Monday, 30 July 2012

Beach Volleyball 28 July 2012

So far so AMAZING. With London 2012 getting off to a more than spectacular start – thanks to Danny Boyle and the hundreds of volunteers, performers and The Queen herself (!) – I can safely say that I’m in Olympic heaven. Danny is due to get his knighthood, as predicted, Sir Chris Hoy carried the flag for Team GB and Sir Steve Redgrave had his moment with the flame. We were right about youngsters lighting the cauldron, although who could have predicted it would be a group of them? Even the bookmakers William Hill has had to give punters their money back on that bet.

So after staying up waaaaay later than someone with a newborn baby and toddler should ever dare contemplate, we roused ourselves early the next day and headed into town to watch Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. The location was amazing – totally blew Bondi Beach out of the water, sorry Australia – I could see the London Eye, Whitehall buildings above Winston Churchill’s bunker, the Shard and Big Ben. Buckingham Palace was just behind us and The Mall looked absolutely stunning dressed in Olympic ring flags and Union Jacks.

Benny Hill music blared during intervals of raking, dancers wiggled their beautiful backsides and a couple of funnymen chased each other around the arena for our entertainment. ‘I wanna see you dance!’ shouted the compere. I was up in a flash. Our Olympic baby took it all in his stride and didn’t peep once. (So Katie Hopkins can stick that in her anti-women pipe). At this point, I’d like to thank Lord Coe for his u-turn on babes in arms.

Meanwhile, the city looked wonderful and eerily quiet with hardly any cars flying around the edge of Trafalgar Square. We had a marvelous lunch in a fairly peaceful Soho, and Oxford Street was empty compared with a regular Saturday

John Lewis will be having fun though. The Official London 2012 shop on their flagship store’s 5th floor was heaving with accredited Olympics visitors. They seemed to be spending nicely with baskets of Olympics merchandise filled to bursting. Let’s hope they keep it up!

Now we just have to hope Team GB begin to pull in some medals. So far it’s been our lovely ladies in the cycling and swimming who have come up trumps. That and filling up the seats that the greedy corporates have shamefully wasted. Once that’s happening, we won’t know ourselves as we’ll have nothing to complain about… surely not?!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London's got its swag on

We’re a heartbeat away from the greatest show on earth. So what’s it like to be in London right now? I sent my roving reporter to investigate. The banners are up, a buzz is in the air, and the countries of the world have started to arrive.

John Lewis’s advertising agency has done it again with a fantastic building wrap on its flagship store on Oxford Street.

Check these banners out… glorious Regents Street has been kitted out with flags from all over the world.

What else? Well, there’s the dulcet sounds of Boris Johnson’s voice which have, until now, been pumped around the underground, advising commuters to ‘be prepared!’ But as roving reporter says, ‘We haven’t had an event in London like this ever before, so even Boris can’t know what town is going to be like. It’s a case of think the worst and hope for the best’. To date, in true Brit style, the glass half empty approach has been prevalent. But this isn’t unique to London 2012.

It’s almost laughable now, but Sydneysiders were adamant their transport system would fail in the run up to Sydney 2000. It didn’t, and their games were heralded as possibly the most successful of all time. Barcelona was the same, Athens was apparently doomed, and who can forget the baggage Beijing came with (human rights, smog, etc)?

So it’s with a surge of pride that I’m delighted the media is reporting record crowds turning out in London today to see the penultimate day of the torch relay. A BBC programme last night called Britain’s Olympic Torch Story told the tales of courage and dedication from ordinary people around the country. (I may have shed a tear or two!) A plethora of similar programmes have started to be shown this week, at last.

It seems the temperature is rising, literally and generally in the city. So I’ve got a good feeling that we might be able to improve upon Sydney 2000. Just a bit.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

River boat to Greenwich, 6 days to go

We took our two children into London on Saturday to see how the atmosphere was building with only one week to go until the 2012 Games officially begin. We enjoyed a boat from Westminster to Greenwich which is one of the best ways to see the city. The Olympic Torch was in Greenwich that morning, so the atmosphere there was even better there than the centre. Having said that, Saturdays in town are always lots of fun.

It was really exciting to see the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge. In Sydney 2000, they were also displayed on a bridge – the wonderful Harbour Bridge.

