We didn’t feel much Olympic spirit as we struggled along The Street in a bleak, rain-swept Westfield on Saturday afternoon. I was just checking I knew the way to the Aquatic Centre before I turned up with a bunch of students for the diving next Thursday afternoon. My grumpy companion (he doesn’t like the rain) was giving indications that he would rather be downloading apps for his new iPad, but we found the “signs” to follow without too much problem. Lots of people were going to the cycling so we fell into line and were waved across the road by helpers in red anoraks, who looked half-drowned but nevertheless quite official with “Olympic Park” written on their backs. Since we didn’t have a ticket for the cycling, we had to make a subtle U-turn and pretend we were with the exit group as we were waved back over the crossing two minutes later.
Grumpy hadn’t been out that way before, so despite his protestations, and the limited visibility occasioned by the downpour, we found the entrance to John Lewis to seek out their viewing gallery over the Olympic Park. We floated up the escalator past the many shiny things on display to reach the third floor, where for the first time a flicker of interest played across the countenance of my companion. “What is that?” and “Why is there more than one building?” he asked. The Aquatic Centre looked magnificent, and so did the Olympic Stadium, but I wasn’t so sure about what appeared to be the water polo building that looked like a giant, grey inflatable.
Grumpy didn’t want to leave John Lewis without checking out the London 2012 shop. By this time, he was warming up and I overheard him by the strangely coloured Union Jack Minis and Concordes advising another browser that there were “London buses over there”. I wanted to investigate the mugs. I, personally, am not taken with the London 2012 mascot. I think it is silly. Since images of the mascot grace nearly everything, this is a drawback for me. What is worse is that the mugs are the wrong shape. Geographically, I have come quite close to the last few Olympics (e.g. Hong Kong during Beijing and Edmonton during Vancover) and have been bringing back Olympic mugs for a friend of mine. Admittedly, she is also in London for this one, and so can buy her own, but I felt I should look anyway. But they didn’t have any regular shaped mugs, just the sort that taper at the base. This was a big disappointment. And even when I cast an eye over the glassware as an alternative, I couldn’t help thinking they were quite horrible. As Grumpy observed, “I think they’ve blown it”.
I was starting to tire, but my companion was fast becoming entranced by the magic of Westfield and insisted we cover all the three floors of shopping centre. I was taken aback a little by the video screens showing Iranian Female Ninja Assassins on an ITN news loop, somersaulting their way through an indoor assault course. Was this a real news story or a fashion-meets-fitness promo? I couldn’t decide.
Westfield is something to behold, on a Saturday afternoon. Gorged with people, it is reminiscent of a very nice airport. Where else do you see smart people hanging out in imprecisely demarcated champagne bars with hordes of people aimlessly milling around them as if they hadn’t noticed? The food floor offered all kinds, with KFC and McDonalds giving way to more upmarket eateries as you neared the entrance to Waitrose. And there’s a big Jamie Oliver presence all over the place.
Roll on Thursday, when I will actually get to see inside the Park!