WEDNESDAY, JULY 25
Flew into London today to anchor my CNN show from my hometown during the Olympics, and went straight from the airport to an interview with Tony Blair.
He looks in fine fettle — he’s physically fit for a guy of 59 (‘I work out four or five times a week’) and was surprisingly sartorially relaxed in a shirt unbuttoned almost to Cowell-esque levels — and he is clearly itching for another really big political job again (‘I don’t rule it out’).
He’s taken a lot of flak since leaving office, particularly for the disastrous Iraq war, but it would be churlish to deny he had some great achievements as British prime minister, too. I asked him, if he could relive one moment of success again, what would he choose? He smiled. ‘You rarely get moments of success in terms of a defined thing that happened on a particular day, at a particular hour. I’m probably proudest of the Good Friday agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland, which thankfully is still there and working well.
‘But in terms of an actual moment, I guess when I heard we’d won the Olympic bid was one of those few times when I danced for joy as prime minister.’ ‘Did you literally dance?’ ‘I did!’
THURSDAY, JULY 26
Mitt Romney is squaring up to Barack Obama in what many believe is already the closest and most brutal American presidential race in modern history.
Today, the Republican candidate was in London for a brief Olympics stopover, and ran into immediate trouble by expressing concern over whether London was ready, questioning the public’s enthusiasm for the big sporting event, and ‘security issues’ in particular.
These, of course, have been exactly the same criticisms hurled at Olympic organisers by the British themselves for the last month. But that’s not the point — you don’t visit someone’s house for dinner and lambast their curtains, even if they don’t like the curtains themselves.
By the time he got to me for our afternoon interview at the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich, battered into mollifying submission by the British media at Downing Street, he was in urgent need of comfort food.
‘I need a McDonald’s!’ he cried, as his Secret Service agents raced him inside. And a McDonald’s he duly ate.
When we started the open-air interview, two hazards immediately reared their ugly heads: 1) It was very windy,
‘I like to think my losing to you propelled me to work harder and do better,’ Serena Williams messaged
me. ‘I owe you’
sending Romney’s hair into a permanent tailspin (not a cool look for a usually immaculately groomed would- be president); 2) the skies were buzzing with helicopters flying on and off HMS Ocean next door, causing filming to constantly stop and start, usually at a crucial moment of the interview. To his credit, though, he saw the funny side.
‘ I’ll have to deal with worse than wild hair and noisy choppers if I become president!’
SUNDAY, JULY 29
I used to play cricket 40 times a year. Now I play once, in an annual family match against my local village in East Sussex. But this is no ordinary game. Ever since the village sneaked a brilliant Pakistani ringer into the first fixture 10 years ago, it’s been war. I’ve gone into battle with a multitude of my own ringers over the years, including many of the world’s greatest cricketers. But today I excelled myself — persuading England superstar Kevin Pietersen to come and play with retired legends Freddie Flintoff and Devon Malcolm, and former World Heavyweight Boxing champ Lennox Lewis. Lennox and I became friends during the filming of the US Celebrity Apprentice. ‘Can you actually play cricket?’ I asked. ‘ Dude,’ he replied nonchalantly. ‘Relax. Whatever I hit stays hit.’ Freddie, a huge boxing fan, was beside himself with joy when I told him Lennox was playing. ‘I’m his biggest fan!’ he exclaimed, ‘Please warn him.’
Unable to contain his excitement, Freddie turned up half an hour early at the ground. Lennox, clearly able to contain his, turned up 45 minutes late, when we’d already taken the field. ‘He’s here!’ I shouted at Freddie, who did an instant jig of delight on the square. Lennox marched out in his whites, to raucous Interviewed Steve Redgrave today. ‘Presumably you want to thank me for my Twitter campaign to get you to light the Olympic cauldron?’ I began. ‘Yeah,’ he replied. ‘Thanks a bunch. You made me such a favourite for this great honour that they clearly decided the big surprise was gone, and made me hand it to those youngsters to light the cauldron instead!’ He was only half-joking.