The signage was a little understated, but you can't miss it, I'll give them that. Not sure I'll be shimmying up a lamppost to nick it at the end of the Games though like a couple of lads I spotted in Sydney 2000 after one too many stubbies.

Elsewhere in Trafalgar Square, I got goosebumps thinking that one of the last times I was here was for the celebrations in 2005 when the Games bid was announced. The clock said just 6 days to go.

We enjoyed some amazing free music as part of the BT River of Music Festival, six stages set up at iconic venues across London, representing the different continents of the world. It's all a part of the Cultural Olympiad which you can read more about here.

Greenwich Old Naval College looked absolutely spotless and you could see the equestrian event all set up in the background, framed by the famous spires. Breathtaking. A cracking day all round. Don’t listen to Boris, try and get into town peops – this shouldn’t be just for tourists and the Brangelina set. C'mon!

Friday, 20 July 2012

London 2012 pin badges

I want to get some Olympic pin badges to add to my Sydney 2000 collection. They’re a pricey £6 on the official shop website. I never bought any in Sydney, the idea being that you get given them by other people and swap the ones you have. If you’re wondering what the big deal is with little bits of overpriced metal, they’re more than just a collectable bit of Olympic history. They’re a talking point (so to speak) for visitors to the games, guests and visitors alike, which is brilliant when you don’t actually speak the same language.

I remember the Icelandic official and the Brazilian athlete I helped whilst working in the Sydney 2000 Olympic village. The pin badges they gave me remind me of the friendships we made and the smiles between strangers – ultimately, an important part of the Olympic values, respect and friendship.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Olympics? What Olympics?

‘So are you excited about the Olympics then?’ It's a question I ask everyone I know. The response always focuses on a lack of ticket availability along with a criticism of the entire games as a result. I do understand these frustrations. I really do. But I also feel there should be more focus on our athletes generally, and what it means to host an Olympics in your own country. So I look for answers elsewhere – the media, for example.

Now, most people who aren’t on twitter or obsessed with sport won’t necessarily hunt out news about London 2012. They will see a myriad of Olympic designs on everything from biscuit tins to t-shirts down at Next or M&S. They will hear a bit about the torch if it’s on the local news. It’s very possible they will read the Daily Mail or The Sun and see only vitriol about ‘fiascos’ and sponsorship rules and regulations. They may see the odd athlete’s face plastered around town and on television ads. And of course, if this is your experience, it is likely to all revolve around money rather than the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence.

So what I’d like to know is, why isn’t there an Olympics channel on freeview? Or at least an evening magazine programme, much in the vein of the One Show, broadcast for a few hours each evening on a channel like BBC3 for example. In Sydney 2000, you could follow the Olympic Torch and see individual runners on national television. It seemed to be on all the time. Don’t tell me to press the red button or go online. My mum can’t do that, so I’m guessing not all of the nation can either. It needs to be more in your face than that; much more of a celebration.

If the Queen can be on telly pretty much for four whole days, I don’t see why we can’t have more Olympics coverage in the run up. Tell me about the community hero running with the torch through Bournemouth. Show the first welcoming ceremony in the Olympic Village of the British Virgin Islands. Interview Lord Coe every other day. Show him doing something other than fighting fire – hell, people might even warm to him a bit, understand what it means to host the biggest sporting spectacle in the world. Get a profile up of each team and let’s hear from them what London2012 actually means.

I don’t want to just happen upon a semi-naked athlete in a lifestyle magazine, just because they said they’d get their kit off. I want to celebrate them with their clothes on too. It would just be nice to be a bit positive about what is a very, very special event. It’s an honour to host the Olympics in this country, I just wish the media would do more to reflect it.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Bradley Wiggins. A Tribute.

Cycling. Whether it’s a rain-soaked commute to work or the thousands spent on Boris bikes in a quest to make us more Dutch, cycling is often an important part of water cooler conversation these days. My last two Art Director colleagues both took a tumble on their way to work, prompting at least a week’s worth of ‘I’ll show you mine (bruises), if you show me yours’ type discussions.

But this is all set to change – and next time we’re embarrassing ourselves on two wheels, we can hold our heads up high whilst we’re doing it. The days of the Penny Farthing are more than over. Because we have the Wiggmeister. He is the original wheels of steel – and his team of course, Team Sky.

