Insiders Guide - Alex Franks
Do the London streets feel different with the Games on?
The city has been well dressed up - the streets are decorated with bunting, flags and Olympic signs, and there are Olympic logos and big statues of Olympic mascots in all of the parks and public squares.You see fans decked out in country colours around all of the Olympic venues and the mood is buoyant. But London is a big place, and outside the main venues things seem pretty normal. The opening ceremony was a big celebration for the whole city, but the next day most pubs preferred to show the Hungarian Formula I, rather than the archery or the swimming heats, so the Games do not dominate.
Have you been to Olympic Games before?
I attended the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 as a participant in the Olympic Youth Camp. I also attended a conference in 2007 in Olympia, Greece as a New Zealand Olympic Committee representative. Many of the participants from the camp and conference are participating at the Games as athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers, so catching up with them has been an added bonus of being in London.
Where were you during the opening ceremony?
In a central London pub, with a group of Kiwi mates, surrounded by Italians, British, Poles and South Africans. The Brits bought the whole pub a round of shots just before they thought Great Britain was going to enter the stadium in the march-past (at ‘G’), then had to buy a second round an hour later after they worked out the host comes in last!
What events are you going to see and why?
Peter Taylor, a good friend from Wellington College, is competing in the lightweight double sculls rowing, so I am going to his heats and semi finals. I am also going to watch another Wellingtonian, Quentin Rew, compete in the 50 kilometre walk. The race walkers have to complete 25 x 2 kilometre laps in front of Buckingham Palace, so it should be a pretty good event for spectators (although very repetitive for the athletes). I also have tickets to beach volleyball and athletics and will try and catch the triathlon and marathon events at Hyde Park.
Has the daily routine in London been changed drastically by the Olympics?
A lot of British workers have gone away or are working from home during the Games, so friends say their offices are quiet. Otherwise, things seem to be normal – the tubes, buses and trains are all running to time (maybe that is abnormal?), pubs are busy after work, and tourists crowd the main sights. They say Londoners have moaned about the Games for seven years, but now it has started it seems like they are welcoming it as another big event in a series of big events (including the 60th Jubilee and the Royal Wedding), great entertainment and a celebration of Britishness, but no inconvenience in their lives.
Witnessed any unbelievable sights or stunts?
A whole week of sunshine in London in the lead-up to the Opening Ceremony was a pretty unbelievable sight.
Any New Zealand predictions?
Peter Taylor and Storm Uru to win gold! An outside pick would be Kim Smith to surprise in the women’s marathon.