The Prologue of the Tour de France was quite a show.
The view from the QEII centre front lawn was perfect, and a big screen broadcasting from the BBC helped dispel everyone's confusion at what the hell was actually going on. An early glass of fizz in the sunshine also helped.
At lunchtime, the crowds had already built up in the sunshine and it was getting difficult to cross over the route at either of the temporary bridges built next to Westminster and Victoria stations, just as the 'Publicity Caravan' set off to cover the whole route of the Prologue.
The Caravan was quite possibly the tackiest thing seen this side of Vegas. 200 trucks and cars from sponsors sped around the route. Each blared europop and blasted their horns as they lobbed freebies into the crowd. The first van passed with a lovely french voice on a megaphone repeating the same phrase that he had obviously just learnt, off pat: "We are the Tour de France. But here we are in Inglond!" Well, quite.
The handsome french policemen on their motorbikes seemed popular with some quarters of the crowd - as were the vans chucking out water bottles and packs of Haribo. The giant cheese van and fleeet of 2CVs promoting sausages didn't get quite the same rapture.
At 3pm the first cyclist came rushing past, and then followed one every minute or so for the next three hours as the time-trial progressed. Each had their own police escort and a van behind with spare bikes on it, and the 7.9km course took the quickest cyclist less than 9 minutes. The only real shocker was seeing one cyclist, an australian, fall off and come to a rather ungracefully abrupt stop.
All-in-all this was a major event with one million people lining the streets. London seemed to pull off the first day smoothly, in what must be seen as a positive prelude for the Olympics. We'll stay out of arguments over which event has the best logo - but name another world city that could put on Live Earth, Wimbledon and the Tour de France on the one day and still have time for a bit of Justin Trousersnake in the evening?
Flirty image from armcurl's Flickr stream