Security fears on the streets of London ahead of Olympics
WITH a week to go to the start of the biggest sporting event in the world, there is barely a street in London untouched by the Games.
From Hounslow in the west to Dagenham in the east, and Croydon in the south to Enfield in the north, the capital is criss-crossed with Union flags and Olympic banners.
Many of those streets will form part of the route for the Olympic torch on the last stage of a journey from Greece that has taken in most of the UK and will end at the stadium in Stratford next Friday.
However, the Games have not yet been taken to the hearts of many Londoners. In fact, the concerns about security and transport led mayor Boris Johnson to tell some Londoners yesterday to “put a sock in it”.
While it is expected to generate £16.5 million for the London economy, the less positive face of the Olympics are the extra policemen at every Tube station and troops on the streets.
This week, taxi drivers held a protest over the controversial Olympic lanes for athletes and VIPs, and almost every major road into the city has signs telling drivers to avoid using their cars during the Games.
But then on the London Underground – a network that creaks at the best of times – signs have gone up telling commuters to avoid using many of the stations.
The Tube map on the getaheadofthegames.com website shows 24 red hotspots that will be “exceptionally busy” and more than 50 others that will be “busier than usual”.
As an indication of what merely “busier than usual” means, one such station, West Ham, has posters telling people to not use it unless they are going to a Games venue.
Other areas to avoid include much of the Central Line at stops such as Oxford Circus and Bond Street, which are always popular with visitors, or most of the Jubilee line from Stratford through Canary Wharf and Westminster up to St John’s Wood near Lord’s cricket ground where the archery will take place.
The travel concerns have led many people to ignore the publicity campaign for them to stay in the city and back the athletes. Richard Semmens, a professional in his early 30s from Notting Hill, said his first thought was “to get as far away as possible”.
But he said one of the biggest causes of anger in London has been the difficulty in getting hold of any of the nine million tickets. And with an extra 400,000 recently going on sale, he admitted he might now stay “if I can get a ticket”.
Mr Johnson urged naysayers to look at the positive impact the Olympics are bringing, rather than being gripped in a “paralysing stage fright”.
“We’ve got an advanced case of Olympo-funk,” he said. “We agonise about the traffic, when our transport systems are performing well and the world’s athletes are arriving on time. We worry about security when we always planned to have a strong military role in making our Games as safe as possible.
“We gnaw our fingernails about the blinking weather, when it seems to be brightening up a bit – and anyway, it’s England in July for goodness sake and a spot of rain never hurt anyone.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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