Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On location in London #4

I'm covering the 2012 Summer Olympic Games from July 27 through Aug. 12 in London for the Virgin Islands Daily News. These notebook items and photos were published in the print edition.

No guns, plenty of security

Unlike the Pan American Games last October in Guadalajara, Mexico where security guards dressed in all black and walked around with high-powered machine guns, the security in London has been highly effective without the fire power.

Before the Games, there was a lot of attention on the lack of overall security and Olympic organizers summoned a few thousand military men from England to help out. They dress in camouflage fatigues while the normal London security and police forces have their own special threads.

Checking into any sports event is similar to a security check at a U.S. airport sans the show removal. The cops, security guards and military men have a constant presence in the crowd and when empty seats were visible in the early part of the Games, they turned into spectators but still kept a constant eye on the crowds.

From what I've heard from athletes, coaches and delegation officials, they all feel very safe in and around London. There have been very few – if any – security gaffes.

That was before they met me.

During the first day of track and field, I mistakenly brought a backpack and a camera bag for the full day of action. I arrived early and left my backpack in the front row of the media tribune. Then I took my camera bag and grabbed a spot near the finish line.

When I returned to my backpack hours later, two security guards grabbed me and immediately got on the radio. I'm not sure what they exactly said into the walkie talkie but it sounded like, “threat neutralized, all is well.”

Then I got a stern lecture from the men. Apparently, they took the location and random placement of my black Olympic backpack in the front row as highly suspicious. They had carefully watched it for hours, they said.

Highly embarrassed and on deadline, I apologized profusely and tried my best to get out of there quickly. Instead, they had to have a look inside.

What they thought would be a WMD turned out to be a English ham sandwich, two oranges and a folded map of the London tube trains.

“OK, you're good,” they said and patted me on the shoulder. “Cheers, mate.”

BMW capitalizes on laziness

As the eyes of the world are on London, every company out there wants to get their name involved.

BMW provided three electronic Mini MINIs to the 2012 Olympic Games. The company supplied a fleet of electronic cars for broadcasters and operational support staff to use during the games but the Mini MINIs have a far more important task.

Each Mini MINI is a 1/4 scale replica of a MINI Cooper hatchback. Picture an small electronic car with a remote control. I received a similar gift from Santa when I was nine years old.

The Mini MINIs are powered by a 10-horsepower electric motor with 35 minutes of usage time per battery pack. Grass tires, heavy duty shocks and vented disc brakes are also thrown in. They are designed to shuttle track and field projectiles like javelins, hammers, shot put and discuses back to competing athletes, saving field judges valuable time from walking back to the throwing area.

Each are expected to cover more than 30 miles of hard labor during the Games. In 2016, they are expected to compete in the marathon.

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