Friday, July 20, 2012

Olympic chaos

Why do cities fight over who is to host the Olympic Games? Is it really worth the hassle? London would have been much better off if they had let Paris have them, sit by, enjoy, and watch Paris go bankrupt. Four years after the event Athens is still trying to recover. Is it worth the supposed kudos? The opening is only a few days away now and the buzz word is ‘CHAOS!’ The main road from Heathrow Airport to central London was closed for repairs but has reopened. But, more important, a huge question mark hangs over the security arrangements. The company contracted at enormous cost has failed to come up with its full quota of personnel and is reputedly signing on teenagers as security! Meanwhile the government is drafting in 3500 soldiers to help out and athletes are already arriving though it might take them, we are informed, about two hours to get through security. Law courts in the country have had their cases postponed because of the number of police drafted to London so the next question is, even though the venues themselves may be well guarded against terrorist attacks, what about the rest of the country? Bombs going off elsewhere, Birmingham or Manchester say, or any other major city, will have just as devastating an effect. But the possible acts of terrorism will not be confined to the UK. There has already been one incident. The president of Libya's Olympic committee, Nabil Elalem, is reported to have been abducted in Tripoli. According to eyewitness he was in his car with a colleague when two vehicles carrying armed men forced him to stop. A spokesman for Libya's Olympics commission told a Libyan TV channel that the men had claimed to be from the army and asked Mr. Elalem "politely" to go with them. His colleague was left in the car.
Thousands of athletes and officials have begun arriving in London for the Olympic Games, as questions remain about recruitment of security staff.
Preparations are intensifying just a few days before the opening ceremony. The first priority "Games Lane" has begun operation on the M4 - the main route from Heathrow Airport The rest of the 30 miles of dedicated lanes in the Olympic Route Network (ORN) will be operational by the middle of next week, with heavy fines for those who misuse them. All road users will be able to go into the lanes when they are not in use overnight. Kevin Delaney, from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the lanes could exacerbate traffic problems in the capital. “If anything goes wrong with the central and inner London transport network, we tend to get a wholly disproportionate amount of congestion - and so the Games lanes themselves will actually impose serious constraints on this already stretched network,” he told BBC Radio 5 live. The Olympic drug testing lab starts work. The biggest anti-doping operation in the history of the Olympics has begun. Speaking to BBC News channel, London mayor Boris Johnson said: “London is as ready, in fact readier than any Olympic city has ever been at this stage in proceedings.” Heathrow Airport is standing by to process as many as 120,000 passengers a day, about 10,000 more than would be normal for this time of year. Already hundreds of athletes have been welcomed through Terminal 4 by a huge crew of smiling, garishly-dressed Olympic volunteers - and  armed police with sniffer dogs!

The Mayor of London said: “It's absolutely vital that we get the message across these Games are going to be very safe, very secure. Obviously you can never be complacent about security, you can never take anything for granted - and huge amounts of work continue to be done, particularly on the intelligence side, to make sure that we have anticipated every conceivable threat - but London will be very, very safe.” Fine, all well and good – but what about outside London?
Of course there will be many who can’t wait to get on the gravy train. For example someone we know who spends the occasional night in London used to stay in a bed and breakfast in Hackney, normally charging £28. When he called recently to book a room guess what! The nightly charge is now £320! Hopefully their bookings will be few and far between. A few years back I wrote a novel ‘The Journeys We Make’ all about a mother and her daughters leaving London for warmer climes to escape the 1948 London Olympic Games. I wonder how many Londoners have left to escape these.

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