Dom Joly: How a brush with Spanish royalty made me king of the media centre
OK, so she might have completely blanked me but my encounter with the Queen earns kudos where it matters
Tuesday 19 August 2008
Say "Ola"! to the Queen of Spain.
"Climb Great Wall, eat roast duck and shop in Silk Street." This slogan is everywhere you look in Beijing and seems to be the unofficial Olympic slogan. I'd done the Great Wall, eaten copious amounts of roast duck but hadn't visited Silk Street yet. So, pretty early in the morning I set off to do just that and purchase a couple of bottles of token effort for the folks back home.
As I was buying a coffee in the Main Press Centre there was a bit of a commotion at the entrance – security men came running in and I could see two big black cars pull up outside. Something was happening. My top journalistic instincts kicked in and I dropped my large latte (extra shot) and launched myself towards the action. As I exited the building I saw a woman approaching me flanked by a couple of official looking personages – it was the Queen of Spain.
I'm not sure quite why I would recognise the Queen of Spain, (the former Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark – how many countries does a royal need?) I just did. It's probably too much time spent perusing Hello magazine. She has very royal hair – a curious sort of bouffant nest favoured by UK royals such as Princess Anne. She only had a couple of photographers following her plus a minimal security cordon.
It's not often that you meet the Queen of Spain so I really felt that I should say something. The problem was that I didn't really have that much prepared – "Have you spoken to your basketball team about their 'slitty-eyed' photo scandal?" "Why Does Rafael Nadal feel the need to scratch his bum in between every point?" "Does the rain in Spain fall mainly on the plain?" None of these felt that pertinent so I decided to try and get her to comment on my international scoop from Sunday.
"Your Majesty... what do you think about the reports from a top UK journalist about the USA basketball team queue-jumping on the Great Wall yesterday?" The Queen gave me a totally bemused look and kept walking. I suddenly felt a pair of hands grab me and physically hurl me to one side. I turned to see a very burly looking Chinese security man glaring at me while the back of the Queen of Spain's head disappeared down a long corridor. I'd done my best to give my story some international legs but this journalism business is harder than it seems so I gave up and headed off to do some shopping.
Last night in the Olympic Stadium I took my place for another evening of track and field. I'm still recovering from the 100 metres final – the most exciting thing I've ever seen in my life. That night the whole stadium was buzzing with wide-eyed excitement as we spilled out on to the crazily-lit Olympic Green confident we'd witnessed sporting history.
Yesterday the atmosphere was slightly muted following the injury and withdrawal of Liu Xiang, the great Chinese hurdling hope and poster boy for all of China. I've started to get to know my neighbours in the stadium as everyone tends to sit in the same place every night. The man on my right is a very kind Spanish sports journalist whose experience is great and he often helps me out when I don't know something about a particular event – "That ees called the long jump – the men they jump far and farthest man ees the weener...." "Who do you write for again amigo?" I often buy him a beer or two and this tends to keep him very eager to help me out – he is my "informed source" in Beijing if you like. He gave me a hello nod and, after finishing off a rather excitable call on his mobile, asked me how my day had been? I shrugged my shoulders to indicate another average Olympian day.
"Oh, I got an interview with the Queen of Spain." I dropped this as casually as I could but it had the desired effect. He nearly spat up his peach yoghurt and looked at me wide-eyed. "You have spoken with her Royal Majesty?" He looked shattered. I tried to look like it was no big deal. "What did you talk to her about?" he asked, still in shock.
"Oh, this and that..." I lied. "I was just getting her to comment on my big scoop yesterday and I got what I needed."
My Spanish friend looked devastated but there was a newly-found respect in his eyes for his young protégé. That night the beers were on him. Sometimes it's good to be the king...
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