Sunday, 8 July 2007

The Tour de France In Greenwich!

Here comes the race. The starting point at the National Maritime Museum.
By six o'clock this morning the roads had been closed, the barricades set up as Greenwich residents woke up to what was promising to be a very exciting day indeed. Just by looking out the window, even the heavens seemed to be in high spirits as sunlight bathed the course which only in a few hours would welcome the wave of The Tour de France cyclists whooshing by for the first time in the tour's history.

And whoosh by they did. The crowd went wild, the kids waved their flags and the horns hooted all reflecting the wave of excitement that can only be created when groups of total strangers come together to cheer at an event. Nobody knew who the cyclists were nor did they really care. They were there because it was an event that was right there at their doorstep and they were insisting on making a day out of it with all the "Bonjour" and "Ca Va?" they could manage. The French were here and the British were ready to embrace it all.

Ten minutes and the race was over. Already a memory, but the festivities of the day were just beginning. Greenwich Town Centre had been transported into a French town for the day, a "Greenwich en fete", with warm crepes and bonbons for good measure. The red, blue and white decked the walls, the stalls and even the hairdos. Nothing escaped. From Trafalgar Road down to the Cutty Sark Gardens and Greenwich Pier, the town was speckled with one French performance after the other. But the main reason of this "Get Together" was always close to mind as spectators could keep up with the day's race by means of a giant outdoor screen at the Cutty Sark gardens. Greenwich was going all out on this one.

The Get Together organized by Greenwich Council was in full swing today, with the mayor listening to people's views at Talk Cafe at Cutty Sark Gardens.

The Red Giraffe parade took a good part of the morning as well as most of the afternoon. It had the kids and a good part of the adults following it as the Giraffe-clad acrobats masterfully maneuvered their way between the crowds. A task that by no means seemed simple. But the kids could just not get enough of them and eagerly raced to collect the confetti they sprayed about on their way (a thing that wasn't going down too well with the street cleaners). There were music performances, face painting stalls, cycling events and information as well as the covered Greenwich Market which seemed to be busier than ever today with all its quaint stalls and wonderful bargains.

It must have been a great day for the town shops, eateries and cafes as wandering past most of them you could not but notice the queues. This has been a test run for Greenwich Council as well as London as a whole for the 2012 Olympics. It is certain that the load will then be tougher and more organization needed, but if the organizers can guarantee the sun, they have nothing to worry about when it comes to the crowds. Just make sure there's enough ice cream to go around.

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