Life in the Olympic Village (nearly)
By Clare Forrester on her way to London
Still in Jamaica’s "departure lounge".
I have lost track of the number of friends and colleagues who have asked me to make space for them in my luggage bound for London and the Olympics.
It has become difficult to convince anybody that being accredited to the Olympics as a working journalist means just that – work.
Admittedly, there’s some fun along the way, but still a lot of work.
I recall in Beijing, on the penultimate evening of the Games, running into the Caribbean Media Corporation’s (CMC) Lance Whittaker who was finally making his first trip to the Bird's Nest stadium during the track and field competition.
Up until then, he had been virtually glued to the International Broadcasting Centre, where the Corporation’s tiny studio was located.
Fortunately, this won't happen to me as I plan on being at the Olympic stadium every day of the track and field competition, as well as at the swimming, boxing and martial arts venues where the Caribbean will be represented.
Been here before
London 2012 will be my fourth Olympics - my first was the Atlanta Games in 1996. It will likely be my last in this capacity, so I really mean to make the most of the experience.
When I booked my flight, I had no idea that I would be greeted by a life-sized wax figure of Jamaica’s very own superhero Usain Bolt at Heathrow Airport, courtesy of Madame Tussauds London wax museum. You think we easy?
News of this was published in a local newspaper with a photograph of Bolt’s likeness, clad in Jamaica’s track and field outfit with his trademark "To the World" pose.
Based on the photograph, the hairstyle doesn’t look like Bolt’s, but it will be great to get a first-hand view of the figure, temporarily located in the airport’s Terminal 5.
Hustle and bustle
Madame Tussauds London museum is definitely one of the attractions I plan to visit during my first week there.
From past experience, the week before the track and field competition begins is the best chance that a Caribbean journalist will have to see and do anything away from the hustle and bustle of competition.
It's been quite a while since I last visited London and there is always much to see.
I definitely plan to take in as many of the major attractions as time will allow and in which I feel my readers will be interested.
It's kind of sad not to be able to factor in a visit to the BBC Caribbean Service operation at Bush House, since it closed down last year.
Nevertheless, it will be great to catch up with my old friend and colleague Debbie Ransome and husband Rob.
Last time I stopped over in London was en route to the Athens Olympics and after one memorable evening at a pub with
Debbie and Rob, I barely made it on my flight to Athens. I will want to take in at least one London pub this time.
London Chinese cuisine is among my favourite and so Chinatown is a must stop. The Indian cuisine there also comes highly recommended and time permitting, that should also be on the cards.
While I am excited about going to the Games, I will miss not being a part of the 50th anniversary celebrations at home and presuming our Olympians give us further cause to celebrate.
I expect that the huge gatherings at key spots all over the country will erupt into giant all-day partying. I plan to retain a direct line of communication to Kingston to keep abreast of the happenings.
I still have a lot to do before my departure from Jamaica in barely more than a week and my bags are still to be packed.
Happily it's summer time also in the UK, so clothing should not be a problem, and the Jamaica Olympic Committee is outfitting home journalists with Jamaica branded T-shirts and footwear.
I always try not to travel with too much, but three weeks away from my home base is a challenge for my suitcase, considering I will
be walking with my bulky Canon D7 and its various attachments, besides my recently acquired Mac Book Air.
Included in my luggage will be plenty of local souvenir pins.
You may be surprised at the extent to which Caribbean nationals in general, especially us Jamaicans, are deluged by requests from just about everyone, in and outside of the Olympic environment, for souvenir pins.
Pins collecting has always been a strong feature of the Olympics and I do not expect it to be any different on this occasion.
For the past two to three months I have been compiling as much relevant background information as possible on our athletes, other superstars and celebrities whose paths I expect to cross in London.
I spent some time last night on Skype with one of my informed contacts in Grenada, trying to establish a direct line to Kirani James while in London.
Most of the talk this part of the world and elsewhere has been about Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and to some extent Asafa Powell and the 100/200 metres showdown.
However, there are several other Caribbean athletes who should feature significantly at these Games. I plan on talking to veterans Kim Collins of St Kitts and Debbie Byfield of the Bahamas, to learn of their expectations at these Games and their plans afterwards.
I also expect to talk with some of the rising star athletes from other Caribbean countries, such as Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Jehue Gordon of T&T.
I also will try getting a meeting with Barbados’ World Champion 110 metres hurdler Ryan Brathwaite, to find out what has happened to him since Berlin in 2009.
It will also be interesting to compare notes and predictions with colleague journalists from other Caribbean countries.
Another plus factor is that you have direct computer access to all the bio data you could wish for on the athletes from all the countries represented in every sport.
But nothing beats a one-to-one with the athletes and/or their handlers.
The other good thing about these games is that you do get to catch up with many celebrity athletes who moonlight as journalists and or commentators and chat them up for their perspectives.
On my list are Ato Boldon, Colin Jackson, Michael Johnson and Pauline Davis-Thompson, all of whom I expect to be there.
I will want to compare the games uniforms of Caribbean athletes and get their views.
The public response to the Jamaican uniform has been mixed so far. It will be good to hear directly from the athletes and see how they compare to the others in the parade on the official opening night.
It will also be interesting to note the percentage of the crowd with Caribbean roots. It would be wonderful if the organisers plan playing some "yard" music in the stadium, in part celebration of any presumed gold medal accomplishment(s) by Jamaican and other athletes from our Region.
I recall this happening at the Stuttgart World Championships after Merlene Ottey won her first individual gold medal at a global games outdoors.
That song was "You are my Golden Lady", composed by my colleague Alvin Campbell and Grub Cooper of Fab Five fame.
Similar treatment was also given to Veronica Campbell in Athens after she crossed the finish line to win her first
Olympic gold medal for Jamaica. This time the music was by Bob Marley.
In Beijing, it was "Happy Birthday" to Usain Bolt after his spanking world record run in the 200
Just in case, I am walking with some Caribbean music, including a selection of the Jamaica 50th anniversary songs.
By now, all the athletes and team officials are already in the UK at their various and sundry camps.
I am still in the departure lounge in Jamaica, so to speak.
Having received my accreditation card, which also serves as a visa, last week I visited the British High Commission to have my biometrics data taken.
The High Commission in Jamaica has been providing this service for several weeks to athletes and team officials (including coaches and media), referred to as the Games Family Members, accredited by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The service means that "Family Members" can give their biometric information at our convenience before arriving in the UK, meaning one less process on landing in the UK to take part in the Games.
My first major stop will be the Puma party on 26 July. All the Jamaican representatives are expected to be there.
The Puma parties are always great and given their well-earned reputation for fun and information sourcing, I also expect that many from other
Caribbean countries and elsewhere will be there.
This follows right after the Birmingham extravaganza on the 25th, billed as "a star-studded concert in celebration of Jamaica’s
50th anniversary of Independence; and a salute to the athletes".
Then it's all roads to the opening at the Olympic stadium, where the greatest athletes on earth and games officials
will parade to launch the "greatest show on earth".
Those of us who witnessed the spectacular ceremony in Beijing can hardly wait to see how the organisers in London will
fare, come their turn.
So now it's take-off time, next stop Miami, then on to Heathrow!
(Clare Forrester's column will be updated next week)