Big Ben city not in Olympic mode as yet
A peep out of the window just as flight BA 142 was touching down at the Heathrow brought a smile to tired, weary eyes. It was 6.30 in the morning and the sun was beaming down from a clear blue sky.
After the gloom which had descended on the English capital this past month, when people could talk only about the incessant rain, a traffic which refused to move or a security apparatus which hurtled from one disaster to another, London welcomed the Olympic family on Monday wearing a pretty, fresh and efficient look.
The recent reports of logjams and chaos seemed exaggerated as Games volunteers picked you out of the stream of people inching slowly towards the immigration counter, helped you with visa formalities and you were out in a jiffy.
And, just when you were looking to figure out your way to Stratford and beyond to what would be your home for almost a month, came another lady with her "let me help you sir" smile. Soon, you found yourself in a Mercedes taxi, stifling a content yawn.
The driver who looked more like a professor, was coaxed by the two Australian co-passengers into giving a running commentary on the changes in the infrastructure and the skyline as we moved out of Central London towards the docks. The old, smelly worn-out place (as the driver put it) has changed into a modern suburb, with new plush hotels, apartment blocks and a sky train to boot! It's picture perfect.
The afternoon was not as pleasant. In fact, the desperate bid to find the Main Press Centre after reaching the Stratford Centre, told you that there are still some missing links in the chain of efficiency the organizers are trying to string together. The volunteers were clueless.
Take a right, and a left and soon you will reach a white beautiful building which is your destination, said a smiling, well-meaning volunteer. You were taken in by his honest charm. Well, it resulted in a 45-minute walk with the laptop sitting heavy on the back and the scorching sun slowly roasting the balding head.
Strangely, volunteers along the way had no idea where exactly the MPC was! In fact, a photo-journalist from St. Lucia in the Caribbean was similarly waylaid by ignorant but enthusiastic guiding lights.
"I'm lost maan. They give all sorts of directions... been walking for ages it seems. It's like a puzzle," he said. "You mean like the West Indies cricket team?" He laughed: "Things are looking up maan.
Chris Gayle is back. There is a buzz about this team." And Darren Sammy? Why is he in the team? "Some people say he is good, some dismiss him. I say he is a fighter," he said and winked.
He had not lost his sense of humour despite the wild goose chase in the sun. MPC was almost empty with the world media likely to gain in strength in the coming days, but the volunteers here were efficient and polite.
As the screen on the laptop came alive and sang the welcome tune, you realized it was time to say hello to the Games. As for London, the opening ceremony will be its first big test.