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.
I just want to pull you aside for a moment and talk about the hotels of the future.
Hey, the system works and I think this web idea might be here to stay.
First, you start the morning very early here in London, England, with the Sun Media team of reporter Rob Longley, columnist Steve Simmons and photographer heading off by bus to Eton-Dorney, England, a site a good distance from the Sun Media hotel.
First exchange of the day comes from Dave Abel. He reports the good news that he will be in one of the boats for the two races. Down side is that it is a pool position, meaning he has to share his photos with other agencies. No problem, we report back. Better to have the good photo position.
Then the action begins.
First kayaker Adam Van Koeverden of Oakville, Ont., wins silver after leading for a good part of the race.
Right away, Rob Longley sends full story – largely written before the race begins, but needing some last-minute detail — on to the Sun Media national online team. Samie Durnford, after a quick Got it, swings into action and posts to all our sites across Canada.
Just as she is posting the story and a photo of AVK, another bulletin breaks from Eton-Dorney.
Canoeist Mark Oldershaw has won a bronze in canoeing!
Again, the magical Longley kicks into action. Full story filed immediately after the race ends. And again Samie is on the receiving end. As I am typing this, she is posting the Oldershaw story and photo.
And updating the medal count as Canada now up to 13 for the Olympics.
Whew, everyone can rest.
Not exactly, now Longley and Simmons are off to interview our two newest medal winners, Abel is off the water and chasing reaction shots and Sami is back posting many more stories back in Toronto.
The Eton-Dorney team are from done. Updated stories for the web, perhaps later versions for Thursday papers, a video shot to note the occasion and many, many photos to be posted by Mr. Abel
And as I type this, it’s not yet 6 a.m. in Toronto.
So wake up, Canada, and in this case, catch up as well.
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.
You may have read, earlier on, about my kind of, sort of, brush with Prince Charles, who I thought made eye contact with me or at least waved in my direction earlier in the Games.
Well on Sunday night, I went from Prince to King.
I was standing by the broadcast seats at the Olympic Stadium Sunday night, just as the 100 metre heats were to begin, when all of a sudden I looked beside me and there was LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and James Harden, all from the US Olympic basketball team.
All of them filming the 100 heat with their portable phones.
When the first 100 heat ended, a rather small security guard looked up at LeBron and said: “I’m sorry, sir, you can’t be here.”
LeBron didn’t move, didn’t react as though he heard anything that was said. Neither did any of his teammates.
“Sir, please,” the security man chimed in.
Again, LeBron, didn’t move an inch, didn’t acknowledge anyone was even speaking to him.
“Do you know who that is?” I whispered to the security guy. “That’s LeBron James.”
Clearly, that meant nothing to the man in a security shirt, who didn’t recognize the American stars.
He told the athlete’s once more: “You can’t be here.” And so they were off to their approved seating.
“Thanks,” LeBron James said to the volunteer. It was all he said.
Somewhere, some place Bob Marley will be having a wee toke and smiling to himself.
At the same time, he will be looking down at his country having the time of its life.
In a perfect confluence of state and sport, Jamaica today is celebrating its 50th anniversary of independance, the day after its greatest hero since Marley rocked the sports world on its biggest stage.
In London, Usain Bolt won the Olympic men’s 100 metres only a few hours before the day of celebration was about to begin in Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios — all communities Canadian tourists know well — and all other parts of this Caribbean paradise.
Bolt set an Olympic record in the process, with the second fastest time in the history of the sport. And the Trelawny runner brought his Montego Bay sidekick, Yohan Blake, along for the ride, taking the silver.
Haviing been in Montego Bay for a short trip a little more than a month ago, I can assure you every single Jamaican man, woman and child had Sunday, Aug. 5, and Monday, Aug. 6, circled on their calendars. Heck, they didn’t need to write the dates down.
Because in those 48 hours, Jamaica was about to celebrate like never before.
Enjoy my friends. I am sure Bob is.