London will host the 2012 Olympics. Does anyone else see the elephant in the room?
China’s coming out party was the 2008 Beijing Olympics. London has the dubious honor of following this unprecedented extravaganza.
First thought: also ran
Second thought: world economic bust
Third thought: why couldn’t Paris have won?
So the London Olympic powers that be, such as LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games), have scratched their heads to find a workable angle to avoid looking like Atlanta following Barcelona.
Here are the facts:
• London can’t out-glitz Beijing. Not going to happen. Ostentatious exuberance is just not part of British fabric. To be British is to be reserved, stoic, controlled. Over the top fireworks just aren’t in keeping with British National culture.
• Where-o-where has all the money gone? The £ 2 billion funding for the Organizing Committee was earmarked to come from the private sector through sponsorship, media rights and merchandise sales. But, the huge shortfall is falling in the government’s lap. Oh, bloody dear, the government is currently busy hosting their own MP EWH (economic witch hunt). Bad timing matched by bad timing.
• For the bloke walking down the Strand, his #1 concern is “don’t embarrass us”. As one Brit commented referring to the Millennium Bridge project: “our track record on completing construction projects on time has been [expletive deleted] poor.”
July 27th will mark “3 years to go” until the opening ceremony. I was in London last week to document progress.
Construction is on schedule. The stadium is looking like a stadium. The aquatic center is coming along. Piers are planted for the Village. So, everything is hunky-dory, right?
Transportation is a major, major, major issue. OK. You get the point. Huge issue.
• Heathrow Airport, the tired ol’ girl, will have to carry the bulk of international visitors. When I asked Adrian Bassett of LOCOG if there were plans to expand and renovate the facilities, his facial expression said: “What’s wrong with Heathrow?” Other than BA’s terminal 5, Adrian, everything. His response was “We have four other airports around London to carry traffic.” And, how many international visitors, other than Europeans, will be arriving via Luton Airport?
• The Tube is good news and bad news. The District and Circle lines are WWII vintage. In summary…worn out. Keep in mind, Stratford, the main Olympic venue, is located in far east London off the Central and DLR (Docklands Light Rail) lines. The cost for a single subway ride is excessive at £ 4.00 ($6.38). The Oyster Card provides some relief, but how will visitors know to buy it? Car traffic will be prohibited (that’s the good news). Mass transit, walking and biking are the means to get to and from the complex. Sure, I can see Mr. and Mrs. USA peddling over from Covent Gardens. What we have here is a heart attack in progress.
The Heathrow Express between the airport and London Paddington is awesome and so is the cost at £ 20.00 ($31.84) one way. I almost choked. Imagine a family of four or, be conservative, a couple having a $60.00+ ride just to get to a station where they will need to spend more money to go to a hotel or an event location.
Weekend Tube maintenance turns a subway ride into an X-box labyrinth game. Line after line is shut down for repair. Only the skilled find their way back home. Those without Tube Maps will be found on Monday morning wandering the halls in a starvation coma.
London will give a bully good show on opening day. I am convinced. OK. I’m hopeful for the sake of our cousins across the pond. As Paul Deighton, LOCOG Chief said, “We’ll be better by being less flashy. We’ll employ ‘inverse one-upmanship’”. Paul, do you really think the world will buy that?
In the face of adversity, who can pull it off better than the Brits? Winston, where are you when we need you?