So, what can I tell you about the Olympics? Not much, I’d bet. There are hundreds of better writers here with sharper eyes, better knowledge and – oh yeah – media accreditation.
It’s my first time at a Games, and it’s wonderful. I’m already familiar with London as my brother has been living here since 2008, but this a London new to me and, I suspect, to almost everyone else: efficient, uncongested and friendly. For the first time in history, strangers are speaking on the tube in English about things other than future participation in knife fights. Locals are absent from the city, taking advice to stay away from the Olympics a bit too literally. Sidewalk cafés are half-empty. Instead of having a business boom, businesses are fretfully searching for their missing custom.
That, and the fact that the Olympic Park is positively sprawling, means that London is incredibly pleasant at the moment. It’s still bustling and hyperactive, still a city of too many languages and face brick and men lookbooked to death; just with an added splash of fluorescence and common purpose. Flags and nationalism and thousands of people in merchandise stores. BBC, Brittania, and people caring about rowing and the heptathlon.
It’s a glorious atmosphere, matched by the perfectly temperate air, with most days toeing the fine line between drizzle and blazing sunshine.
Which makes it great for beer. Suitably, London hosts CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival next weekend, but even inside the greatest festival of them all, Heineken’s iron fist sponsorship of the games is actually quite lax.
While the Olympic Park is home to the world’s largest McDonald’s, massive anonymised rows of vendors of fish and chips, pies, salads, sandwiches and, well, beer. The selection isn’t exactly wide: you can choose between Heineken, a Heineken-esque “lager” which probably is just Heineken, and an “ale”. That Olympic ale, however, is gorgeous mahogany and copper, with just the right whiffs of dark malt, toffee and milk chocolate to overcome a slightly watery disposition. At 3.6%, it’s outrageously sessionable during a long day exploring the stadia and installations – oh, and Michael Phelps winning his 20th Olympic medal.
Next weekend, however, I’ll be heading to Kensington Olympia to experience something a smidgen more diverse. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll find at the Great British Fest. The organisers bill over 800 real ales, ciders and bottles from around the world, all available under one rather large roof.
The real ale community in Britain is enormously progressive, pervasive and ever-growing, and now I get to have a peek at its grand gathering.
I am giddy with excitement.