a city through the eyes of a girl who's not sure how she ended up here

Monday, 23 July 2012

Less than a week to go: The Olympic countdown

Ok, I can no longer ignore what's going on all around me in this city, much though the girl who's worried about how much slower her daily commute is about to get wishes that I could. Whilst the LED screen around the top of the BT Tower has been counting down the days until London's Olympic Games since the numbers were in the hundreds, with less than a week to go it all seems to have got more real suddenly. On Friday 27th July London will formally open the 2012 Olympic Games, with a show featuring an industrial mill, peasant-costumed actors and apparently 70 live sheep. (This can only go well.)  The action will already have kicked off in earnest a couple of days before however, and so the city is already witnessing an influx of tourists, sports fans and international athletes, who seem to have an amusing habit of getting lost on tour buses between Heathrow airport and the Olympic site out in East London.
There seem to be two different Olympic opinions shared by Londoners right now. The first is that the Olympics is going to be great, exciting, an opportunity to showcase our city at its brightest and best, a boon to tourism and the wider economy now and for years to come. The second is that the Olympics is a horrifying waste of money, and is about to bugger up the lives of millions of Londoners who are just desperately trying to continue their daily routines, only now they have an influx of a few hundred thousand lost tourists accompanying them on their regular Tube ride to work. Even the New York Times has picked up on the latter of these attitudes, recently publishing an article on the world-class bitching and whingeing of disgruntled Londoners. And another similar article published in the NYT back in March described our new Olympic host city as 'like a cranky father compelled to host a party for his teenage daughter — awkward, uncomfortable and simmering with barely concealed fury at the ghastly, noisy interlopers who insist on having a good time'.  Well may the American press smugly gloat and comment...were it not for us taking the financial bullet of hospitality, the 2012 Olympics might have been held in New York City.

But London won the bid and so here we are.  Three days to go.  And having solidly clung to the pessimism of an anticipated gridlocked city and a colossal expenditure for very little reward, I will admit that as the Games draw nearer I am feeling a little excited.  Maybe not excited actually, but I am enjoying the feeling of being in the midst of the action.  Working for a company that has been involved in turning a scrubby patch of Stratford into a shiny new Olympic Park, somehow, while I was busy groaning about it all, I have got caught up in the vastness of this project - something that I am unlikely to witness taking shape ever again.  So for now I am feeling expectant and hoping that my earlier fears will be unrealised.  Even the sunshine has finally put in an appearance as London appears before the world.  But will either the sunshine or my good mood dissipate over the next few weeks?  Watch this space... 

9 comments:

  1. You have my sympathies. Liverpool during capital of culture was bad, so this will definitely be x100 worse. But what were they thinking using live animals at the opening ceremony?

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    1. What I want to know is where they're keeping them until the opening ceremony; a nearby city farm? I hope they're not in roasting hot containers...like the Park's cleaning staff.

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  2. I'm just (at this very late stage) starting to feel rather keen on the Olympics, having grouched and grumbled about them for the past 5 years!
    I haven't been out much in the city but when I have been out, I haven't found any congestion. Obviously haven't been to the wrong places.

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    1. Oddly enough all the buses were very empty this evening...maybe everyone was stuck on the Tube! Maybe the Olympic disruption is the new London urban legend, Jenny. Experienced by a friend of a friend but never oneself.

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  3. I kind of know what you are going through, only on a much smaller scale. My current city, Kansas City, Missouri, USA, hosted the All Star Game for major league baseball a couple weeks ago. They had been planning it over over a year, and everyone was talking about how Kansas City will have at least the national lime light, blah blah blah. I have to admit i was excited about it, but I wanted to all to be over at the same time. Luckily, Kansas City survived, no major catastrophes occurred, and Kansas City can now go back to being that random mid-American city with the awful baseball team, and a marginally worse football team. (I am not originally from KC, which is why I can even comprehend saying that). It was interesting to see the blimp with the giant TV on it showing All Star Game highlights floating above the stadium for 6 days though.
    Good luck on navigating the Olympics! I will be one of the thousands tuned in on the other side of the pond.

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    1. Glad to hear Kansas City's still standing! I hope London will be by the autumn. It is odd how long cities prepare for an event like the Olympics or an All Star Game, and then after a couple of weeks it's all over, and the city goes back to normal. Happy watching over there, afreund!

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  4. I can't wait! I am so excited. We managed to get some last minute tickets and I have never been to the Olympics. It is going to be fab...Did you get tickets? Will I see you there?

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  5. I’ve been excited about the Games right from the beginning. I think the prediction that London will come to a standstill are hugely overrated and, let’s face it, the city could do with the money tourism brings. The transport infrastructure has received huge investment to help get people to the events (extensions to the DLR with longer trains, the revamped and extended London Overground, the fabulous Javelin trains that will transport spectators to the Park non-stop from St Pancras in minutes, a transformed hub at Stratford, to name but a few). Besides, schools are now off which always reduces the usual transport scrum during peak times by about 20% and most people visiting the events will be travelling against the prevailing rush hour traffic anyway. Tomorrow’s opening ceremony will be the acid test but I can’t see it being much different from the annual FA cup final at Wembley. The numbers are about the same. Brits just love to whinge. It’s a national pastime along with the weather. And for those that just really can’t bear it, why not take a holiday?

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    1. Well so far so good....I've not experienced any problems moving about the place, and weirdly London feels very empty and peaceful. Maybe lots of people have fled the city for a holiday to avoid it all. But are they actually missing out on rather a lot of fun?

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