I have been on the ground in London since Monday night, navigating a mind-boggling number of media buses and high-speed javelin trains. The city is getting busier by the day as I try to visit athletes in their final days of preparation.
In past days, I took the headache-inducing long train ride out to Heathrow Airport to chat with tennis star Milos Raonic upon his arrival in London. I also stopped in on Canada’s women’s basketball team.
Today, I’m taking in the marquee pre-competition day in women’s artistic gymnastics -- podium training day. It’s the one opportunity for the women to do their routines on the actual competition equipment inside the venue. The Canadians will be in the same training timeslot as the highly-anticipated American gymnasts, the medal-favorite teen starlets who just appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Outside the venue, Olympic tourists are buying tickets to walk on the outside of the dome, up some 53 metres in the air. You have to book weeks in advance. Trust me, I tried to walk up myself with my iPhone camera. Not happening. Groups of 15 are “kitted out” at the Brits like to say in safety harnesses and walked up on a fabric runway that runs up the dome, lead by a trained guide. From the top, they tell me you get quite a view of London’s Canary Wharf.
I have arrived at the venue, the North Greenwich Arena, or the O2 Dome. It’s a story in itself. They opted to make the matting surrounding the gymnastics apparatus pink. Not a subtle petal pink, but a dramatic Pepto Bismol, cotton candy, Barbie’s convertible PINK. It is bold. I am eager to ask the gymnasts what they think of it and whether it may distract from their focus on the apparatus, especially Canada’s young, first-time Olympians.
They are running rehearsals of everything inside the gymnasts venue, so you get a real sense of the pageantry that will take place during the competition. Broadcasters are in the camera positions, and they are testing announcements, and an incredibly powerful video that will be shown on the jumbotron before the gymnasts compete. Emergency medical staff are even practicing protocols -- using stand-ins to practice what would happen if a gymnast crashes off a piece of equipment and needs to be rushed out of the gym.
I will write more from the training as it unfolds.