Someone decided to light up a fake cigarette in a "no smoking" area.
If the above scenario looks like a joke to you, then, think again. A very real, similar event took place just a few days ago near Lichfield, Staffordshire when the passengers of a coach bound for Victoria station, London, were forced to evacuate the vehicle amidst fears that there was a bomb on board.
|The ancient Olympics. Not a brand in sight|
Welcome to London's Olympic Games 2012!
I've been trying my best to leave my cynic's mask at home these days but it almost feels as if the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games doesn't want me to. In between scares from the sponsors about what products I'm allowed to bring into the venues with me and which ones will leave me with a hefty fine, scares about the budget (that was ages ago and it was never sorted out. We were way over then and still are) and scares about tickets availability and allocation (it's just transpired that a huge chunk of them are going to corporate guests) my initial enthusiasm for the Olympic Games has diminished. Not that I was ever over the moon about them in the first place. Although I do confess to having felt proud for a nanosecond when I found out that the British capital was to be the host.
What is it about big sports showcases that makes otherwise responsible adults behave like over-excited children in a sweets shop? Already London 2012 is shaping up to be a sponsor- and brand-driven fest (and, pardoning the pun, a "feast" for the lucky few who will be making a few bob out of hoi polloi). Have a McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Down the plastic-texture burger with a good ol' XL-sized bucket of Coca Cola. Dessert will come courtesy of a Cadbury's chocolate bar. And get drunk later on (although for those whose teams do well in the medals table, this will probably start early in the morning) Heineken. You see? I just sorted your diet. For a fortnight. Someone, please, pass us the sick bag.
I'm not being Mr Curmudgeon here, although this might be the first step towards my Cuban persona being taken over by a British one. I'm a sports enthusiast. I support an English football team (Chelsea), two international ones (Brazil and Argentina. There's an oxymoron for you) and still root for my hometown baseball team (Industriales). The concept of money in sports is not alien to me either. To Chelsea, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's favourite toy, I can add The New York Yankees, the team I support in the Major League in the US. But I take all this fan's malarkey with a pinch of salt. The time when I wouldn't talk to a girlfriend because Industriales had lost to Vegueros in Cuba's Baseball Championship are happily over.
The Olympics are different. If you go by their history they should, in theory at least, call to a nobler part of us. In ancient Greece conflicts used to be put on hold until the games finished. And as far as I know there were no brands to advertise.
However London 2012 is slowly becoming the prostitute of the sports arena. And I profusely apologise to those involved in this trade. I mean no offense to you. But what's been happening for the last couple of years in the British capital is the closest you'll come to getting shafted for dosh.
I've personally been there before, in Cuba. In 1991 we staged the Panamerican Games, a sports meeting held every four years between countries from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean. In 1991, however, the "special period" (or economic crisis to give it its proper name) was in full swing in Cuba and the Panam Games (as they were known) were seen by many as an unnecessary waste of money. In hindsight, we were right. Security was tight. Athletes, foreign television crews and tourists were encouraged by Cuban officials not to mingle with the locals, except for designated areas to which the guests were taken (the US delegation, especially, was under close surveillance. Needless to say, the government's efforts were pretty useless. The Yanks did whatever took their fancy). The immediate outcome of the games was an apartheid-style split down the middle between those who had access to the new tourist facilites and those who didn't. As someone who had just finished his second year in university and had secured a summer job for the first time ever at a nearby hotel, I experienced first-hand this division. The Capri Hotel where I worked for six weeks in '91, was one of the three venues where the US television crews stayed. I saw corruption, bribery and theft almost on a daily basis amongst the hotel staff, including senior management and security personnel. This was the beginning of a terrible period in our socio-economic and political history and I still strongly believe that the catalyst was the Panamerican Games.
Fast-forward to London 2012 and what have we got? A famous area in east London, Stratford, whose reputation owes more to deprivation than middle-class aspiration. Yet the Games were meant to change that perception and inject much-needed cash into its regeneration programme. Instead what we have ended up with is a military lockdown. Which has had to come into force because G4S (the company tasked with providing the security personnel) cannot guarante the supply of the 13,700 guards it was contracted to deliver. Shambles doesn't even begin to cover it.
Snipers on roofs, a total takeover by the likes of McDonald's and Coca Cola and foul weather. I know that once the Olympics get going I will join my wife and children on the sofa (we have not got any tickets to any of the events, of course) or maybe at Trafalgar Square (apparently they'll have a big screen there and the National Gallery, one of my favourite places in London as you all know, is also in the vicinity) and cheer for Cuban and British athletes. And once the Games are over, I will join friends and colleagues to whinge about the opening ceremony, the technical glitches and the weather. To which I can only reply: Dear A Cuban In London, your transformation is complete. You are now a truly British citizen.
And this is all for me for the time being. I will come back in the second week of September to let you all know how the Olympic Games went. That is, if I survive them! :-) The blog will not be closed, though. I will have a mix of music and past posts to entertain you all. Since I'm doing the stay-cation holiday this year it's very likely that I will carry on visiting your blogs and reading your fabulous posts. Have a brilliant summer break.
Next Post: “Coffee and Music”, to be published on Sunday 22nd July at 10am (GMT)