London makes a shaky start in Olympic image stakes
Negative headlines keep on coming as athletes pour into London for Games
THE OLYMPICS are only ten days away, but the excitement that accompanies the arrival of the competitors in London has not staunched the flow of negative headlines in Britain and beyond.
There were horror stories yesterday of travel chaos for athletes and officials while the security fiasco rolled on. As The Independent put it: "The host city began shakily in the most punishing 2012 event of all: the Olympic image hurdles."
- Heathrow got off relatively lightly on day one. Although some 237,000 people came through the airport there were few delays at immigration. According to the Financial Times, the aiport "proved its mettle on Monday as it delivered hundreds of Olympians from gate to ground transport with speed and efficiency".
- It didn’t go so smoothly on the roads. The dedicated Olympic lanes caused confusion on the roads not only for ordinary motorists but also for the official drivers," reported The Times. There were reports of 32-mile tailbacks on the M4.
- Some coach drivers tasked with delivering athletes from Heathrow into London had never driven in the capital before. American hurdler Kerron Clement was on a coach that took four hours to travel the 25 miles to east London. "Um, so we've been lost on the road for 4hrs. Not a good first impression London," he wrote. "Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee. Could we get to the Olympic Village please."
- "All I needed was to travel to Mayfair and I had the Monopoly board covered," wrote Australian media liaison officer Daman Kelly in The Daily Telegraph of his journey to Stratford. He and around 30 other members of the Australian team waited two hours for a coach from Heathrow and then went on a magical mystery tour of London. "It wasn't until we headed down a one-way street about 90 minutes into the trip that we all started to get a little worried... The driver, a terrific and friendly guy from Dublin, declared he was lost – he didn’t how the GPS in his bus worked and, in any case, the Olympic Village wasn’t loaded on it."
- The G4S secrity problems continued as it was revealed in The Guardian that "hundreds of police officers from nine forces across England have been drafted in to fill gaps in Olympic security after staff the company was meant to supply failed to turn up for work”. In Manchester, police were forced to fill in after only 17 of an expected 56 G4S staff turned up for work at an Olympic team hotel in Salford.
- London's troubles have not gone unnoticed overseas. ABC News in America reported on "potential cracks in the $2 billion Olympic security plan" and cited a report that claimed "there are many new, hastily trained guards at the airport who sometimes do not question travellers as diligently as they should".
- Der Spiegel in Germany said that British Marines were having to "cancel their holidays" to provide security at the Games after the failings of G4S and found it "humiliating". It added that there was anger at the "militarisation" of the Games.