When we heard that the Olympic Torch relay was passing through our neighbourhood yesterday afternoon, we hot-footed it down to Cambridge Circus, where Shaftsbury Avenue meets Charing Cross Road. Squeezing our way to the front of the barricades, we passed the time watching assorted police officers and officials trying in vain to muster wayward pedestrians.
We expected to see the Olympic Torch, but instead we got a cavalcade of corporate trucks, tricked out like mobile disco parties, peopled with enthusiastic dancers, musicians, and youngsters waving streamers.
The appearance of these ‘fun times’ vehicles took the crowd by surprise – the Coca-Cola truck went by without much response from the nonplussed crowd.
Next came the Samsung truck, and by this time the crowd had caught on, and gave a bit of a cheer.
This was followed by the Lloyds TSB bus, many joggers and cyclists, scooter people, hovering helicopters, and official cars – dominated by an overly strong security presence, which often blocked the view of spectators.
Then finally, the torch bearer appeared! It was Thomas Bach, vice-president and member of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee. He looked pretty happy to be carrying the torch, despite the squad of oppressive minders shadowing his every move, about as cheerful as a heart attack.
Speaking of the minders, it wasn’t long before one of them started manhandling poor Mr Bach, grabbing him by the arm – “Right this way, fella – you’re nicked” (I’m pretty sure I heard him say something like that. Or maybe not).
“You will step this way now, Mr Bach – if that is indeed who you are. We have reason to believe you are hiding a potentially dangerous incendiary device on your person. My colleague will perform a strip search. Keep your hands up.”
“You will now negotiate this vehicle-and-flunky-choked intersection without engaging the spectators. They are a nuisance, ignore them. And wipe that ‘pleased to be here’ expression off your face, you’re making us look bad.”
And then it was over. He came, he carried, he waved to the crowds. Thank you, sir.
For a short BBC news summary of the day’s torch route, featuring some Royals, a huge crowd, and a speech by Boris Johnson, click here.