We sit upon a concrete Trafalgar Square slab - below the pouring mid-afternoon rain; which has arrived with due force upon the London Olympics, a day later than expected. The temperature is a chilly 20 Degree Celsius, and the weather should be dampening the spirits of a city, currently under the intense spotlight of a global microscope. Only - if anything, the effect is exactly the opposite.
This is my first time in the heart of London since the games began. Within the space of life under these umbrella thoughts - and the ensuing six hours or so spent in the capital, the sheer size of the 30th Olympiad begins to dawn on me; sightseeing Panamanian athletes, umbrellas donning the national flags of France, Uruguay, Brazil, and Columbia. A Canadian film crew searching for fellow North Americans. And a Portuguese media group interviewing an athlete on an open top London bus; just a small microcosm of all which surrounds us.
The Olympics games have not taken over London; they have decimated everything in its path - like a hurricane, left dormant for seven years to ponder its course of destruction, finally let loose. Humanity smell of the games – even us, as we stroll along the side of the slowly brightening Mall; where the women’s road cycling ended half an hour previous. Fans of all nations abound from every angle; to the point it is hard to decipher who is competing, who is related to the competitors, and who is just here for the sake of being here. Meters beside us, the beach volleyball takes place at Horse Guards Parade. The size and organisational levels of the makeshift stadium built to house it, are a sight to behold; Beach volleyball, it seems, does have more credence, than the idea of a few pervy thrills on the side.
We navigate side roads towards Buckingham Palace, and I wonder if the Queen and her Corgis are looking forward to watching Team GB’s football squad, later this evening. Before we hit Hyde Park, we pass more volunteers, athletes from Germany, Turkey, and Cuba, official buses of Spain, Ukraine and China, and a go-kart containing three Team GB potential medallists. In the park we head for the official BT Zone; where a mixture of free live music, cooked food, and the cleanest temporary toilet facilities I have ever urinated in in my life, surround four large screen televisions – covering the games in high definition, wall to wall style. It has a Glastonbury feel to it, and we stay to watch an American singer/songwriter as she acoustically invigorates us all with her incredible voice and soulful energy. We stay for a couple of swimming finals; French, American, and Swedish fans cheer in the crowd. The energy here is powerful, and it would take a heart of sheer stone to ignore the magic which currently flows through the air of not just this venue, but the city in general.
There is a rich vibrancy in London right now; the like of which I have honestly never felt before. All the destructive elements of the Olympics – advertising, ticket touting, the media’s bizarre obsession with any minimal negative story they can lay their greasy hands on, still reside. But the sheer gravity and infectious nature of positive energy the summer games bring are, at least in my view, overwhelming to a point, where you simply do not care about these things; it is that strong.
The police are efficient yet easy going. The volunteers happy to aid all along their way; while engaging In a little friendly banter. And the usual aggressive undertones of England seem to have taken a two week holiday. Of course, a cynic may argue this new liberal, relaxed nature is purely so we can give the once in a lifetime tourists an impression of London as a happy, hospitable place – and maybe to a degree, this is true. But personally, I don’t care. Whether a false impression, or a genuine form of open expression, London will likely never experience an event like this again. So I suggest to anyone in or around the first city of civilization, to take this opportunity while you can, because as soon as post closing ceremony Monday dawns upon us, the smiles of London will vanish as fast as a mystery woman in red representing Team India. And no, even though I would love to suggest otherwise, the Paralympics will barely even register.
Next stop, the Olympic Village. Until the next time…