England / Europe / London / Olympic Games / Paralympic Games / Sport / World Events

On to the Olympics, Let the Good Times Roll?

The news was dominated by the Queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee but now that it is over the focus has shifted back to the Olympics.  I’m not sure what the impression of the upcoming games are internationally but here they are proving to be a big source of contention.  Many are not looking forward to these games.

The torch is making its way around the country and will settle in London on 27 July.  The city is buzzing but many Londoners aren’t thinking ‘can’t wait for this to start!‘  They are grumbling ‘is it too late to give the games to Paris?’  You can chalk that up to the self deprecating British way of being.  Expecting the worse of the games so that they can be surprised when it isn’t a complete mess.  While I’m sure that partially explains it, that isn’t the whole story.

Like all cities that host the Olympics budgets are blown, corporations take over, and societal problems are swept under a giant rug which is then flattened out for tourists to walk all over on their way to spending money.  If you are paying attention to UK news you will know England still isn’t doing so well on the economic front.  There is huge focus on economic woes and a huge spectacle of sport won’t budge that.  Besides that there are other valid concerns but what are they and will they overshadow the games?

1. Security

We live in precarious times.  Glee pollutes our televisions and people who can’t sing have singing careers.  Joking aside security is a huge headache that comes along with putting on these games.  There is a very real potential threat of terrorism.  London won the bid for the games on 6 July 2005.  A day later terrorists detonated bombs on the tube and buses.  The security budget for these games has risen time and time again.  It also seems as though parts of London will be heavy policed during the games and may leave other areas vulnerable for criminals to take advantage.

2. Displacement

The Olympic park is located in east London.  Residents in the area have had to deal with shady landlords trying to cash in on this.  People have been asked to leave their homes during the games or face higher rent.  The private rented market here is not regulated at all and while tenants are decently protected landlords are still able to get around the law fairly easily it seems in some cases.  While I’m sure residents can contest this treatment, it would be a long and drawn out process.  Some homelessness charities are finally acting and trying to address this issue.

 3. Employment

Unemployment, especially youth unemployment is very high.  The games are supposed to bring much needed cash flow into London and that hasn’t really happened thus far.  To stay on some sort of budget tons of volunteers have been recruited.  Only recently have I seen jobs being advertised for the games.  It would appear that the sponsors are the ones who will be cashing in.

4. Transportation

The London Underground is already heavily used and struggles to run a good service as it is.  Add throngs of tourists and I’m sure it will just pack up on itself.  There have been many flyers sent out to warn everyone to expect severe delays.  I personally don’t have to use the tube for travel to work but I know many who do and I do not envy them during those 3 weeks.  In recent weeks there have been many reports of tube malfunctions with commuters having to walk on tracks to exit.  Let’s hope the tube upgrades hold and there are no major interruptions during the games.

5. Failure

What if we suck?!  What if the opening ceremonies go terribly wrong, or we fail to take home the most gold or ANY gold?  While this is farther down on the list of important things to worry about I think Brits as I said before are expecting the worse to avoid disappointment.  Personally I’d be happy for the games to be held anywhere else, but the show must go on.

The concerns I mentioned are valid and will continue to loom on the minds of Londoners.  I predict that once the games start and things appear to be going ok people will come together and show their support.  It is very possible that everything will run well with few snags.  Tourists and residents alike will enjoy the games and go about their days like normal.  But the minute one thing goes wrong I can already hear the collective ‘we told you so’.

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4 thoughts on “On to the Olympics, Let the Good Times Roll?

  1. Staying THE HELL AWAY from the central area for most of July & August. Already avoid it like the plague most of the time as it is; definitely not doing it to myself during the Olympics. Lucky to not have to use the Tube for work, thank goodness; bus all the way.

    • I have yet to speak to anyone (who lives here) who is looking forward to the games. I will also be staying away from central which should be fairly easy to do. I did find out recently however that the torch will be making an appearance up my street which is kind of cool.

  2. Great post. Sums up the key issues for the Olympics and Londoners really well.

    So, from afar, how do we view the Games? As a Brit myself, when they beat Paris to host the Games, I was so proud. Then the bombings happened the next day and the rest of the world collectively went “Oh my”. Security is a massive concern but I think the economy has since overtaken that.

    I know that my pals and colleagues here can’t understand why the fuss with the Jubilee then the Olympics when there is such economic strife over there. And the additional days off and public holidays. It doesn’t seem to tie in with a need to get the economy moving again. I guess they couldn’t predict this a few years back but, still, it doesn’t look good from afar. I think the transportation looks like it will be a problem (recent issues at Heathrow and in London for the Jubilee).

    In terms of medals, I think we’ll do well. Enough money has been spent to ensure that. Some people will still be negative planning, as you say, for the worst but we’ll go okay. I am kind of envious that you’ll be there for it 😉

    • Thanks Russell. It is nice to know how it comes across in other countries and I find it interesting that your colleagues and friends are questioning our focus on the jubilee and olympics. I would say it is the government who is concentrating on those things trying to encourage others to do the same. Probably for a distraction from the terrible job they are doing.

      I must report however that I have spoke to one Londoner on the weekend who is excited for the games. He’s not going to any events but is looking forward to parties, lol. I am getting a bit excited now that I know the torch is coming up my street.

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