Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 27 July 2012

Someone asked where in the Olympic Park is the Excitement Building the media keep talking about. A small jaunt into town this afternoon, in the final hours before the hoopla gets under way in Stratford, suggested that there are plenty of people in London building their own excitement.

They probably have been for ages, of course, but in our immediate surroundings, it's mostly been manifested through the comings and goings of helicopters on HMS Ocean. Today, the boat-ride into London was accompanied by one of their commando landing-craft (though, since there were commandos strolling around the Tower later, they may well have just been going sightseeing).

But along the river are all the signs of what it's all for, with the French tall ship Belem moored not far from the old Billingsgate Fish Market building, which has been turned into Club France, the Qatari representation has taken over the Institute of Engineering and Technology in Savoy Place and
Victoria Embankment Gardens not only one of many venues with an Olympic mascot on show, but also with a vaguely sporting theme for its floral arrangements.

In Trafalgar Square, a long line of rather flimsy-looking tentage offers temporary TV presentation studios with an over-the-shoulder reminder of where the camera and presenter are, while people from all over were queuing up to be photographed in front of the countdown clock. Not all were so impressed. A group of Australians with their own camera in tow were offering the suggestion of a golden kangaroo for the Fourth Plinth, which various associated suggestions that we Poms were going to be whitewashed in the Olympics, one way or another. We shall see.

It's no surprise to see people from all over in London, of course, but it's now very noticeable that the sights are now drawing groups of athletic-looking people clearly in their Olympic uniform, accompanied by various volunteers in their purple and pink uniforms (I know.....), or waving supporters' flags: an entirely unscientific sample identified Mexicans, Dutch, Spaniards, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese in the space of a couple of minutes.
Not only that, but opportunities for national promotion aren't being missed by the visitors, any more than the hosts: one example is the Danish presentation in St Katharine's Dock, where a Viking longship sits alongside a rather larger vessel from Shenzhen, visiting Danes can watch their home TV coverage (including Queen Margrethe's husband opening the show this morning), and the rest of us can (they hope) be tempted by displays of Danish design and Danish food. For some reason their mascots here are pink plastic pigs, though quite what they're doing trying to sail yet another tall ship, I couldn't work out.

Now to try that Danish bread mix.

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