By James Blears
The distances to reach the sensational WBC Convention in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Central Asia are vast and the marathon timeframe stretched out over the horizon for many hours.
The first part of our journey was from Mexico City to Cancun, to collect more passengers for the long haul to Istambul. After downing several glasses of fruit juice and then a couple of cups of coffee, offered by the very hospitable Turkish Airlines crew I fell asleep, waking up just before we landed. Big mistake in not having gone to the bathroom for a critical pit stop leak, as we weren`t allowed to, for more than an hour and a half, plus a good twenty minutes more after our flight took off, bound for Turkey. It proved a mighty close call between boom/bust.
Once we arrived at Istanbul airport, we had eight hours to kill, until our connecting flight to Tashkent. Turkish Airlines take this into consideration with excursions of the City, so we sped to the Istanbul Tours Desk and were put into the charge of a brash, confident, humorous and slightly mischievous Guide, who got us on to a bus pretty pronto. One of our party plaintively and meekly asked when we would return to the airport after the tour, to which he laconically quipped: “Don`t worry about that. We haven`t even started yet!”
The airport is an hour for the city. After giving us a potted history lesson en route, he concluded: “Well I`ll shut up now and let you gossip among yourselves.”
The highlight of the tour was visiting the Santa Sofia Mosque with its magnificent dome, minarets and extraordinary interior lighting. The queue to reach it had been long but moved rapidly and we were soon inside the gigantic building. Hundreds of shoes lockers were at hand and essential to remember the letter and number of yours` to avoid the barefoot alternative.
Our guide strictly advised us to return to the Needle Monument by 2.20 pm sharp, as we had to catch the bus and we were all there sheltering under a tree, as it had been a rather rainy, windy and climatically a wild afternoon.
Almost a week later, on the journey home we had a four hour flight from Tashkent to Istanbul. As we got off the plane to descend its steps for a bus to transport us to the main terminal, blasts and gusts of icy air which took your breath away, slammed into us. Ouch!
With polar conditions swirling around outside the airport, we had to occupy ourselves indoors for eight hours plus, until the final flight back. I teamed up with Carlos Zarate, Wife Nelly, Javier Gonzalez and several others. We sat down in a café, ordering beers and pizzas. We ate and chatted for what seemed a long time, but there was still acres and hectares more time to while away. And not a dickey bird on the flight announcement board.
We sat on some other seats and our eyes became vacant, weary and heavy. To pep us up, Nelly who is a talented professional singer sang a couple of songs. And then Carlos started singing A Mi Manera. Passing passengers stopped to listen and as we all concluded we received a standing ovation, probably because there weren`t many places to sit down?
Then I joined some of the reporters including, Osiris Mendez, Juan Carlos Castellanos, Juan Manuel Vazquez and Diego Martinez who were eating pizza and drinking some beers, courtesy of our President Mauricio Sulaiman and his older brother Pepe.
Lots of jokes and hearty laughter. At one point Mauricio was laughing so hard that he reminded me of his Dad Don Jose. The sense of fun and joy was wonderful, coupled with the satisfaction of achievement and fulfillment. This Convention had been a unique challenge, but that challenge had been met and a tremendous success accomplished. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It had come off splendidly.
The flight was put back a further hour, but at least we now knew the gate. Finally we were onboard and time to see three major movies, try to fitfully sleep and snack a couple of times. This trip was an extraordinary global trotting first for the World Boxing Council.
Dooley Wilson sang the Herman Hupfield song: As Time Goes By, in the classic movie Casablanca, which was paradoxically on the movie list. One of its lyrics resonated during our journey homeward bound, namely: “The fundamental things apply…as time goes by.”