After a five hour delay in Toronto due to some of the most violent thunderstorms seen in Ontario for years, CraveOnline’s “boots on the ground” arrived in the UK for two weeks of Olympic coverage.
I arrived into Heathrow bleary-eyed and jet-lagged. The nine total hours in the air didn’t do my any favors – aside from carting my backside over the Atlantic – but having time to watch two movies from on the tarmac in Toronto got me into London way behind schedule. (By the way, “Acts of Valor” is fun on a seven inch seat back screen, but “John Carter of Mars” is a mess.)
On the ground in Heathrow, the London 2012 Games dominates every wall and most advertisement. Everyone is greeted by “the five rings” and the bizarre fat jigsaw official logo London officials designed for the event.
I’d come preprogrammed with nightmare stories of crowds and airport security lines stretching clean to Gatwick. But, I made it through from my gate through the telltale “ca-chunk” of official passport stamping in less than 45 minutes. From there, I slept through the one hour bus side through rush hour traffic to Surrey and my hotel – the Talbot Inn, High Street, Ripley.
Between fans, media, athletes, tourists and the normal crew of London tourists, hotel rooms in the English capital had been consumed for a long time. So, outlying suburban communities – like the quiet bedroom village of Ripley are seeing a big bump in business as London overflow flocks to reception. Fortunately, Ripley is along the Olympic cycling route throughout London’s southwestern suburbs. That will make covering that local event easy enough for me to cover in my bathrobe.
It’s a 20 minute, £20 roundtrip train ride into London’s Waterloo Station. I’ll be seeing a lot of the Woking–London line for the next two weeks. But, I let London wait for a day due to my jet lag and decided to spend my first evening in the UK at the hotel and along the High Street because there were already Olympic competitions.
A day before the opening ceremonies of Friday, July 27, Men’s Soccer kicked off with five matches playing out at various official stadiums, ala The World Cup. Most importantly, Team GB – Great Britain’s home squad – was taking on Senegal in prime time.
I thought this would be a golden opportunity to get a flavor of Olympic fever in a small British town. So, rather than dragging my weary carcass into London, I headed over to The Anchor Pub down the street from my hotel to watch the match with a crowd of locals.
But, there was no crowd. I walked over to the Half Moon Pub down the High Street and found only a handful more fans.
Was I wrong? Even with the Union Jack flying on every corner and Olympic festoonery studding every building, was England’s Olympic love all bollocks?
No. I’d run into a little jingoistic controversy. Rather than allow England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales each send a team to Olympic qualifying, officials decided to put together a Great Britain all-star team from all of those countries – hence, Team GB.
While the hope was to give every country in the UK something to cheer for, the decision evidently dampened enthusiasm across the board.
As the Games go on, and if Team GB competes for a medal, we’ll see if that attitude warms a bit.
The next day, it would be on to London and the massive opening ceremonies.