Gripes about the Olympic Games
With just three weeks to go until the start of the world's greatest sporting event, you'd expect Londoners to be getting excited, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. Despite a relentlessly upbeat tone from the government, most London residents are anticipating this summer's Olympics with a mix of eye-rolling resignation, grumpiness and nervousness. Here are some of the reasons why.
London's traffic is already bad enough
The city's busy public transport system more or less does its job but it's already stretched close to capacity. The idea of visitors clogging up the networks even more is bringing London commuters out in a cold sweat. Car drivers will fare little better, as lanes of major roads will be closed to everyday traffic during the games and reserved exclusively for athletes and Olympic VIPs.
Prices are going up
London has never been the cheapest city, but the arrival of the Olympics has so far promised to push up living costs further. Already, the London borough of Newham, where the Olympic Park is located, is considering moving claimants of the housing benefit (a welfare payment that subsidises rents for people on low incomes) to cities in the north of England. The Olympic borough says that local rents have risen so much that it can no longer afford its welfare bill.
Security risks are scary, but so are measures against them
Olympic security bosses are planning to station a missile-bearing aircraft carrier on the Thames, while residents of an East London block of flats have woken up to find gun turrets opposite their windows and even rockets dumped on their doorstep (though they turned out to be dummies). While security threats to the Games aren't imaginary, the idea of deploying major military hardware in a city is giving many people a fright.
The weather is unreliable
Londoners are used to their city's unpredictable weather, which often involves downpours in summer and droughts in winter. But when outsiders have to suffer it as well, Londoners get a little embarrassed. Watching the Wimbledon tennis championship being rained off annually is already bad enough, and some people would rather they kept the possible woes of an English summer to themselves.
Tourists may stay away
London thrives on tourists, and its citizens are usually quite helpful to them. The problem is that many fear that while the Olympics will attract sport lovers, it may deter others who will stay away to avoid congestion - leaving London traders out of pocket. Last year, the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber warned that summer bookings for London's theatreland were already so low that it "faced a bloodbath".
London is a very big city
Big cities don't need to import extra excitement, as they create a fizzing excess of the stuff, day in, day out. Everyday life in London is already so strenuous and interesting that while its residents are often tired, they're rarely bored. Try injecting a little Olympic excitement into the lives of these blasé, world-weary types and you're unlikely to give them more than one vague pleasure: having something new to complain about.
It’s not all badWhile many Londoners have yet to be sold on the Games, most people will be able to look back and remember something they really appreciated, such as …
- Sport: Obviously, no one should forget that this is what the Games are really about – talented, dedicated people showing just how phenomenal the human race can be when it really tries. The sight of the world’s amateur athletes showing their total commitment to sporting excellence will surely set anyone’s pulse racing, even stressed Londoners battling price hikes and congestion.
- Culture: The London 2012 Festival is running alongside the Games, and what a beauty it is. A massive celebration of the arts, it has a genuinely fantastic programme of cultural events despite its fairly modest budget. Strands such as the World Shakespeare Festival, which stages the playwright’s 39 plays in 39 different languages, have achieved the miraculous result of getting even sport haters excited about London’s Olympic summer.
- Money: No one turns their nose up at a few extra pounds. Taxi drivers, restaurateurs and shopkeepers well positioned for Olympic events should do very well this summer. Londoners who want to escape all the hoo-ha, meanwhile, can still make a killing by letting their flats out on sites such as www.Airbnb.com at excellent rates.
- Investment: When the athletes and tourists depart and the dust clears, London will be left with some world-class sporting facilities, some much-needed affordable housing in the ex-Olympic Park and new green parkland flanking East London’s once semi-derelict River Lea. If things start looking up for this long neglected corner of London, everyone will be cheering in the end.
The Summer Olympics will be held from July 27 to August 12
Updated: July 5, 2012 04:00 AM