While somebody’s throwing a javelin. And another person’s running. And somebody else is swimming. "Imagine," I said to my wife, "what it’s going to be like trying to stand on a tube through the capital during the Olympics."
And then I read some headlines that said that London was deserted, and others that said traders in the West End were complaining about the worst business in years. And my sister-in-law, who I’ll be staying with while in London, said that, actually, getting around London’s been a bit of a doddle. "There’s nobody here," she said.
"Well you should see my pub," I chortled back. Because there’s been nobody here, either.
On my pubco’s extranet pages, one piece of marketing advice reads: it won’t be long before your customers realise they can watch the Olympics at home.
The problem is: it seems they already knew. Despite the offers, promotions, big screens, massive build-up and general air of excitement surrounding the arrival of the world’s biggest sporting event, only six people came in to my pub last Friday during the opening ceremony. Six.
Now, I know my pub isn’t very big, but I’ve never seen just six people in it on a Friday evening. Ever. And the following week’s trade seemed to reflect what many other publicans near me have also said: the Olympics simply haven’t been drawing people in to the pub.
That’s not to take anything away from the venues near Olympic stadia that have been thriving on the back of London 2012. Nor should such a statement take anything away from the Olympians, who have been putting on a fantastic show.
It’s been very exciting watching Victoria Pendleton pedal around the Velodrome. The fencing has had me riveted – mostly because it looks like somebody’s stolen the set from Tron. And there now isn’t a chap in the world who doesn’t know what the brilliant Jessica Ennis looks like in her underwear.
The sound of our National Anthem belting out through the pub’s speaker system with every gold medal is undeniably rousing and if Bradley Wiggins doesn’t win BBC Sports Personality of the Year this year, I’ll eat cheese – that’s a bet I made with my customers in 2007 about Lewis Hamilton and I ended up with a plateful of chewable milk to consume when he didn’t win. This year, I’m more confident…
We’ve all seen and felt empathy with the pain, anguish and elation that these people have gone through as all the hard work and dedication of the past four years comes to a conclusion, and no Olympian should feel they’ve let anybody down if they fail to score a medal. They’re brilliant just for being there.
Yet it’s still left me feeling Olympically bewildered and a little dismayed as to where everybody has gone.
Certainly, a handful of regulars have taken advantage of some strategically priced Fly Away holiday deals but, when I spoke to other customers about why they didn’t come and watch the Opening Ceremony in their local, the answer was simple: "Wasn’t it amazing? But it wasn’t something that I’d watch in a pub."
So what about watching the sports themselves? Well, it seems that the Olympics are quite complicated. There’s a lot going on, across twenty-four different channels, and the events jump back and forth and most only last a few seconds, or minutes at most. This means that different people want to watch different things and you can’t really channel hop on the pub’s TV without annoying somebody.
This has meant the majority of customers who’ve wanted to watch a specific event have decided to stay at home instead. Pints for £2.00? Not interested. Meal/Drink deals? No thank you.
I’m left focusing on week two as being a venue where people who don’t want to watch the Olympics can escape to, and hoping that those who’ve stayed at home have saved their money up to enjoy a big blow out at the pub when it’s all over…