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 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 - July 25th, 2012
Agree or disagree with the debate, I’ve found the British press attack on their own athletes riveting.
The Daily Mail has spent a great deal of space over the past year hitting out at “plastic Brits” — their Olympians who were born outside of the UK.
Much of the argument started with the selection of Cuban-born triple jumper Yamile Aldama and Ukraine born wrestler Olga Butkevych to the British team.
Earlier this month, it was calculated Team Great Britain has 61 overseas-born athletes competing for them.
“There are no Plastic Brits,” Andy Hunt, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, countered earlier this year. “As far as I’m concerned, if you’re a British citizen with a British passport and you are eligible to compete for this country, then fantastic.”
But the Daily Mail has seen it differently, arguing it takes away from the boosting of homegrown athletes.
I believe the argument usually quickly stops as soon as they step up on a podium.
Thane Burnett - July 21st, 2012
Experts have – and will – spend a lot of time talking about countless big threats to the Games and the athletes.
Everything from terrorism to horrible English weather.
But the reality, and now a reminder from members of the Canadian team, is that it’s tough to prepare for every little eventuality.
Some strike out of the blue.
Olympic official say members of Canada’s badminton squad have been hit by a stomach virus while at a pre-Games training camp in Derby, England.
Two athletes, Michelle Li and Alex Bruce, fell ill July 19th and have been on bed rest.
Both are expected back to playing form within the next few days, after being treated by a local doctor as well as the Canadian Olympic Medical Team. And precautions have been taken to prevent other members from becoming sick.
It’s just a normal bout of a nagging virus – the same thing that would put you or I out of the workplace for a day or two.
But when it comes to our athletes who have trained for years, to compete at the peak of their physical best, it’s a reminder that some things you just can’t really plan for.