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Image: Vegan Antonino Buonamico, dressed as a turkey, discusses whether eating meat is a good or bad thing with a member of "Team Islam"
Jim Seida  /  NBC News
Vegan Antonino Buonamico, dressed as a turkey, discusses whether eating meat is a good or bad thing with a member of "Team Islam" near Stratford Bus Station in London on Thursday.
By
NBC News
updated 8/6/2012 3:50:56 AM ET 2012-08-06T07:50:56

As hundreds of Olympics fans milled around them, an Italian dressed in a turkey costume stood debating the rights and wrongs of eating meat with a man wearing a sports-themed T-shirt proclaiming he was a member of "Team Islam."

With tens of thousands of people entering the Olympic Park every day, it was perhaps only natural that various religions, philosophies and causes would jump at the chance to win some of them over.

And so just outside Stratford Bus Station -- which many sports fans must walk past on their way to the park -- there was a collection of Christians, Muslims, vegans and others eager to spread the word.

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Team Islam was strongly represented, with perhaps 10 men wearing blue T-shirts with the Team Islam logo or yellow ones that asked "Is life just a game?"

"We're trying to make people realize there are many teams in life -- Team America, Team GB [Great Britain], France, China -- but they are never going to win anything meaningful. If you want something meaningful, you need to be part of Team Islam," one of the group, Muhammad Alamqir, said.

"Nearly every day we've had people … embracing Islam," he added, saying that the T-shirts had gone down well with passersby. "They like the idea of Team Islam, a lot of people have been taking pictures with us."

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Alamqir said he and the others were "ordinary Muslims" from the local area.

Asked what relations were like with the other faiths, he said there had been some theological debates, but everything had been "very friendly … very pleasant."

'I don't want you to eat me'
And so it was that Antonino Buonamico, 52, a follower of the teachings of Supreme Master Ching Hai, found himself discussing with another member of Team Islam whether eating meat was a good or bad thing.

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"I'm a turkey, I don't want you to eat me," Buonamico, speaking shortly before the exchange, told NBCNews.com.

He said when people saw his turkey costume "sometimes they laugh and want pictures."

"They are curious," he added, "I hope they can begin to think about it [becoming vegan]."

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Buonamico, from Bari, Italy, said that he was among a group of about 70 people who subscribe to the teachings of Ching Hai who had come to London for the Games to persuade others to "be vegan" and "make peace."

He said Ching Hai's teachings were "spiritual, but not religious," and involved meditating and living "a vegan lifestyle, so respect the animal, we don't use leather, anything from the animal, we're against animal testing."

Leaflets
The eye-catching approach of Buonamico and Team Islam contrasted sharply with the approach of George Chaplin, 70, who stood quietly, clutching a few leaflets in his hand.

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When asked what religion he was with, he said Christian Science and then quickly stressed his church was nothing to do with Scientology.

"The message is really about individual potential," Chaplin said. "You see a lot in the Olympics about people doing outstanding things. Our message is each of us can do outstanding things in our own field -- potential from God, given to each of us."

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Chaplin, who lives near Cambridge, about 60 miles north of London, said they were there to give guidance to people who needed it, such as those from other countries who felt lonely or athletes who had failed to win a medal.

Image: George Chaplin, left, shares his Christian Science beliefs with passerby Barry McCalla outside Straford Bus Station.
Jim Seida  /  NBC News
George Chaplin, left, shares his Christian Science beliefs with passerby Barry McCalla outside Straford Bus Station in London on Thursday.

"I imagine they have really hard things to meet if something goes wrong with their particular event," he said.

'Ignoring each other'
Michael Virgo, 49, from Sheffield, was holding a sign saying that Jesus was "the way, the truth and the life."

Asked what denomination he was, Virgo said: "I'm not here to advertise a church, I'm here to advertise the Lord Jesus Christ."

"It's a bit windy. I'm having to hold the sign, which is making my arm very tired, but never mind," he admitted.

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Virgo was standing close to members of Team Islam and there appeared to be a somewhat frosty atmosphere.

"Earlier in the week, the Muslims were getting very argumentative and trying to convert us," he said. "The security people told them off and basically we're just ignoring each other."

Image: Michael Virgo
Jim Seida  /  NBC News
"I'm not here to advertise a church, I'm here to advertise the Lord Jesus Christ," says Michael Virgo.

Standing nearby, Jeyamani Rayappan, a preacher at the East Ham Tamil Church in East London, began saying forcefully that Christians were persecuted and killed in Saudi Arabia.

A member of Team Muslim who overheard him intervened politely to say the claim was "lies" and rolled his eyes, then walked away.

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Rayappan, wearing a yellow T-shirt saying "Jesus is coming very soon" and handing out Bibles in the Tamil and Hindi languages, told NBCNews.com that, "We're just saying Jesus is the only God."

Image: Jeyamani Rayappan
Jim Seida  /  NBC News
With Bibles in one hand and leaflets in the other, Jeyamani Rayappan works to get his message out to the tens of thousands of people traveling in and out of Olympic Park daily.

But not all of those with a message for Olympics fans were offering spiritual solace.

One woman said she had come because she wanted to help people "to be financially free."

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"People are suffering, people are under a lot of pressure. They are being worked so much -- like donkeys -- and achieving so little," she said, referring to the current financial downturn.

The woman explained that salvation from this crisis could come in the form of "network marketing."

"I'm offering you the opportunity to fulfil your goals," she told NBCNews.com.

However, after her attempt to sell the supposed money-making scheme failed, she declined to give her name or be photographed. "There's so much negativity when it comes to journalists," she said by way of explanation.

More London 2012 coverage:

As costly collectibles, Olympic torches are on fire

London's funny mayor is taken very seriously

When the Olympics and politics collide

Millionaire medalists: Does Olympic spirit live on?

One family's Olympic odyssey includes satellite dish, reindeer pelts

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Photos: Closing Ceremony

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  1. The Spice Girls perform during the Closing Ceremony. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fireworks explode during the finale of the Closing Ceremony. (Bernd Thissen / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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  8. Artists perform during the Closing Ceremony. (Adrian Dennis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  10. Brazilian singer BNegao performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who perform during the Closing Ceremony. (Scott Heavey / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Artists perform during the Closing Ceremony. (Julian Finney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Brian May of Queen performs alongside Jessie J during the Closing Ceremony. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Marisa Monte performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Julian Finney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Musician Annie Lennox performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. DJ Fatboy Slim performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. An athlete holds the British flag during the Closing Ceremony. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  19. Model Kate Moss performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Acrobats peform during the Closing Ceremony. (Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. British comedian Russell Brand performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  23. Spanish athletes parade during the Closing Ceremony. (Matt Dunham / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Performers take part in the Closing Ceremony. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Artist George Michael performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Performers dance beneath a video of John Lennon during the Closing Ceremony. (Bernd Thissen / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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  28. Performers cheer during the Closing Ceremony. (Jae C. Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A British military marching band performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Sergei Grits / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A general view of the Closing Ceremony. (Scott Heavey / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. One Direction performs during the Closing Ceremony. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A general view of the stadium as a Union Jack is formed during the Closing Ceremony. (Rob Carr / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Timothy Spall plays the role of Winston Churchill during the Closing Ceremony. (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Emeli Sande performs 'Read All About It' during the Closing Ceremony. (Matt Slocum / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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