Steve Cotton at the Olympics: Games are such a pressing engagement for the New York Times

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By The Bristol Post | Wednesday, August 01, 2012, 05:00

AS a one-man regional newspaper band, it is easy to feel somewhat overwhelmed inside the Olympic Park's main press centre – a shopping-mall-sized monolith of a building acting as a temporary base for the world's press.

The four floors of the building are home to a number of offices, from which the world's biggest agencies and newspapers operate. The New York Times, who have more than 25 staff working at the Olympics, for example, have all the details you would expect to find in a permanent office.

Taking pride of place on one wall is a clock showing New York time, while there are various televisions showing feeds of Olympic events, in addition to a host of monitors, plus a refrigerator, microwave and boxes of chocolate and drinks.

If staff in any of the press centre's 78 private offices work late and fancy winding down, bulk orders for alcohol deliveries can be made via a specific online catering website. The Post, you may find difficult to believe, does not have its own office.

However, the fact I sat next to Great Britain modern pentathlete Sam Weale – twin brother of former Bristol City goalkeeper Chris – for much of my five years at secondary school has been my passport to the inner sanctuary of the modern pentathlon-loving New York Times crew's third-floor workspace. They even gave me a pin badge. Being told by an Olympic worker in the press seats at Lord's – after she had checked my accreditation – that I work for the "most local newspaper we've had yet" was another reminder of the sheer scale of what an international event this is. As, I should mention, was sitting between journalists from Italy and Venezuela during Monday's archery.

But the vastness of the Olympics still occasionally throws up a personal moment that makes you realise you are part of something that, despite everything else, is essentially still about people.

To this end, I timed my exit from a Docklands Light Railway train at Canning Town yesterday afternoon to perfection – alighting immediately after the seven officers from Cumbria police who were in my carriage and immediately before the seven officers from Cheshire police in the adjoining one.

As I walked down the stairs, flanked by 14 uniformed officers, a passing man draped in a Canadian flag said to his wife: "I wonder who the guy in the press pass is – he has his own security detail!" Which was better than assuming I had been arrested, I suppose.

Today, I plan to make my first visit to Eton Dorney, where Stephen Rowbotham – once of Clifton College and Winscombe – rows for Great Britain in the men's quadruple sculls semi-final. After that, I have my eye on watching Bradley Wiggins continue his recent domination of the road.

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