Now that the games are over, we can talk honestly – here’s the one thing we all hated: the weird rules. You know it’s bad when the most famous athlete in the world complains. They took Usain Bolt’s skipping rope off him! He wasn’t allowed to take it into the stadium before he won the 100m final.
The rules start when you arrive at the stadium. There’s an army of officials dressed in pink safety jackets, yelling at spectators with megaphones: “Keep walking, don’t stop at the top of the stairs, keep walking.” I’ve been told we can’t film here when we really can; I’ve been asked for a permit just for walking through a tube station; I’ve felt harassed.
At the Olympic Stadium’s tube station, there are barriers dividing every walkway in half. Never cross the barrier. Even at midnight, with no-one else in the opposite lane. They’re the rules. Speaking of rules, can you imagine the relief now that athletes don’t have to live under strict training regimes? They can loosen their belts, watch TV all day, eat whatever they want.
On the afternoon Mahé Drysdale finished his race, he and his rowing mates had Champagne from the bottle, burgers and beer in the sun. So now it’s over, let’s celebrate the medal haul the country has, the strict lifestyles our athletes have led to get those medals, and the fact that they can now break the rules a little bit.
I’ve started breaking the rules myself. I had to lug a 6kg package through London. After a long walk, a train ride to the Olympic Stadium and another walk, my arms were shot and my breathing was raspy. I hailed a cab. In the 10 seconds it took for the cab to stop and the door to open, a policeman was there and yelling, “You can’t stop here.” Why? Because they’re the rules.
After two weeks, I was tired of protocol. I ignored the bobby, pushed past him blocking the door, offloaded my package into the cab, helped the cameraman with the camera gear and let the angry, yelling cop slam the door behind me.
In the end, it took one act of breaking the rules, one cab ride, two train rides and three long walks to get the package home. The package? Twenty-four bottles of craft beer – a little treat for us to celebrate the end of a very successful Olympics.