LONDON – People watching is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being in England during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Wherever you look, there are new faces and interesting places, and the volunteers and security guards are trying to have fun with all the crowds. They are using humor to cope with all the lines. Humor is helping the lines seem less intimidating, too.
Exhibit A: Just outside of Stratford Station, a main transporation hub, on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, a tall volunteer with a megaphone cheerful said, “Welcome, Australians” and “Hello, Americans” in a pleasant voice. He asked dozens of individuals what countries they come from, and then said hello and repeated their nation’s name.
A security guard inside the station reminded all customers to have their ticket or Oyster card (like a SUICA card in Japan) ready, saying coins won’t be accepted as they passed through the gates, but he would gladly accept pounds to pay for his coffee later in the day.
Another guard, asking folks to stay to the right as they ambled at a very slow pace, had a cheerful voice and a kind word — repeatedly. “Smile, you’re at the Olympics, young man,” he said to a boy about 8 years old.
“My, do you look lovely today,” he told one grandmother, who walked toward Olympic Park with her daughter and her kids.
“You’re too good looking not to be smiling,” he said, looking directly at an attractive college-age female, who immediately turned to her friend and blushed.
Perhaps the best people-watching episode I’ve seen since arriving in London last Wednesday involved a rowdy group of Brazilian sports fans.
(Is there really any other kind from the land of samba, beautiful soccer and bikini models?)
While waiting for the Jubilee Line train from North Greenwich Arena, the Brazilians began singing “Bahia,” as a couple of men pounded on hand drums.
They played with an infectious spirit for a good 10 minutes before the train arrived, repeating the song over and over. A few young adults joined in and started to dance like they were in Rio de Janeiro.
Then, on the standing-room only train, the Brazilians kept performing, with a captive audience ready to listen, shoot instant videos to YouTube, Facebook, etc.
(Even a few journalists, I’m sure, captured the mini-concert for an audio or video recording, or a few photos to show family, friends or work colleagues; after all, the IOC is encouraging working journalists to use social media during the Olympics.)
The Brazilians then started singing “Mas Que Nada,” another festive tune that would enliven any party on earth.
Watching scores of people snap photographs is a good way to pass time, too. Strangers are constantly asked to take people’s pictures as they stand in front of a Olympic venue, picturesque backdrop or, on occasion, holding up new souvenirs or event tickets.
Seconds after the photos are taken, one or more people glance at the new digital memento of their Olympic experience, laughing or smiling at what they see.
Capturing memories is a popular task in and of itself here at the games. And thanks to digital technology, one doesn’t have to wait hours or days to get the film developed. (Polaroid, anyone?)
Extra tickets on sale
London Olympics organizers say 3,800 tickets were reclaimed and put on sale to the British public for Tuesday events.
Criticism of blocks of empty seats has led organizers to try to recover tickets given to national Olympic committees and sport federations that will not be used. Organizers then put the excess tickets for sale online to the British public.
Organizing committee spokeswoman Jackie Brock-Doyle says the sale for Tuesday events covered 30 sessions and 15 sports. She says almost all tickets were snapped up shortly after they went on sale.
Brock-Doyle says ticket availability will change daily. She expects the allotment to shrink as events move closer to finals.