When my girlfriend and I decided to take a trip to the UK to visit my parents, we made our flight reservations based purely on our own needs. We looked at when the flights would be at their cheapest and when we would be able to get the time off work. We did not pay too much heed to any external factors. If I am honest, we were completely oblivious to the fact that we would be in the UK during the week leading up to the Olympic Games. However, even though we did not plan it, we would get a little bit of a taste of the greatest show on earth.
Our biggest bite of the Olympic cake came when we visited London. However, before that on our journey back to the UK, we also got plenty of flavour. It began in quite a bizarre manner. As we passed our bags through the metal detectors at Nice airport, I thought I noticed a face that looked familiar. It was not a friend or a colleague. It was a face I had seen on TV. It took a little while to register, but it was British Olympic hurdler and former world-champion Colin Jackson next to him, I suddenly saw the graying temples of Britain’s former world-record breaking triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards. Both of these former athletes are no UK TV celebrities. Edwards presents some sports programs and Jackson starred on Strictly Come Dancing. It was rather strange to see them in Nice of all places, but it did get us thinking about the Olympics.
Once we touched down in Birmingham, the Olympics seemed to be everywhere. As we queued up for passport control, I noticed that there was a surprisingly large amount of Americans – and a surprisingly large amount of rather fit looking Americans – in the Non-EU lane. When we passed through to collect our baggage, we found almost the entire women’s athletics team waiting with their Team USA suitcases and hold-alls. Standing proudly in the midst of this was Carmelita Jeter whose muscular frame would later carry her to silver and bronze in the 100m and 200m.
All this took place before we had even got to London. However, as soon as our train drew into St Pancras station, we had plenty of Olympic fever. As we dragged our suitcases along the platform, we could hear a brass band playing music to welcome members of the Belgian, and Australian Olympic teams. This sounded fantastic, so we headed over to get a glimpse. However, it proved a little bit of a let-down as all we really saw were some unknown athletes milling around in track-suits and looking slightly flustered at the rather elaborate welcoming.
Whilst there were no actual events as we had arrived three days before they began, we saw plenty of the preparations. For example, we were unable to walk along the Mall to Buckingham Palace as it was closed to prepare for the passing of the Olympic torch. We also caught some of the chaos caused on the roads by the Mayor’s decision to close certain lanes of traffic for only Olympic traffic to use. WE hear countless Londoners cursing the disruption it was causing.
There were also a few fantastic visual signs that the Olympics were on the way. The first was the main terminal at St Pancras, which was crowned by a giant set of Olympic rings. The second was the same type of thing displayed across Tower Bridge.