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It’s a crisis. It’s a complete disaster. It’s not just a shambles out there, people; it’s an Olympic omnishambles.
The Games are six days away and nothing works, absolutely everything is broken and the only solution is to cancel the event and send all those arriving at Heathrow straight back home on the next available flight.
Why? Because according to reports, any fool venturing into London will die of carbon monoxide poisoning as they sit in month-long traffic jams. Or drown in their body sweat on overcrowded Tube trains. Or sink into oblivion trying to negotiate the mud flats otherwise known as the Olympic Park.
The mobile phone networks will fail, the internet will collapse into a black hole in cyberspace, pickpockets will steal everything, including your kidneys, and the entire country will end up bankrupt. It’s a nightmare – and all because of the Games. You have been warned!
Welcome to the pre-opening ceremony of the London Olympics, a spectacle staged under the Latin motto Nos faciem malignus fatum, which loosely translates as ‘We’re doomed’.
This is what Britain does before any major event. The country moans en masse. We predict the worst. We produce a Doomsday Book of impending disasters and then imagine extra problems just so we can moan a bit more.
Read the papers, turn on the radio or try the television news and it’s moan, moan, Olympics, moan. The outlook could not be gloomier if Huw Edwards were reading the weather forecast.
Carping and whining is the order of the day. But can I just make one request of the Olympic complainers? Shut up. That’s right. Shut up. Cheer yourselves up or put a sock in it.
There are some aspects of the London Games that deserve scorn, such as the private security firm fiasco and the unresolved issue of what happens to the stadium after the Games.
But the country has gone way beyond expressing reasonable doubts on specific issues. People are now complaining for the sake of it, moaning on and on about every tiny aspect of daily life in London – and then blaming it all on the Olympics.
The Games haven’t started yet. There is a last-minute dash to make sure all the pieces are in place for the most complex, detailed and demanding party staged not just in sport, but anywhere. A Royal wedding is a village fete by comparison. At a World Cup, everyone plays football. The Olympics is 36 different world championships being staged simultaneously.
But because it hasn’t started yet, and nature abhors a vacuum, the empty space has been filled with the sound of non-stop moaning. Just look at some of the so-called ‘calamities’ that we are told ‘threaten the Games’.
A bus took a wrong turn this week. Yes, that’s right. A driver with a faulty satellite navigation system went the wrong way while shuttling American athletes from Heathrow Airport to the Olympic Park. Somehow, this made it to the top of the news agenda and the front page of one newspaper.
Had the man behind the wheel driven his vehicle off the cliffs at Beachy Head in his confusion, I could have understood.
Instead, he merely took the wrong exit road, stopped, looked at a map, found the correct route and completed his journey. But when one athlete on board whined about this via Twitter the story took on a life of its own.
Former world champion 400 metres hurdler Kerron Clement complained: “Um, so we’ve been lost on the road for 4hrs. Not a good first impression London”.
Obviously, London only exists to impress Clement. But it transpired the journey took a little over two hours, not four. And the runner might not be the most reliable witness anyway, since a day later he announced: “In Wales. I’m so loving this city…” Yes, welcome to the city of Wales, Kerron, in that great country of London.
So, one bus out of 100 or more took a wrong turn. One athlete out of around 10,500 from 204 nations landing in London during Britain’s biggest peacetime transport operation complained. And this was enough for the moaners to say, “See? I told you so!”
London always has traffic jams. There was a stinker at the Blackwall Tunnel on Friday. There is always a jam at the Blackwall Tunnel, but the difference this time is that it was because of the Olympics and Mayor Boris Johnson. And there’ll be more jams during the three weeks of the 2012 Games. But so what? Don’t drive unless you have to.
The public transport works. This week I timed how long it would take to get from the Houses of Parliament to the Olympic Park in east London. The Tube took 19 minutes to Stratford on the Jubilee Line. On the way back, I jumped on the new Javelin train and I’d barely settled in my seat when we arrived at St Pancras seven minutes later. If that were Japan or France we’d be saying how brilliant it was. Here, we just grumble that it’ll probably break down at some point.
When Sydney hosted the Games, more than a quarter of the city took annual leave, another quarter changed their working hours and more than a fifth worked from home. They enjoyed their Olympics. Try it too, London. Go to the concerts, the festivals and in the parks and the different spectacles staged along the Thames. Put a prawn on the barbie. If you’re in a flood zone, it’ll probably swim right up to your door.
No, you can’t drive in them. Boo hoo. They are annoying, but they are a necessary evil. They’ve been at every Olympics and London is no different. Did you think staging the world’s biggest sporting event would cause no disruption whatsoever? Or did you believe Usain Bolt really runs to the start line just like he does in that advert?
It might rain. I believe there has been the odd spit and spot of the stuff lately. But if it does, try not to panic. Wear a waterproof mac, or put on some wellies if you are heading to a field. But don’t go on and on about it. We live in a country where it rains on occasion. Weather happens. And although the meteorological process is often considered page one news at the Daily Express, the rest of us can probably stay calm and carry on. The sun will come out for the Olympics anyway. Just so Londoners can then complain it’s “too hot”.
Opening Ceremony Fears
This will be the world’s most-watched television event. One billion will tune in to Danny Boyle’s curtain-raiser. But we hear the show has already been “slashed” by 30 minutes. I know, it’s unbelievable, isn’t it? What a disgrace. A performance we have very little prior knowledge of is about to have some of those unknown scenes shortened to make sure it doesn’t overrun. Now, we may never see what we didn’t know we were going to see in the first place. And I, for one, am furious. I’ll have to make do with just the three hours and a finish time around midnight.
This certainly has, on the face of it, been a mess. Private security contractors G4S are short of around 1,500 temporary guards. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the recruits, mainly students and habitual part-timers, decided they could do without being paid the pittance on offer.
So our squaddies, who have no choice, are covering the deficit and sleeping on chairs shoved together on site. The Olympic Park is now filled with the incongruous sight of soldiers in full camouflage pulling on high-visibility vests.
None of it is ideal. It’s been bungled. But, if anything, Olympic security is tighter with the military in place than it was when we relied on Colin, a student of international tourism management at the University of East London, to master the X-ray scanner.
Some have even moaned about the fact there are twice as many soldiers at the Olympics than in Afghanistan. Let’s ask the 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment where they would rather be deployed? On patrol in Helmand Province, dodging snipers and landmines, or keeping an eye on proceedings at the women’s beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade.
Some mistakes have been made. For instance, the ground-to-air missiles stationed in east London seem superfluous. All the organisers had to do was ask the locals for help.
In the event of any security threat, residents in east London could have been alerted by text message and simply reached for their handguns and fired at any incoming object from their windows, as is traditional in many neighbourhoods. It would have saved a few bob.
So, if you can hear me above the deafening whine of moaning, shall we let the Games begin? It is a wonderful spectacle and a chance to showcase some of the best of Britain to the world.
Of course something will go wrong. There’ll be a glitch here and there, hopefully nothing more. Some idiot will undoubtedly try to disrupt an event, people will have to queue to get home, something will break – that stuff happens. I’ll be among the first to report any genuine botches as they happen at the Games, too.
But I’m not going in with a miserable scowl. This is an enormous festival, a sporting and cultural event that will live in history for ever.
If you believe everything is a complete waste of time, money and energy, then it’s your right to say so. But you’ve pretty much done that, I’d say. So can you shut your face now and let the rest of us enjoy the bash?
The truth is, Britain loves a grumble. But most moan and gripe right up to the point when the actual event begins – and then wave their Union flags like crazy in celebration. So come on. It’s time. Let’s enjoy ourselves. – Daily Mail