Just watch Brad pedal up a mountain and think about that slope that makes your eyes water on the way to work/home/weekend recreational fun and you can’t help but be impressed. Then think about doing it every day for 21 days. Incredibly, to coincide with a year of amazing sporting achievement across the board, this weekend could deliver Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner in its 109 year history. UN-BEL-IEVE-AB-LE.

And once he has finished eating all the baguettes he can handle, Bradley Wiggins, like Mark Cavendish, is coming to the Olympics. So all ye who have tickets to see this man, believe. You’re about to see one of our greatest ever athletes in action. Just don’t blink.


Bradley Wiggins says you have to ‘keep the chimp in the cage’, in reference to building mental strength and holding it all together while your body aches like it just rolled over a bunch of tacks in the road. Andy Murray, please note, it’s time to get with the chimp.

He's been quoted as saying, ‘You need to be a ruthless robot or you’ll choke’.

On tour, Bradley burns about 8,000 calories a day.

His dad was a successful Australian sportsman, six-day cyclist Gary Wiggins.

Brad is a Londoner. Boom!

The French have nicknamed him the ‘Golden Heron’ for his bird-like physique and yellow back.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rain, go away...

If Beijing 2008 was all about smog and firing canons into the sky to control the weather, London 2012 is all about rain. It's OUT OF CONTROL. I'm telling you now, our country has never seen a washout of a summer like this before. Or at least one that I can remember, for what it's worth. Thank goodness Wimbledon now has a roof on centre court, or Andy Murray and Federer would still be hanging out in SW19. They'd probably have tossed a coin for the championship by now. Victorian fog and Mary Poppins dancin' on chimneys it ain't. Her umbrella would've come in handy though.

Boris Johnson, London Mayor extraordinaire, has our back however. Ponchos have been ordered in their thousands. Plus most events are under cover, especially if you're in the cheap seats at the athletics like we will be. I believe it's only beach volleyball, most equestrian events, BMX, triathlon, hockey and rowing/canoeing that are exposed to the elements. roving reporter on the ground says the weather will suddenly clear and London will bask in glorious sunshine for two weeks. Given that he's a designer and not a meteorologist in real life, I'm not sure what basis he has to believe this. I'm thinking it's the pure disbelief that having come this far, a bit of rain could scupper what should rightly be an amazing games at the final furlong. I mean, it's only rain for blimmin' sake, right?

Simply put, I have to trust he is going to be right, the sun WILL shine and all will be well in the world. Right now though, the official stance is bring a mac, you're going to get wet. Usain Bolt better not use 'rain' as an excuse for not giving us a 100m final to boast about for years to come. That would be like blaming leaves for a late running train in the morning...oh. One thing I do know though, if the sun does grace us with its presence, it'll be the most supercalifragilistic Olympics ever. And it's only days away.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Where will you watch the Opening Ceremony?

It’s July and that can only mean one thing. The surreal prospect of a home games is very nearly here. And like the mind-bending feeling of carrying a baby in your tummy one day and then holding the very same baby in your arms the next, I just can’t get my head around that fact. In just a few weeks, I’ll be sitting in my living room getting goose bumps like I always do on any Opening Ceremony night. Only this time, the goose bumps will have goose bumps.

The excitement I always feel since experiencing Sydney 2000 at firsthand comes rushing back to me. But this time, it will be special again. This time will be just as important to me as being on the ground surrounded by world-class athletes, watched by the eyes of the world. My sense of national pride and achievement will be off the podium. I expect my other half may decide to hide in another room.

So what I’d like to know from others is how you’ll be watching the Opening Ceremony? Now that Eurovision parties and Big Brother parties have become the norm, I wonder if Brits will embrace the London 2012 Opening Ceremony in the same way they braved the grim Diamond Jubilee weather back in early June. And will they make fancy dress compulsory? Will the streets of London be witness to gaggles of ‘sporting stars’ spilling out of Fitzrovia and Soho pubs long into the night? I like to think so.

Most people I know have very young children and babies these days, so I expect the event will be low key for them. I personally plan to buy a sofa picnic made up of all my favourite food and drink from around the world. Then I’ll have my union jack at the ready (recycled from Queenie’s street party) and a big box of tissues on hand to cope with the only house guests I’ll be having that evening: a grand mix of nostalgia, excitement and hormones. Bring it on!