Sunday, 6 April 2008

April 6, 2008

Light the passion, share the

Policecars, paddy wagons, uniformed officers with truncheons and boots, knots of demonstrators with banners saying Free Tibet (though equally, they could have said Beijing Rules for all the Notting Hill crowds were aware) are lining Ladbroke Grove.
At the Tube station, the convoy containing the flame and the BBC presenter, former Blue Peter girl, cutie Konnie Huq, seems to have stalled.
Suddenly a posse of booted policeman run northwards towards the waving banners, radios crackling, and receiving urgent messages fromtheir walkie-talkies.
A protester has tried to steal the Olympic Flame from Konnie! But much more shocking - Konnie has been touched by a civilian!
Bankers titter. Haggard, edgy looking mothers corral bored toddlers in candy-coloured duffle coats and pink suede Uggs. Notting Hill Tory MPs scope the scene from their family cars, their children jumbled up in the back with the children of other Notting Hill, Tory MPs, all called names like Nancy and Nora.
Ladbroke Grove feels like a windtunnel. What’s the hold up? Nobody would declare themselves prior to this moment to have any interest at all in seeing the flame, but now its non-appearance (we were told 11.10am,it is now 11.20am) is causing comment and comparisons with the Terminal 5 fiasco.
And then a slender teenager in a white tracksuit with the Beijing 2008 logo exits a bus. He is holding a torch, but no flame appears from it.
“Did you know that the whole idea of transporting the flame was dreamt up by Hitler?” the protester, the one who has earlier told us he hopes his banner says “Free Tibet” but worries it says “Down with the Dalai Lama,” idly remarks.
Later, I ask Mr Wikipedia who produces this charming quote:
“Sporting chivalrous contest helps knit the bonds of peace between nations. Therefore may the Olympic flame never expire.” (A Hitler).
But we are in Ladbroke Grove and its chaos and worst of all, we can see the torch, but it’s not lit. “Matches?” someone shouts, and tosses a pack of Bryant and May towards the athlete who is holding the cornetto.
The tally to date then on this day of Olympic ideals: several hundred policemen and spectators, scores of motorbikes, policevans and Tibet protesters, about a dozen athletes and their entourages, one scared telly presenter.
“Free Konnie Huq!” someone in the crowd, child on shoulders, with millions in the bank, a 5 million pound house in Elgin crescent, and a vanity job in celebrity documentaries yells. And then we all go home to our nice warm houses for coffee and croissants to read the Sunday newspapers.