Monday, April 27, 2009

The London Marathon

I had to laugh at 'The Archers' attempt to recreate the start of the London Marathon. It's true that an announcer told participants to go to their correct zones before the start. But to marshal 10,000 participants on a large park, with friends and well-wishers shouting above the noisy helicopters you need better amplification than one last used at the Ambridge Flower and Produce show.

The real thing sounded like the main stage at Glastonbury.

It's comical, too, when the BBC uses a member of the existing cast with a lightly disguised voice when the plots call for a one-off extra character. Considering the £100 licence free , you'd think they could pay an actor for once. They make enough savings, after all, by mentioning characters never actually heard from week after week.

The real announcer's Geordie accent carried round the park and probably half across Blackheath. At I thought at first they'd got Ant or Dec, but he announced at one point he wasn't and that he wasn't Gazza either.

His job, apart from chivvying the runners to their zones, was to keep up a stream of banter as the runners massed slowly towards the park gates and the start line, which took about about twenty minutes for some, and to reassure them their ankle chips wouldn't activate before they crossed the line.They must be sure to wave at the Mayor 'wearing his bling' on the podium with his lady wife. That's where the cameras were positioned.

I'd walked around beforehand watching the runners doing stretching and limbering up, smelling the tang of liniment and asking could I take photos. As I pointed the camera towards a young man in a Batman costume his friend encouraged him to move about: 'You could be famous on YouTube, man'. So I switched to 'video', unfortunately, as you'll see, only towards the end of his display.

I heard the starting gun, but didn't see the serious contenders out on the heath. Instead I photographed the parade of people running for hundred of charities. Many were dressed as super heroes or animals, including a plastic rhino, and there was even a woman on stilts. The mood was cheerful but nervous, maybe because the jovial commentator kept reminding them they had 26.5 miles to go.

I'd got there by walking over the heath, but decided to take th DLR back to Lewisham. The Cutty Sark DLR station was completely cut off by the stream of runners, but it's only a ten minute walk down to the other one. I couldn't believe the scene.

I was going the other way, but the huge crowds wanting to travel to central London found they had to queue at the DLR ticket machines, or take their chances with the replacement buses, because Greenwich station was closed for weekend engineering works. I'd have thought the Mayor could have laid on proper transport arrangements for such a big event.

We don't know how the The Archers got back to Ambridge but I hope it wasn't via central London.