Sunday 29 July 2012


Well, I did get up early on Saturday to see the opening ceremony and it was wonderful. I laughed, I cried and felt proud to be British. A grass-covered stadium with sheep and hens and cricketers, a rural idyll, smashed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railways and the industrial revolution. A moment reflecting the 1st World War, then children’s fantasies, and an amazing cameo appearance by the Queen with James Bond.

But what did people here make of it? By the time most people got up after 7 am, the best was over and we were into the fireworks. I’ve been telling people to watch the whole thing but even the you-tube version is unavailable here. In addition, there seems to be something called the ‘Three Minute Rule’ so all we got on Saturday was one shot of the earlier sequences with the rest of the 3 minutes going to the flame coming together and the Japanese team.

Some commentators said it went on too long (hard on the athletes) and that parts were mystifying (chinpun kanpun). Certainly, the initials GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital) and NHS (National Health Service) are meaningless and not concepts you can grasp in a one line explanation mid-show.

Later in the day, I’m distracted at the gym. There’s a TV programme here called ‘What are the Neighbours Having for Dinner?’ and it’s gone to London to investigate English food.  My initial interest turns to horror. That evening I meet some friends for dinner. They haven’t seen the opening ceremony but they’ve all seen this. The presenter calls at four houses. The first family is having chicken curry. Chicken pieces cooked with a jar of Chicken Tonite. Served with rice and salad.  Japanese don’t like the way the rice is cooked, but OK. The next family has pasta. The adults get tomato sauce (pre-packed) but the kids get nothing. The mother says kids shouldn’t have salt and additives. So they have plain pasta. No protein, no vegetables. I’m horrified. Next up are a newly married couple. And their dinner is a Chinese takeaway; eaten straight out of the foil containers. You’d think if a foreign TV crew was coming they’d at least make the effort to get out some plates. Finally, a couple in their 50s has a pizza from the supermarket, salad and wine.

Having established that the English don’t eat English food at home, the presenter tracks it down in the pub. But he’s not impressed with the roast. Anyone who’s tasted the melt-in-the-mouth beef that gets served here, say at weddings, will know what he means. Jamie Oliver’s work is far from done, it seems.

The opening ceremony over, the events are in full swing:  judo and swimming (no rowing or tennis shown here). I’m not a great sports fan but I have to say the sight of those people giving their all is humbling. Do I even detect a bigger push than usual in my few desultory lengths at the pool?

Here it’s hot. High of 33’C today in Koriyama, hotter further south. Hundreds of people carted off to hospital with heatstroke every day, and a few dead. I work in an air-conditioned office but like most people here I’m saving electricity and at home haven’t used the air conditioner once this season. I seem to be managing surprisingly well with the electric fan.
Bye from a hot and sticky Koriyama,

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