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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Train for Coe

DURING the Olympics, deputy sports editor PAUL TURNER will be in London to report on Cumbria’s athletes. He will also write a daily diary on life in the capital during the Games

Paul Turner
Paul Turner

THERE’S a crowd already on the DLR platform at Bank, hundreds of spectators heading to the Olympic Park at Stratford and – like me – the ExCel.

It’s still quite early in the morning and the workers heading for Canary Wharf and the Docklands have not all finished their commute either. In other words, it’s busy.

But into this jolly throng, there comes a sudden buzz, a little more hub among the already substantial bub, something is happening.

Down the platform walk a gaggle of photographers, stepping backwards past my window paying little attention to the small children and cute animals being crushed in their wake (this may or may not be a slight exaggeration).

Next come the security men, all black suits, white shirts and black ties despite the warm July morning and striding purposefully among them is the men in charge of everything Olympic – Jacques Rogge, sans tie (sensible man).

Beside the head of the IOC, in a more casual black sweater with an open-necked white shirt was the distinct gait of a man who has two Olympic golds to his name on the track, Seb Coe.

Everyone in the carriage turned, pointed and started whispering in hushed tones to each other that these dignitaries too travelled by public transport – their entourage helping to make an already packed train even busier.

In they climbed through the rearmost doors, with passengers leaning over and checking to make sure they weren’t imagining things and that the two most powerful people in the Games really were getting to the ExCel the same way they were.

No-one dareapproach – the sight of half-a-dozen burly security guards will do that to you – but they seemed as relaxed as anyone else on board and happily exited at Custom House along with those who had come to watch the judo, boxing, table tennis and weightlifting in their Games homes.

It was obviously done as a publicity stunt to prove the public transport links to Games venues are working – that or a dozen cameramen and photographers just so happened to come down the escalator on to the Underground at exactly the same time they did.

But they received no special treatment, were not expected to have a carriage of their own, and mixed with the paying public as they left the station and headed for the arena.

And the thing is, in my four days here so far, there have been no transport issues and the trains have been no more packed than on any of my numerous other visits to the capital.

Publicity maybe, but for something that deserves recognition.

As they climbed the stairs from the station, passers-by snapped off pictures on their cameras and phones and then they were gone, through security quick as a flash and into the arena.

I don’t think anyone on board that DLR train at Bank yesterday morning was expecting Seb Coe and Jacques Rogge to come along for the ride with them, but that’s what happened and for most it will be an extra tale to tell when they get home.

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