diamond geezer

 Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Hiatus is underway.

The pause between Games, the gap between the Olympics and Paralympics, the fortnight where nothing much happens.

All the Olympians have gone home, and the Paralympians have yet to arrive. There's much to get ready - clearing out at the village, the repurposing of venues, the swapping of logos. Those five interlocking rings are the symbol only of the main Games, the Paralympics instead has three curved crescents. These "agitos" represent movement, in red, blue and green, and they need to be in place to get the Paralympic branding right. See if you can spot the difference later in the month.

Inside the Olympic Park the Copper Box is being turned over to goalball. The Hockey warm-up pitch has to be made ready for seven-a-side football. Wheelchair Rugby's the new tenant at the Basketball Arena. There's even a brand new venue, at Eton Manor way up at the northern end of the Park, where the wheelchair tennis tournament will be taking place. Sixteen days isn't long to make the change, but the transformation must, and will, be completed on time.

Outside the Park, life looks suspiciously similar to normal. The throng of Games Makers has vanished, and the pavements are trod only by locals again. All of the Olympic Lanes have been decommissioned, temporarily at least, and traffic is flowing freely as befits the height of summer. No shuttle buses, no lost tourists, no steady flow of volunteers with security badges dangling round their neck. Indeed, it's almost as if the whole thing never happened.

But there are still plenty of clues. The Greenway down to West Ham is still lined with flags, and magenta boards announcing it's twenty minutes plus to the Olympic Park. The portaloos are back in storage, and the mobile lamps hang limp because night-time passage isn't recommended. The usual traffic is back - the dog-walkers, the through-cyclists, the men heading down to Ramadan prayers at the mosque - which relatively speaking is no traffic at all. In this weather the whiff of sewage hangs in the air, same as it ever was. But so bright, so gaily coloured, inter-celebratory.

Across London's stations the pink signs remain intact, directing non-existent spectators to places they don't yet want to go. The DLR's still running an enhanced timetable, entirely unnecessarily so. Additional buses are running through Stratford, because it's too much hassle to temporarily stop them, running doubledeck down quiet streets. Roadworks aren't happening, building sites lie idle, congestion's impossibly light. And smile, because there's no planned engineering work on the Underground this weekend, nor next weekend, nor any weekend until the middle of September. The Hiatus has its advantages, never to be repeated.

The Sunday Trading laws are still suspended. What was the excuse again, "to help retailers generate increased profits during London 2012"? That sounds like pure spin this weekend, with the Olympics already dipped from the nation's mind. Nobody needs to head specially to Waitrose tomorrow evening for sporting comestibles, nor trudge round B&Q before 10am to buy goalposts. These nationwide extended hours are merely a desperate attempt to boost a flat-lining economy, or more likely to soften us up for when the Sunday trading laws are dropped completely some time next year. If Britain's not careful the true legacy of these Games won't be sporting, it'll be more time to go shopping.

We're living an atypical fortnight in an atypical summer. A brief dimming of the global spotlight. The eye of an athletics hurricane. Too many unnecessary opportunities coupled with too much unfulfilled demand. But somewhere behind the scenes more preparations are underway, more painstaking planning for the Second Games that lie ahead. Demand is already voracious, and expectations high. Best enjoy The Hiatus while it lasts - a London summer doesn't often get better than this.

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