tiny figure runs amok on the pontoon, torch aloft, flame burning, then disappears from view. Somehow the flame crosses to City Hall, it's impossible to see how. It's only possible to deduce that the Relay is over when Gloriana rows off, first back towards HMS Belfast, then onward through Tower Bridge. "Did we miss it?" asks an American tourist who's arrived too late. French TV pack up their roving camera and head off somewhere else. They look like they'd much rather be by the Seine, and oh so nearly were.

Olympics-8h (Limehouse): The Water Chariots are ready. Well almost ready. Twelve boats are moored up by the pontoon at Limehouse Basin, and some last minute fitting out is taking place. Dozens of blue, red and green chairs are stacked by the waterside, and a couple of black leather-look sofas too. If you choose to pay £45 for the two mile return trip to the Olympic Park you'll be sitting on one of these hotel-buffet-style chairs, four abreast, set out on the mop-clean metal floor. There's luxury for you. Meanwhile, under the DLR viaduct, the hospitality zone is being laid out with champagne parasols and burger vans. Water Chariots are particularly keen that you turn up 40 minutes before your sailing, presumably in the hope you might buy some Moet & Chandon and something with onions. And if you are a VIP with money to burn, don't worry, there are a dozen swish-looking black speedboats waiting to whizz you in from London proper, so there's no need to mix with East End hoi polloi at all. That's fine, we'd rather not mix with you either.

Olympics-7h (Westfield): Stratford City shopping centre has metamorphosed into a global melee. Competitors and their coaching staff are spilling out of a gate from the Athletes Village for a bit of souvenir hunting and food shopping. At long last Stratford International lives up to its name, as the station is at the heart of the action. On the plaza by the DLR, the pin badge sellers have set up camp. Some have laid their wares out on a cloth on the ground, another wears his collection on a pink cape and delights in showing off his rarest specimens to an appreciative audience. Step carefully or you'll get into shot of some nation's TV news - they're from Japan, and over along the border of the Park, that's Gibraltar. The magenta signs along the edge of the Park have been updated, with wording that now reads "Ceremony ticket holders only" and "No access from 3pm". The army are swarming round the sandwiches in Waitrose, clearing the shelves, then heading off to sit outside beneath overcast skies. The buzz is palpable, the expectancy approaching fever pitch, at least until the public get kicked out at three and the pre-ceremony security lockdown begins.

Olympics-6h (Victoria Park): The 1000-space Olympic cycle park is open for business. Mid-afternoon, however, the staff out front outnumber the bikes inside. It's perhaps not surprising that there are only half a dozen bikes here, because the Victoria Gate's closed, and BT Live hasn't opened yet. That's BT Live, the mass public celebration of all things Games, hidden away behind metal barriers, duplicated on a grander scale in Hyde Park. An observation wheel pokes high into the sky, for anyone with a burning desire to look down on eastern Tower Hamlets, and there's a big screen too for watching sport you could see at home on TV but bigger. The Sun have a stand inside, decked out with Union Jacks and balloons, while outside someone's trying to flog copies of today's Times and a hemp bag for a quid. There's already quite a queue an hour before the gates open and, by the looks of those yomping up from Mile End station, it can only get longer. For those who've not got a ticket to a sporting event, BT Live is all you've got. It doesn't look like a great alternative, to be honest.

Olympics-48m (Olympic Park): At 20:12 precisely, the Red Arrows fly over the Stadium leaving a long trail of red, white and blue across the sky. Woo! A few minutes later it does indeed start raining, as I predicted seven years ago, but thankfully only for a few minutes.

Olympics-0h (Olympic Park): Wasn't the Opening Ceremony amazing? Sheep, ducks, muttonchops, chimney-smoke, parachuting-monarch, bouncy bedlinen, Mary Poppins, jukebox disco, reflection, parade parade parade parade, Becks on a boat, mega-cauldron, firework-tastic, amazing.

Olympics+1h (Bow): Meanwhile, somewhere outside my house or close by, the police have closed in. Tonight's Critical Mass cycle ride had been ordered to stay south of the Thames, but participants strayed instead rather close to the Olympic Park, heading along Bow Road and Stratford High Street. Here, if reports from Twitter are to be believed, the police diverted the peloton into a side road and then kettled them. Umpteen of the world's leaders were watching dancing NHS nurses half a mile away, so presumably the Met Police were in a state of finger-twitching nervousness and felt entirely justified in arresting everyone. By the time I got outside I saw only the aftermath - ten police vans parked in the middle of the Bow Roundabout, and a surprisingly large number of officers on the road up from McDonalds. A large number of confiscated bikes were stacked up outside Bow Baptist Church, each with official police paperwork in a plastic bag attached to the chassis. And the Met's crack cycle-police team were stood around muttering "they only do it for the attention" as I wandered by. Nothing good ever happens to cyclists at the Bow Roundabout. Thank goodness the world didn't notice.

Olympics+12h (Olympic Park): Right, let's go and watch some sport...


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