SO we thought Beijing was going to be bad - from athletes to media to fans, we worried about the smog, the police, the repression, the food. Every concern under the sun was aired and most, it turned out, were without foundation.
But now a secret dossier has been uncovered by Beijing Now, which reveals the shocking threats that London will pose in 2012 to the health and well-being of the thousands likely to descend on the city for the Olympics. It makes for alarming reading.
You can get every cuisine under the sun in London, each with one universal quality - it hasn’t any. From Thai to Indian, Chinese to pub grub, it won’t make you ill as such, just sad. In a country where the national dish is battery-farmed chicken served in a s auce originally made of tinned tomato soup and cream - or chicken tikka masala as the post-pub curry crowd like to call it - the only thing worse than the faux foreign food is the homegrown variety.
If the waititng lists don’t get you, the superbug MRSA will. With superbugs to spare and doctors working 25 hours a day, it’s a system from which overworked Aussie hospitals take their inspiration. In short, try very hard not to get sick.
Not one taxi-driver in Beijing speaks any English, and after a week in London you’ll dream of those halcyon days as yet another cabbie tells you why national service should be reintroduced, it’s never been the same since Mrs Thatcher left and hanging’s too good for them. Almost enough to make you take the Tube. Almost.
4. The air
The air of despondency that is - Beijing’s army of millions of volunteers, all happy to help and pleased to see you, will be supplanted by a city of people who won’t give you the time of day as they wallow in their own misery. No one knows their neighbours in London so why the hell should they go out of their way to help a bunch of foreigners? Don’t try to make conversation with the locals, you’ll only scare them.
5. The infrastructure
It took a totalitarian government with absolute control to impose on Beijing the necessary building works and venue construction. By contrast, as if London’s planning laws weren’t beauracratic enough, the mayor whose dream it was to host the Olympics and regenerate east London has just been replaced by a bumbling toff whose preoccupation is cracking jokes and riding his bike. It doesn’t augur well.
6. The beer
Not just served warm but also fermenting, and guaranteed - unlike you - to be alive and kicking inside you the following day. English “real ale” is barrel conditioned, ie it’s an ongoing process so you’ll never be sure of the quality of what you’re drinking until the first mouthful.
Then there’s the fact that many brewers use ground fishbladder to improve the clarity, which isn’t what you would normally hope for in getting bladdered.