Cambodia's Olympic delegation of athletes, coaches and officials will touch down on English soil at an expected 7:50am (1:50pm Cambodian time) this morning with the Opening Ceremony of the London Games an alarming four days away. But how much of those four days will be taken up waiting at the passport control of Heathrow airport?
Judging by my experience four days earlier on the exactly the same flight, hardly any time at all. The pink-shirted volunteers in the Olympic lane, who get to keep their vivid attire as one of the very few perks of their position, were extremely polite, personal and welcoming.
Then again, there was clearly a significant lull in traffic when I was ushered along in record time.
Hopefully, the Cambodian squad will enjoy the same walk through today so they can quickly start dealing with acclimatisation and jet lag.
At least they’ll definitely miss the planned strike action by disgruntled union-backed border guards on Thursday, which looks set to wreak havoc on late arrivals for the Games. I’m sure many will not be amused on that particular day as they indulge in an Olympic-sized introduction to one of Britain’s favourite pastimes – queuing.
According to National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Adviser Ken Gadaffi, the four athletes who departed Phnom Penh last night are in fine fettle having wrapped up their final training session on home turf last Thursday before two full days of rest. Men’s 800-metres runner Kieng Samorn had taken the extra precaution of skipping the previous weekend’s Phnom Penh International Duathlon.
Samorn, along with women’s 200-metres sprinter Chan Seyha and 50-metres freestyle swimmers Hem Thon Ponleu and his niece Hem Thon Vitiny, will be solely focused on achieving personal bests in their respective events with an outside chance of making Cambodian history by progressing past the preliminary heats.
They will join women’s tae-kwondo hope Sorn Davin, who has been training in London for the past month, and male judoka Khom Rattanak Mony, who will arrive later in the afternoon from his base in France.
In the meantime, I managed to catch a glimpse of the Olympic torch during a relay leg through the picturesque village of Godstone in Surrey on Friday. Surrounded by Union Jack emblazoned public, and indeed pubs, the procession of police vehicles and official sponsor buses added little suspense for the scheduled pyrotechnic parade.
I’d hoped to see at least a B-list locally based celebrity, such as light entertainment darling Kerry Katona, bearing the torch but I had to make do with 59-year-old teaching assistant Pam Jarman of West Molesey. She played her part well with waves worthy of royalty.
I also spotted a couple of official mascot cuddly toys, Wenlock and Mandeville, whom I can only describe as Teletubbies on bath salts. Not surprisingly, I didn’t see any more in the crowd.
Statistically, I was just one out of an estimated 10 million viewers of the flame, which entered London later that day for a tour of all the boroughs.
A lot has clearly gone into the logistics of the operation, and the many hundreds that turned out along Godstone High Street bore testament to its high level of organisation and promotion.
Britain is appropriately struck by Olympic fever, with every other advert on TV claiming to be for an official sponsor. As a Brit, its not my cup of tea, but I’m sure its fiscally justified in the current climate.
Hopefully, this commercialism wont detract from what promises to be one hell of a show of sporting greatness.
At least the home nation already has a pair of world champions to cheer about leading into the Games in the form of the incredible Bradley Wiggins and Sky team-mate Chris Froome, whose success at the Tour de France has also dominated the news here.
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