Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Cleaners

Much of the pre-Games focus on China was the relative lack of freedom, dodgy international initiatives and monolithic political systems. But still we came.

Much was hyped about the prominent policing that would make all us visitors feel safe. Well I haven’t been attacked yet. But then again I haven’t been anywhere outside the vortex of hotel – venues – hotel.

Nothing as far as I can recall was highlighted about something altogether far more insidious – visible cleaning.

It’s a tough and sustained crackdown on grime. It’s vicious.

At the hotel where I rest my head but for a few hours, the waitresses in the breakfast room patrol with diligence so they can administer tea or coffee.

I’ve experienced them terminate breakfast with extreme prejudice.

One morning, there was more or less half a piece of toast on my plate when I got up to go and get a bit more coffee. When I returned the plate had been cleared away. I turned my back for a second and it was gone.

Now whether that’s a metaphor for a wider political malaise, well I’ll leave that for another blog. Maybe one when I’m home.

However since it’s so dangerous to get up I stockpile all that I need.

The policy of termination is operational at the Water Cube.

After witnessing the most controversial morning of swimming since the games began, I went into the cluster of tables outside the commentary positions.

I was there to reflect on Michael Phelps’s acquisition of his seventh gold medal. He won the 100 metres butterfly in 50.58 seconds. The Serbian Milorad Cavic was clocked in at 50.59.

But pictures shown in the pool made it look like the Serb had won.

The Serbs lodged an appeal against the result and an hour or so later Phelps was reconfirmed as the winner. Nothing wrong with the timekeeping harrumphed the blue jackets from FINA, international swimmings governing body.

There’s not much wrong with the Water Cube it’s a bit like an art gallery – lots of white – lots of yonic symbols. I was starting to chill out as I listened to the post swim interviews that I'd recorded. But the cool is destroyed by things like mops propped up against walls and cloths nestling on ledges. In one of the toilets a mop was stuffed into a urinal.

I just hope that’s not used to clean the floors.

As I started to break into the complimentary biscuits and coffee, the cleaner walked past me and cast a lingering look at this pocket of activity.

A few minutes later she returned, stopped and pushed an askew chair neatly under my table before continuing her passage.

She went past again. This time I followed her and she disappeared out of sight.

I sat there thinking what would be more subversive making a big mess or clearing up.

Well given that I have three children I realise I spend my entire waking life clearing up. So I brushed the crumbs into the cup and got up to make my move.

From out of nowhere the cleaner arrived.

I hope it was coincidence.