So it's Friday 27th July 2012 and, after 7 years of exhausting preparations, London is welcoming the world. For my part, I'm standing at Charing Cross Station, listening to our beloved mayor, Boris Johnson - he of bike fame - on the tannoy, telling us all (as he's done for over a month now, and as if we hadn't worked out already from years of stunted rail services) that 'this is the big one', and things will be 'very busy' - his tone as one might expect when speaking to a class of five year olds. But, at least he's doing it - and you have to applaud him for taking part, energising the capital, and urging us all to shake off our drab existences and embrace the party - one hassled train journey at a time. Sure look how fit we'll be with all the walking he wants us to do. I might even chance the marathon next year myself.
Anyhoo - I'm not here to diss the celebrations (did you like the arbitrary use of street-talk there) - quite the opposite. Bring it on I say, I'll be 'welcoming the world' with two very open arms. Just yesterday I met a small selection of the Canadian team, and what lovely people they are. I would like to also greet my fellow countrymen and women but, since Ireland is just a smattering of miles across the ditch, I assume they'll be weighing up as the thing goes along. Maybe Ryanair will put on a 'Fly to London for €1' offer, direct out from Knock International - baggage €20 per bag, with €5 per kilo extra over 15 kilos. Not too bad a deal, if you're Paddy Barnes (an Irish boxer from Belfast, for those who aren't familiar) and all you need is a few pairs of shorts, but a different matter if you're Martin Irvine or David McCann and you have to check-in your bike, never mind the equestrian guys who have to turn-up with a horse and, as for the canoeists, well it might be cheaper just paddling across the pond themselves.
But I digress, what I really wanted to raise though is the other sporting pursuits that'll be taking place here over the next two weeks. These endeavours are not only for the Olympic period, but ones that all Londoners - both indigenous and naturalised - fully partake of on a daily basis. I'm talking about the Commuter Pentathlon - made up of five track and platform events:
The Long Stand: A 'track' event. To take place over many London on-train venues - more specifically that last bit of track leading into London Bridge Station. An endurance event, made tougher by hot summer weather, wherein the participant must stand for lengthy periods of up to anything Transport for London makes up in their heads, while the driver repeatedly reassures us that we're stopped at a red signal, and the train will be moving shortly, but it doesn't. This event can be very stressful for the novice athlete, and seasoned veterans can be seen to use certain breathing techniques, including the repeated, disgruntled, heavy sigh - the muttered expletive - and, of course the all out rant (this is loud and usually to someone on the other end of a mobile phone - can also be a team practice).
The Long Stand event should not be confused with the Long Wait, which is also an endurance event but fielded solely on a rain-soaked platform.
The Sliding-door Block: An individual or team event, whereby persons on the platform waiting to get onto a tube carriage must block, or with baggage obstruct the opposing side or competitor, and thus hinder them from getting off. Techniques to be used are standing en-masse in the middle of the doorway, barging through, and/or the spread-out hand-hold with a partner - best affected when using all three. Extra points are available for completely ignoring the platform attendant, as they repeatedly say, 'Let the passengers of the train first' - a gold medal is achievable for making someone miss their stop altogether, forcing them to get off at the next.
This event can quickly become a full contact sport - and is not to be mistaken, but bears many similarities to the Singles Seat Rush.
The Modern Ticket-barrier Dash: Made an official event after automatic barriers were installed, this is the modern version of the all-in Ticket-collector Shove. This is an open event, where competitors must dash as fast as possible towards the ticket-barriers at the station entrance, quite a bit of 'shoving' takes place as the first person through is the winner - well until the next one that is. Apart from the general, all and sundry participation encouraged in this sport, the field is made more difficult by having the least amount of barriers open in the busiest direction, as well as random problems in reading Oyster cards, thereby causing bottlenecking and pileup (the competitor is first exhausted by ensuring, when there's an escalator malfunction, the single working escalator is moving in the less tiring 'down' direction, rather than shifting it to 'up').
This event can also quickly become a full contact sport.
The Uncoordinated Umbrella Open and Head-poke: Unlike the first three Commuter Pentathlon events, this one takes place in the open air, and leads on directly from the Modern Ticket-barrier Dash. Competitors, once having won the first round at the ticket-barriers, must rush for the station exit, then stop abruptly when - having ignored just about every television weather report, newspaper warning, and the advice of their dear, old gran - suddenly discovers that it's raining out. The contestant must become completely oblivious to the people trying to get past, then fumble around at length in whatever bag, briefcase, or holdall they're carrying - pull out an umbrella, and proceed to open it without any regard for the other competitors around them. At least a bronze is achievable by stabbing someone in the head with the umbrella's sharp prongs, while charging aimlessly and headlong down the street. This is a year round event, and takes place at three difficulty scales: drizzle, downpour, and deluge. Any - sorry all - of which are very likely during the two weeks of summer for the Olympics.
This event is partaken in full combination with the Sudden Stop - to pick up the free newspaper.
Extra note ... no retractable roof on the Olympic stadium - - in London - - hmmm ...!
The 100 Decibel Natter: Now some novice spectators might be forgiven in confusing this event with one of the breathing techniques for the Long Stand - 'the all out rant' - but, because of the lengthy endurance, and manual dexterity needed to participate in this event (namely holding a phone to one ear until fingers, hand, and arm feels like it has fallen off, not to mention possible vocal-cord strain) it was agreed this deserved to be an event in its own right. In order to achieve perfection in this discipline, participants - or teams, if the train is packed - must conduct an exceedingly loud conversation on a mobile phone (being heard all the way down in another carriage holds a very good chance of at least a bronze). The detail matters not: somebody's wedding, some girlfriend having a baby, how pissed they are, how they're going to 'sort that bas***d out' (usually a male event, yet also increasingly a female one of late), all these and many other such chinwags meet the eligible entry criteria, as long as everyone else on the train can claim full participation.
This is a combined track and platform event, and bears a close resemblance but shouldn't be mistaken with the 200 Decibel Gobby Yob.
So all you visitors to this fine city, rest assured that, by way of welcoming you to the capital, you are free and even encouraged to become unwitting or full-out participants in these terrific events - through which you'll be made feel one of us. Enjoy.
By the way - all this foolery aside, best of luck to all the athletes of the world - this Olympics is about you and your achievements. Welcome, fill your boots, and may you see success ...
Now to my monthy recommendations - and, as I'm running out of space, not to mention you're probably fed up reading my warped ravings by now - I'll make them short.
My movie of the month:
Batman Begins - the first of the most recent crop, and bleedin' brilliant.
My album of the month:
Not Your Kind of People - Garbage. Saw them live in Brixton. A fantastic band - with yet another terrific album.
My book of the month:
Drummer Boy - Scott Nicholson. A nicely put together supernatural thriller, second in a line, and with all that's best about the genre.
Author: The Silver Mist
More information about the Martin and his novels can be found on his website: www.MartinTreanor.com.
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