Here I was, just off the jet at Heathrow Airport, ready to declare these ‘The Worst Games” in the history of this world and of worlds as yet undiscovered. Having now, technically, set foot in the U.K. I felt eminently qualified to trash the whole bleeding mess I’d been reading about in the British media: torrential rains, pending strikes by border guards, hours waits at customs, transportation chaos, security meltdowns . . . .
Being now officially in London, if only at the airport, I’d more morality authority to wail and moan than many members of the British media had when they declared the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games an unmitigated disaster within days of the Opening Ceremony, and without bothering to leave England.
Being from Vancouver, I’m a bit sensitive about this. I actually thought our Olympics went rather well, all things considered. But I remember a 2010 headline from The Times of London that went: “The Wreckage of a Tarnished Games.” Then there was the golfing correspondent from The Guardian—the golfing correspondent?—who trashed the Vancouver Games from beginning to end. A typical headline from the Guardian: “Vancouver Games continue downhill slide from disaster to calamity.” It must have been unsettling for the poor fellow to cover events that didn’t require guiding a little white ball into a little round hole, and without any birdies, wedges and sand traps to go on about.
So here I was, technically in London, loaded for bear, howling for blood, ready to put the boots to Old Blighty. And then, barely off the plane, I met Martin, a smiling pink-shirted volunteer. After a warm welcome, he took me in hand, credentialed me, sped me through customs, collected my bags and handed me off to yet another volunteer who guided me to the Heathrow Express. Well, it’s hard to stay mad in a comfy train with sunlight streaming in the windows and London on the agenda.
Still, I hoped for worse to come. But here it is Thursday, and darned if the threatened strike today by border guards wasn’t called off, and disaster was averted. Seems that even the radical element of the Public and Commercial Services Union, got cold feet after realizing that the vast majority of Britons were ready to crucify them for bringing shame to the Games.
So, in short, not much to complain about. Yet.
Yes, transport is a bit of a nightmare, but really no worse than any of the seven other Olympics I’ve covered. The pink-clad volunteers—the only true amateurs at the Games—are a delight. And the soldiers are doing a fine job on security. There are now more of them deployed here than there are in Afghanistan. Given the choice I know I’d rather be in London than risking death and dismemberment in the Afghan dust. Most of the soldiers seemed happily bored.
As for the public, and hometown press, all it’s going to take is a first gold medal for Britain, and all bad things will be forgotten. Well, until the final Olympic bills come due.
Of course, these being the Olympics, trouble is always just a banana peel away. And when it hits, I’ll be ready.