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  1. Wealth
August 13, 2012

Fear and Loathing in East London

By Spear's

I had Woody Allen anxiety about landing at Heathrow and moving through town on London’s busiest day (a well-placed fear)

At first I was admittedly flippant and nonchalant about even attending the Olympics opening ceremony as I was abroad, but I then grew excited. I had Woody Allen anxiety about landing at Heathrow and moving through town on London’s busiest day (a well-placed fear).

My 15-year old tried to dissuade me from attending on the basis of some Oliver Stone paranoiac premonition of the threat of an Illuminati catastrophic terror attack. And in the next breath he begged me to attend. Kids.

The notorious British weather on call for the night was – what other than rain? Beyond the scope of imagination was the fact they devised artificial rain should the real thing not materialize, to fit within theme of an overview of Brit life. Money well spent.

They sold more ponchos and umbrellas, the quickest moving objects in the 467 gift shops, than alcohol, which is a lot to say in this country. For the rain that surprisingly turned out to be the real article.

Pictured left: Kenny Schachter in his poncho at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony
After zooming out of the airport, I whizzed home unscathed. But the respite was short-lived: widespread road closures, coagulated traffic and the tube was no better with huge congestion and delays. I faced daunting difficulties to get to Stratford, East London (very East London).

All the while, official Olympic lanes, painted across one of every lane in every street in the city, were wide open. Mocking me. It reminded me of the old Russia, come to think of it, unlike Moscow today, where you just need cash rather than sporting credentials.

I tried a taxi that ended in a distorted series of Olympic circles which, after 30 minutes and £30 later, left me still not far from where I started — and seasick. Thankfully the driver felt for me and cut a big break on the fare before dropping me back for another tube try.

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Was going Woody again. I am by nature anti-nationalist, though the French finally admitted in a poll 97% of them are rude on the subway, so there’s hope, but I was curious how I’d feel with such a show of patriotic fervor (not to mention after being away from the USA for over eight years). That is, if I ever got the chance.

The invitation image was a field of what looks like bean sprouts in dull muted shades of olive, mustard, and yellow-green. I suppose it’s meant to be something else but didn’t seem worth effort to find out. It amounted to an argument for poppy, contrasting colors.

On the back, the sponsors are laid out like coveted credits in a Hollywood blockbuster. Funny how number one on the list, Coke, contains product warnings for carcinogens: artificial coloring, sweetening and flavoring; (excess) sugar; and caffeine. All that’s missing is nicotine, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they found traces or other addictive substitutes. </p>

Not too far down the line is McDonalds; yes, not much more can be said on the subject — the breakfast of champions. I bet a full Happy Meal would register on a random doping test. But I still felt like I was carrying a Willy Wonka golden ticket.

Unflattering image in my poncho, under a massive stadium-wide sheath of tarp to resemble the sea. They didn’t need it: it poured plenty before turning frigid. After a hot sunny day of course. That’s another Olympic sport: weather whining.

Read more from Spear’s about the Olympics

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