Dead on line
While the Lankan athletes are busy getting knocked out and lightning-man Usain Bolt is preparing for short sprints at the nearby arena, there is another marathon that is in perpetual motion in London. That is the gigantic Olympic press arena at the London Olympic complex which runs without a wink of sleep while the games are on.
There are an estimated twenty one thousand journalists representing the 204 countries that are taking part and the six of us from the Lankan press and the eight from TV are also a part of it.In the morning it is a bustling place where every man or woman seems to be in a hurry to file in their stories, yet most of them also take time off to sport a smile and say “good morning”. At midnight the scenario does not change much. Still the respective reporters keep thumping on their laptops glued to the screens to beat the deadlines while one or two standard (may be) journos are seen dozing off at their seats. Yet we found out that there is certain gallery which provides a few easy chairs just for that purpose.
Though there is no charity and the journalists have to even buy their Wi-Fi facility and even water, there are some facilities provided for these busy people. Behind the huge press center are the two storied cafeteria where there is a plethora of food outlets where you could buy an array of dishes, but sadly the few of us miss the Indian or the Lankan outlet that pleases our palate. Also there is a pharmacy, a foot massaging parlour and even a band stand which provides British pop/rock or jazz music and, mind you, that comes free of charge from seven p.m. onwards. This happens to be just outside the open bar number one.
Just outside this nerve centre is the perpetual coach service which takes the reporters to any of the venues, even deep London, but sadly at times the accredited volunteers do not seems to know which is which. The day of the opening ceremony we did have a taste of it when one transport volunteer did not know much about the bus to Stratford Station and we began filing our copies home at 2 a.m. Yet when we came out at 5 a.m. the bus operator told us that he had been operating through the night!
Adam Hall from the United States is a friendly man and is rightfully proud of America’s sporting prowess, but now he is a little upset over the ascend of the eastern powerhouse China and their haul of gold.
There was another friendly journalist from Tunisia (I forget his name) who wanted a Lankan Olympic memento and was very thankful when I gave him a clip-on Lankan flag. Promptly he gave me one his belongings too. I also ran into friend and senior Indian journalist Ayaz Memon of Daily News and Analysis and we exchanged views on our favourtie subject cricket and what is going on back at home in the Sri Lanka-India Limited Overs series.
Thos huge complex is complex indeed. Every minute you hear a different dialect (The London over ground rail is also a bit similar). If you see a person with different skin colour, they all have one objective – beat the deadline. Also there is another startling truth. Though this press facility is simply huge, it is a nut and bolt job. I won’t be surprised if this vanishes from the face of the earth a few days after the Para-Olympics which will follow the main event.
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