By Kimberly Cole
Trafalgar Square transformed into a carnival overnight. The addition of lights, stage and giant screens protruded conspicuously through the backdrop of the National Gallery and under Nelson’s watchful eye. It was busy as usual with the bustle of pedestrians, but noticeably absent of street traffic. In fact, nobody moved anywhere at all. Instead of the usual 30-second wait to cross the street, people stood in line for over an hour trying to get to the other side of the police-barricaded road. The presence of hundreds of officers in a variety of uniforms and from two different countries completed the air of magnitude that surrounded the wake of the opening ceremony of Le Tour de France 2007.
“The tube is closed down that way, too,” a disgruntled man shouted, his voice ringing over the crowd as he expressed his irritation
“We could stay and watch,” suggested his companion, unsure of how this would go over.
“I’m not standing the whole day in this spot to get one glimpse of bikes whizzing by.”
The buzz of anticipation seemed to last all day. After the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it excitement of a passing racer, the majority of the crowd loyally resumed their wait. It was like watching spurts of a parade on fast-forward.
As the applause of the crowd subsided from an action packed second-and-a-half, a young man sporting a pink hat and shirt matching his fellow fan’s turned to me and said, “First time?”Startled, I said stupidly, “Oh, yes. I’m an American.”
“Really?” he replied sarcastically, with a smile on his face.
“It’s that obvious, is it?” I asked, with a tinge of something close to embarrassment.
“Well, you just don’t look that impressed is all.”
I became immediately self-conscious of my body language and began frantically reviewing the last 20 minutes in my head. I decided to plead ignorance over arrogance and replied, “I guess I just don’t get it.”
At this, his face lit up and he delved enthusiastically into a winded explanation of the history of the Tour and what it meant to London to host it. Caught up in his fervor for the races and sports and the city in general he finished with, “And not only that, it’s like a practice run for the Olympics!”
I gathered from this, and something I’d seen on the news, that London won the bid for the 2012 Olympics (beating Paris, a touchy subject for certain members of the crowd I would guess). Excited that we had come to a subject I could relate to I said, “The Olympics is definitely something I understand.”
To this he replied with a smile, “Yes, well I suppose it’s no Superbowl, but we Brits are easily excited.”