Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Choice

An invitation turned up on my desk sometime last week for an evening with Olympians on Wednesday night organised by the International Sports Press Association. Would I contact the following email for further details.

Contact was indeed established and I was told that the American swimmers Michael Phelps, Nathalie Coughlin and Katie Hoff would be at the China Club.

Better still the legends Alex Popov and Ian Thorpe would also be there.

A shoal of talent indeed. Only snag was that they were going to be at the same time as one Usain Bolt would be trying to write himself into legend in final of the men’s 200 metres

Just my luck a chance to go to one of the swishest venues in town and I have to watch people running around a track.

Redemption is mine though because there’s another rendez-vous with titans of yore on Thursday afternoon. The hurdler Edwin Moses, the sprinter Cathy Freeman and the decathlete Daley Thompson.

This might be more feasible as the association is laying on transport from the press centres to the venue, the Casa Italia.

This is a concept aimed at promulgating all things Italian. Mamma mia. Just what I’ve come from Europe for.

But as the saying goes when in Beijing….drive a Ferrari.

There’s been an absence of ostentation within the hotel – venue- hotel vortex. If there are high ranking officials from national Olympic committees cruising around in smart cars then I haven’t noticed them.

That might be due to the fact that I’m either watching the action or writing about it in an underground ice box.

One luxury brand that has been quite salient is Omega. The firm has a temporary pavilion which I’ve been passing regularly en route to the various venues.

It became even more prominent for me just after Michael Phelps’s victory in the 100 metres butterfly final when the Serbian swimming delegation contested the split of a split second victory over their swimmer Milorad Cavic.

After the delegation had a look at the tapes of the race they could see it was all fine. Their man had got silver and Phelps had won gold.

Doubting the veracity of the official timekeepers is quite rare and it all came about because the cameras which are shown to the crowds aren’t the one’s used for timekeeping.

The crowd’s cameras suggested that Cavic had touched first. But Omega has got high speed cameras. This is a system that links four high speed video recording cameras and allows judges to have real time views of the images captured by the cameras even while they’re recording.

It’s possible to see the action recorded by all four cameras at once or to select any of them individually for a full screen view.

That’s all very well and good and we rightly hail an association with the Olympic movement that goes back to 1932.

But what about watches on your wrist rather than the ones in the water?

Well they’re quite spectacular. Quite a range is on show at the pavilion including the Omega Speedmaster Professional.

This comes with the tag of the first and only watch worn on the moon.

And then there’s the Beijing Olympic Collection Minus 88 Days Double Eagle which hasn’t been worn on Mars.

It’s limited to 288 pieces and can be snapped up for 219,800 yuan.

The dials within the face are in the figure eight which as we all know is the lucky number in China because the word for eight sounds like the word for prosperity.

Phelps has come away from Beijing with eight gold medals but that’s got nothing to do with luck. It’s down to timing