Charming and efficient

London is beautiful as ever. It has blended the old world charm with the latest that technology can offer, without striking a discordant note. Over to Kamesh Srinivasan.

Olympics in London! Who can do it better than the British, hosting the Games for the third time? The efficiency is evident right at the airport when the Immigration Officer gets up from his seat to take you to a nearby special wing set up for the Games family at the Heathrow. The formalities are done in a flash and the travel to the city is also pretty quick, even as you change from train to taxi.

There is no Media Village for the Games like the Athletes Village, as London quite thoughtfully presses its whole city into service. You go into the booked hotel at 8 a.m., thinking you have the whole day to get a feel of the Games. The receptionist tells you politely but firmly that check-in is only at 12 noon. Welcome to London!

The city is beautiful as ever. It has blended the old world charm with the latest that technology can offer, without striking a discordant note. As you travel to Lord’s, Wembley or Wimbledon, it is unmistakable. Britain has not changed much for the Games. The Olympic Park is quite vast.

The whole world has always lived in London, and it is just a question of hosting the world’s best athletes for a few days. No big deal!

You see technology at its best when you look at the Omega time-keeping at the Olympic swimming pool. It has taken computing to one by 10,000th of a second. They tell you that the super speed cameras capture 2000 frames per second. For Peter Huerzler it is his 16th Olympics and he tells you that there is no challenge unresolved for time-keeping in this Games.

The dry British humour

You can never match the sense of humour of the British. Rowan Atkinson, known to all of us as Mr. Bean, is performing with the London Orchestra at the Opening Ceremony of the Games, and is at his silent best. London shows its rich history and literature, its beautiful countryside and the Industrial Revolution to the introduction of the ‘world wide web’, that has shrunk our universe.

My name is Bond

There is also a film clip, and there is 007 James Bond as well. They show you the perplexed dogs at the Buckingham Palace when he takes the Queen on a mission in a helicopter. The city is vibrant and ready for the Games as people are out in thousands on the streets, following the Olympic Torch. The Queen is ready, too, and to the surprise of many parachutes down to the stadium. Cameras focus on her as she is escorted in by the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Dr. Jacques Rogge.

“In a sense, the Games are coming home,” says Rogge in his speech. The Queen declares the 30th Summer Olympics open amidst spectacular fireworks. The athletes parade with pride. The Cauldron made of 205 copper petals comes right out of the middle of the ground. Each inscribed with names of the 205 participating nations. Seven young British athletes light the Cauldron, breaking away from the usual tradition. The bookies must have made a killing, taking bets on whether it would be Sir Roger Bannister or Sir Steve Redgrave doing the honours. Suspense is the key to the Opening Ceremony, and the British get it spot on.

The athletes walk back to the Games village nearby, and the spectators, 80,000 strong, trudge to the railway stations.

Lightning Bolt

Track and field events will start only midway through the Games, but the city has banners only of the speed machine — Usain Bolt. Maybe, it has something to do with being the ambassador for the right brand.

Not much hoopla over 14-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps, though. It is Ryan Lochte who sets the pool ablaze on the opening night, and Phelps has no medal from the 400m individual medley. He returns empty handed from the pool only for the second time in an event in the Olympics since he started as a 15-year-old in Sydney in 2000.

Well, the Indian archers, shooters and a weightlifter too flop. Phelps however hopes to do better.