I thought I’d take a little break from my feeble attempts at blow by blow coverage (don’t forget I’m also blogging daily or semi-daily on Straight-Up) and give you a step-by-step description of how my days usually go here at the Games. To really give you a taste of the cultural experience, I’ll insert the odd Britishism into the post, with a translation in parentheses. If you don’t give a rip about such trivia as my daily perambulations, my apologies. I’ll be blogging about the show jumping as soon as the speed class is over.
I’ve landed the sweetest of sleeps here in London. What better way to get on the inside of a place than to accept an invitation to stay in someone’s home? I have a friend who works for a British horse publication you would almost certainly recognize; it just might have equines and canines in its name. She just happens to live a half hour bus ride from Greenwich – yes just one bus, and the last stop is my stop so I can’t possibly miss it.
LOCOG made one of the best logistics decisions they could have, at least for those of us who got a fully loaded Oyster Card (that’s what they call the smart card-style transit passes here). Usually at these gigs, I don’t stay in the official media accommodation and am therefore SOL for free transit between the venue and my bed. But not so in London. I can go anywhere I want on train, subway or bus. For free. Lest I haven’t sufficiently conveyed this impression in my previous posts, this is easily the most well run Olympics of the three I’ve attended, and I have yet to encounter any but the tiniest and most inconsequential of glitches, ten days in. Take that, nay-saying presidential candidates!
So I rise in the morning, sometimes as early as I have to, sometimes as early as I choose to, make a cup of the Starbucks instant I thought to throw in the bag at the last minute, and consult the weather forecast before finalizing wardrobe for the day. Not that there is much point in checking the weather, for two reasons: the London weather man is never right, and it rains a little or a lot every single day. I think cross country day is the only day since I’ve arrived that the skies didn’t weep at least a little. Which means one non-optional item in my back pack is my ‘waterproof’ (that’s Brit speak for rain jacket). I’ve had quite a few chances to test it, particularly while watching the first day of dressage.
On the topic of waterproof clothing, the Olympic volunteers and staff have been left out in the cold – or the rain, as it were. As hard as I find this to believe, the purple jackets issued to them are not even water resistant, never mind downpour proof. And it’s not like rain is an anomaly around these parts. When it cries out there we have lots of soggy, unhappy purple people around.
In stark contrast to the permeable clothing of the LOCOG folks, Team GB outfitted its athletes and various support squad members in head to toe all-weather wear, including rain pants and brolly (umbrella).
Another fly in the purple ointment is that LOCOG decided to put its staff and volunteers in identical outfits, which means no one can tell the difference. The usual protocol at the Olympics is to give staff and volunteers differently colored uniforms so that one knows who to ask directions to the loo (restroom) and who to ask when the official results will be available in the media center. I spoke to a volunteer on my bus last night who said she gets asked an awful lot of questions she can’t possibly answer and even she can’t differentiate in order to send people to an employee who would know the answer.
The most dangerous moments in my day are the road crossings. This is not my first visit to the land of the left (England, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Hong Kong), but I can never get the hang of looking right first instead of left, except in the city center where they have very conveniently painted ‘look left’ and ‘look right’ at the cross walks for those millions of tourists who, like me, are habituated to cars on the right. My solution is to continuously swing my head from side to side in a 180 degree arc as I step off the curb. I’m sure it makes me look mildly disturbed, as if having a disagreement with my invisible friend, but it’s a small price to pay not to have both my legs broken, or worse.
When I alight from (get off) my bus it’s just a short walk to the accredited entrance, which is also the main entrance for the riders. I get nicely in the mood for the day with guaranteed sightings of the likes of Patrick Kittel (can’t miss him, he’s ten feet tall) and Marcus Ehning (easier to miss – he’s near munchkin sized). I don’t know of any equestrian teams that are making use of the dorm-style accommodations at the Olympic Village. Everyone is installed in hotels within walking distance of the venue. The whole neighborhood feels like it’s become part of a special equestrian athletes village. Sightings of riders and their families are as common as raindrops around here, especially at the better eateries like Cafe Rouge and Davy’s Wine Bar. Last night when I left the venue I saw Danish dressage team riders Nathalie and Anne strolling down the street licking icecreams. And of course the Greenwich Tavern is always overflowing into the streets, especially since the party animal jumpers are now in the ‘hood.
This oversized example of British kitsch greets me every morning as I aproach the media work room, which is located in an airy and bright wing of the National Maritime Museum. Best media center I have ever had the pleasure of using. Here’s another defining feature of this Olympic media experience: what with all the media feeding frenzies during Eventing (Royals) and Dressage (Romneys), this first day of show jumping is the quietest it’s been since the Olympics started. Usually it’s the other way around. Food is decent and easily accessed – none of that artery clogging fried chicken and pulled pork of Kentucky – but if the selections in the media canteen are not up to my personal snuff I have to time my visit to the food venues at the stadium not to coincide with a break in order to avoid participating in that very British of pastimes, queuing.
I have never watched so much of the action from inside the media center, but unless I need to get out to the mixed zone to talk to a rider, I’ve found myself parked for hours on end in front of one of the ten or so CCTV monitors in here. There are no covered press tribunes in the stands, and with the roulette wheel weather changes, I wouldn’t dream of taking my lap top out there. I like to multi-task and blog while I watch, so here I am, comfy and none the worse for watching a monitor instead of 3-D reality.
Once the day’s competition comes to a close, I either stay in Greenwich and have dinner with my partners in media crime, or head back to my digs. A couple of hours of Olympic coverage on TV or on my lap top (BBC is the abs0lute bomb for live coverage on multiple channels and on line). Finally, I kip down (go to bed), maybe with a bedtime snack of Worcester flavored crisps (chips) or Cadbury Crunchie Biscuits (I woke up yesterday with one of the Biscuits melted into the bed sheet – oops) and slip off to the land of Nod. And then do the whole thing over again the next day.