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Saturday, July 28, 2012

News photo
Let the games begin: Flags fly in the wind outside the Olympic Village in London on Thursday. AP

LONDON POSTCARD

Putting jet-lag behind, getting acclimated to new surroundings


Staff writer

LONDON — Adjusting to the eight-hour time difference between Japan and the United Kingdom and watching double-decker buses pass by on Holloway Road in Islington . . .

It's time for my first real English breakfast. Which brought me to the Coffee Room Bistro (361 Holloway Rd.), which proclaims on its menu, "We're noisy about food. We taste it, try it, argue about it, until it's right."

So I ordered the £5.50 set, which included coffee, and eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, chips (French fries) and toast, and leisurely perused Wednesday's Guardian sports pages. The primary subject matter — no surprise — was Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter extraordinaire.

In a terrific profile piece, writer Donald McRae captured the true essence of Bolt's psyche and amazing athletic skills.

To wit: "He wore the expression of a man who had conquered the world," McRae observed, summarizing what took place in Beijing, where Bolt captured global attention for winning the 100 — and 200-meter races in spectacular fashion.

McRae also noted that Bolt has a chance to go down in history as the first man to repeat as the 100-200 double champion in Olympic history.

The gifted writer referred to Bolt as "engagingly uncomplicated" and detailed "the glamour and thrilling blur" of the 100. He quoted Bolt as saying, "It's always good to lose. It wakes you up."

When I read that, my half-awake brain was suddenly reinvigorated. (The coffee helped, too.)

Bolt, looking to avenge his defeats to Yohan Blake in the Jamaican Olympic Trials in the 100 and 200, isn't in the spotlight during the first few days of competition in London, giving time for a splendid buildup, a remarkable anticipation.

He realizes the full significance of what's at stake, and told the Guardian: "(The Olympics) couldn't be a better place. It couldn't get better than this. There couldn't be nowhere else because London is really like a second Jamaica."

* * *

Walking around the Holloway Station neighborhood, not far from Arsenal's Premier League home, it was not hectic.

There were short lines at local convenient stores and markets; there were plenty of tables at indoor and outdoor cafes, and a friendly ordinary look on the locals' faces as they went about their daily routines, while tourists strolled about — without a political hack's election day deadlines for the newspaper — as they took in the sights and sounds of north London.

As the man behind the counter at Coffee Room Bistro told me, "business is stagnant." Olympic venues are not nearby, he added, meaning, normalcy may remain in that neighborhood.

* * *

Heading to the Olympic Park to get acclimated to the area where I'll be working mostly until mid-August, a few facts caught my eye on one of the official signs: The park is 25 sq. km, equivalent in size to 350 football pitches.

The park, by the way, is divided into four zones: Street Market, Britannia Row, World Square and Orbit Circus. And the futuristic red-and-white Coca-Cola Beatbox is an eye-catching site that doubles as a musical instrument. The marketing opportunities are endless.

And then there's the first completely commercial one-can't-miss billboard I spotted en route to the MPC (press headquarters). Located just below the Holiday Inn, the huge sign, one that will be analyzed intensely by marketing strategists for decades to come declared, "There would be no GOOSEBUMPS, GASPS, POUNDING HEARTS, TEARS OF JOY, RECORDS SMASHED, STRANGERS HUGGED OR A WHOLE WORLD BROUGHT TOGETHER without . . . " No need to finish the sentence. The nearby icons of corporations completed the task.

This is a long-winded way of saying "thank you for your support." And this ode, one that will seen by millions passing through the Olympic Park, was produced with the Olympic partners, supporters, suppliers and products in mind.



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