Thane Burnett - August 11th, 2012
British officials hope the London Games have a splash-over impact across England.
That includes LIverpool, where I’m headed on a train at this moment.
I’m always amazed at how great the rail system is in the UK. People don’t fly, they instead jump on a train.
Since cities are relatively close —Liverpool, home of the Beatles, is two hours outside London — trains make perfect sense.
I say that as I sit in first class, drinking my tea and eating small English biscuits.
If you call up a track plan of rails across the UK,it looks like the world’s largest spider trap.
Canada’s rail system – with much longer distances to travel – looks relatively mild and uncomplicated by comparison, which is why most Canadians don’t think of taking the train as their first option.
The story I will find in Liverpool is still a mystery.
But more certain is, while on assignment, this is the only way to travel.
Thane Burnett - August 9th, 2012
I just want to pull you aside for a moment and talk about the hotels of the future.
Because as we report from London, I believe we’re staying in a place that is likely the template for what we can all expect when we travel down the road.
I’m not going to name the chain, because this is not a review intended to now help you make vacation plans, but just a comment on the changing nature of hotels.
I’ve traveled a lot, and have stayed in five star places with Madonna sleeping just down the hall.
I’ve also more often been in inns where I’ve shared the bathroom with roaches.
Our current perfectly located hotel in London, a short walk from the Javelin train to the Olympic Village, is clean and seemingly nice enough.
Soft beds. Scrubbed toilets. Fresh towels. Modern.
But after a very short time, you realize you’re not a guest – you’re a paying customer.
It starts in the lobby, where you are welcomed by a row of check in computers that look like a bank of ATMs.
Inside your room, toilet paper comes out in small squares like a public restroom. You don’t get small soaps or free shampoo.
You can call down and ask for a wake up call, but will be told you’ll have to program than in your room phone yourself.
In the shower, there’s a dispenser that offers up watered-down body soap.
There’s a safe in the room, but you have to pay to use it.
Posters brag about the wi-fi internet, but after a half hour, you have to pay to stay on.
Not that it always works, and if you complain to the hotel official who stands at a podium in the lobby, you don’t get warmth or concern. Instead, you get an autobot corporate response that: “They are looking into the problem. It should be fixed shortly.”
There is no human connection.
No home away from home — which I know is all pretend, but we all like the small free creature comforts when we travel.
You can make the same argument of some of the other major chains around the world, but many owners still manage to cut through the brand and make their places seem welcoming.
Though as one of my peers pointed out — maybe this is a cool British thing.
They’re wonderful and helpful people. But a welcoming hug is not really their style here.
Thane Burnett - August 7th, 2012
When this is all done, and I go home, my family and friends will all ask; ‘How were the Olympics?’
And I’ll answer; ‘You tell me?’
This is not a complaint – millions of people would love to be doing what we’re doing as we cover the Games – but the pace is so quick, there is no time to appreciate what we’re seeing.
I covered the equestrian show jumping yesterday at one of the world’s finest venues. And other than a five minute slow walk on the jumping field, from daybreak to past sunset, I moved at a pace even Usain Bolt would find impressive.
Our journalists most often cover multiple events and venues each day, in a city that is not easy to get around in. We write on buses and we write on our Blackberries.
And as we run, we tend to blogs, Tweet, do videos, take pictures and sit down for live hits back to Canada.
I don’t know about other journalists here, but by the end of each day, I feel wrung-out of every word in my head.
There are no longer far off deadlines for newspapers — the web demands constant content.
What does all this add up to? Not a bitch session, but an acknowledgment that our jobs have changed.
Most journalists sent out on these kinds of assignments always expect to go without sleep.
I’ve only done a few Olympics, but I have spent enough time on major foreign assignments.
And lost is the ability to really soak in an event – both bad and good ones. To become part of it and put that down in words that you, the reader, might understand, learn from and enjoy.
I think we still do an outstanding job. That’s for you to really decide.
I can’t tell whether our story-telling is as good as it once was, better or slightly more frantic.
But I do wish we had a few pauses to properly reflect on what we are witnessing and sit still long enough to open our eyes wide and be able to answer that question I know is coming from those back home.
Thane Burnett - August 5th, 2012
I don’t know what traffic is like around your office, but working on a Sunday proved interesting for our bureau offices located in the shadow of Big Ben.
Thanks to the women’s marathon that went right by our front door, all the area streets – including in front of the entrance into the Prime Minister’s residents at No. 10 Downing — were free of motorized traffic.
It’s usually a life and death trek, dodging buses and bikes.
But a short time after having the main roadways free and clear to walk ourselves, the world’s best runners owned the pavement.
Striding along in a downpour, and uncomfortable for some wet bystanders, the athletes appeared to hardly notice their remarkable surroundings. Or the fact they completely owned some of London’s busiest streets.
Thane Burnett - August 4th, 2012
I’m inside Hyde Park watching the women’s Triathlon.
The place is a fortress.
There are barriers and road blocks and soldiers and metal detectors and high wire fences and rules posted everywhere.
Nothing can get in here.
Then I see this goat.
Tied to a tree. Pooping.
I’m sure this goat is part of some sort of ceremony – though maybe it’s a sacrifice by some country.
But in the middle of everything, it looks pretty silly.
Now I wish I could actually show you this goat, but among the many rules, is I can’t take pictures of the goat – or anything else in this venue.
So this image of your average goat – which we do have rights to – will have to do.
Though truth be known, they could be the same goat.
I’m assuming it does get around, since it ended up tied to a tree, pooping,here.