Update: Part 3:
Mass panic at City of Coventry Stadium as the IOC's worst nightmare comes true: the tills at concession stands stopped working just as fans began filing in for a women's soccer double-header. Prices are steep: six pounds for a tiny steak pie, six pounds for a desert plate serving of (albeit delicious) Indian food. This has been a stumbling start for the 2012 London Olympics: there are reports that a crowd of 25,000 may be expected and fans are being ordered to remove all items from their backpacks - and I mean all items, including personal items - and place them in large see-through plastic bags to go through entrances. Once inside, fans are throwing out the plastic bags and putting items back into their backpacks. It's ludicrous, considering soccer stadiums in the UK have been forced to master strict security measures in the past 20 years. It's classic volunteerism run amuck. The message? If you're going to a major soccer match at this event, give yourself a couple of hours. And these people wondered about Vancouver's ability to pull off an Olympics?
Ah, Coventry. As John King wrote in ‘The Football Factory’: “Coventry are (expletive deleted) all. They’ve got a (expletive deleted) team and (expletive deleted) support. Hitler had the right idea when he bombed the place.” You can guess the word. It would be a stretch to say the F-bombs were flying all over the place Wednesday afternoon, but if the experiences of a handful of Canadian journalists are any indication, security at some Olympic venues is going to be a talking point both in public and over pints. There is no point in whining about the 10:43 Virgin Train from Euston Station to Coventry forcing passengers to disembark in Nuneaton because of “an incident on the track.” That happens. Somebody was hit by a train. True, it makes me a perfect 3-for-3 in screwed up train rides – remember, hardly anybody’s here yet – but, hey, you come to an old place and you expect stuff to malfunction.
At any rate, the women’s soccer tournament started Wednesday in Coventry, and somebody forgot to tell the locals. An x-ray machine at the security entrance at City of Coventry Stadium malfunctioned after the first half-dozen folks went through. Bags, backpacks and photographers equipment – including wallets – were hand-checked. Once the machine started up it was pockets emptied, watches off, sunglasses removed – mercifully, the removal of shoes and belts were not required. Bottles of water were rejected, as were all liquid containers of more than 100-mililitres. (They did get it right in one regard, as colleague Cathal Kelly of the Star noted that “They always put the smartest and prettiest volunteer at the front.”) Steve Milton of the Spectator was rejected for an invalid media credential, which was interesting because he’d just picked it up literally 10 minutes earlier on the other side of the stadium. Twenty minutes later, we’re standing field level. Some guy with a badge goes by and says he’s dealing with “a media issue” and that he’ll be right back. He doesn’t. As a line of pimple-faced, orange-vested attendants stands by, Kelly leads us across the field to the press tribune. Nice. Can’t wait for the bigger venues to get going. The pitch is gorgeous, however.
One of the pleasures of England is reading tabloid papers that stay true to their, um, roots. Big splash today in The Sun about LOCOG officials asking the army to dress its soldiers in track suits instead of fatigues to make them appear less … well, no one knows exactly. Needless to say, the army’s not pleased. Also getting prominent play is Sir Paul McCartney taking a shot at Team GB for not including David Beckham as one of its three over-age players in the men’s Olympic tournament. “I would’ve thought Beckham would be first choice because of his huge contribution to getting the Olympics. But some idiot decided otherwise. I feel a bit sorry for the three over-23s because we’re going to be looking at them and saying: ‘That should’ve been Beckham.”
Off to Coventry for Canada’s women’s teams opener against Japan. Lots of Japanese fans on the train, a few kids in Canadian shirts. William Hill has Japan at 7/2 and the Ladbrokes down the street had Japan at 4/1. Yes, I put a fiver on the Canadians.