In an effort to contain my belongings for the next journey of life, I carefully mark one of the cartons as ‘Precious Souvenirs’ and find myself staring at one particular ‘white box’ when the whole event flashes before my eyes:
“Ah! That’s much better — Oh no! Hang on! Let me fix that, this clipboard would look horrible in the photograph — give me that!’ as the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Press Secretary grabbed my trusted clipboard. “Now that’s perfect! Click away!”
Little did he realise that both the First Lady and I were already having a good laugh at all the fuss being created around us. She on one hand was definitely used to it, I on the other, was a complete novice at it. Well if anything, our memorable photograph will surely turn out to be a fun and natural one. And so it did!
So what if I was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat. There’s so much to talk about and so little time! I was keen to quiz her on the highlights of the Olympic Opening Ceremony that we all attended the evening before, while she was more interested in knowing how my experience had been so far? Of course, I graciously gave her the right-of-way and was equally happy responding to the questions that came my way in the most proper manner that I could muster, thinking all along, “What an easy conversationalist she is!”
As the most favoured First Lady towered over the people surrounding her, I was in for some more surprise. Just then, her Private Secretary slipped a ‘white box’ in her hand, a discrete nod and the exact expression suggesting that now is the most appropriate time.
What a lovely sterling silver pewter I was handed, delicately handcrafted by none other than Salisbury Inc. who proudly say: “When you own a piece of Salisbury pewter you are sharing in one of the world’s oldest crafts.” And I say, “When you own such a piece that is engraved with an image of the White House and carefully signed by the First Lady Michelle Obama, you are also sharing a piece of history!”
That moment in time seemed like nothing else was keeping me occupied on the first day of London 2012 Olympic competition at the wave-shaped Aquatics Centre, especially when the Olympic Stadium, after a spectacular show of British splendour wrapped up the Opening Ceremony and was under a 5- day hibernation and turn-around period. All eyes were now on Dame Zaha Hadid’s exquisite architectural feat. But just then, I was reminded, as my Airwave radio screamed out a dire cry for Protocol 1!
Stop! Let’s rewind to the last minute preparations some three hours before that warm meet and greet and the handing of a memorable souvenir!
What? Are you saying 4 more diplomatic cars and 10 more prime event access passes required by the US delegation? You’ve got to be kidding me! Is this my mind playing games, someone throwing a last minute spanner in the works or is this the Olympic Tsunami I was warned of all along, now unfolding and staring in my face! What about the last four months of intense negotiation amongst the White House, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Metropolitan Police Service and the London 2012 International Relations team? Does that even count? No? Brilliant! So we scrap that and start all over again?
Well, they say you can never be fully prepared to roll out an event of this magnitude. At this stage, what it really takes is every ounce of flexibility, spontaneity, presence of mind, being swift on your feet, tons of good luck and ultimate belief that all’s well that ends well! But hey! Can I just at least clone myself for the day? It’s show time Bushra, so just roll with it!
To think of it, at the end of the day, who doesn’t want a happy story, great sporting achievement, records being smashed, celebrities being photographed witnessing the best of Olympic Sports that’s on offer! All of it and more sure did come together with one of the most successful athletes of all time, Michael Phelps (US team), making Olympic history and earning two Guinness World Record titles for both the most individual medals won and the most gold medals won right there at the Olympic turf and in front of our very eyes!
They say: ‘the business of life is the acquisition of memories…..and I couldn’t agree more!’
The writer is a British Pakistani, Olympics Organiser, Banking Consultant and Mountain Trekker.