London ready despite nerves: Mayor

Transport issues flare up four days before opening ceremony.


Agencies July 23, 2012

LONDON:


London Mayor Boris Johnson insisted the city was ready to host the 2012 Olympics despite a national outbreak of pre-match nerves.


Johnson said Britain was feeling the necessary tension before a big performance, as the clock ticks down to Friday’s opening ceremony on the Olympic Park in east London.

He said the venues were safe and the transport system was bearing up despite a week dominated in Britain by fears over travel chaos and gaps in security.

“So far the traffic system and transport networks generally are holding up well,” Johnson told the BBC. “Possibly what we’re going though at the moment as a nation, as a city, is that necessary, pre-curtain-up moment of psychological self-depression before the excitement begins on Friday when the curtain goes up for the Games to begin. It is only natural that people should be tense, that they should be expectant.”

Former prime minister Tony Blair, who was in charge when London won the right to host the Games in 2005, backed the view that the Olympics would boost Britain and promote it to the world.

“This is the global sporting event, the reason why people compete so hotly to get it is because of what it does for a country,” Blair told Sky News.

Flame continues its journey

Meanwhile, the Olympic flame, making a seven-day tour around the capital that culminates at the opening ceremony, was given a trip on the London Eye observation wheel.

The flame was being carried through east London on Sunday before being taken across the River Thames, with former world heavyweight champion boxer Lennox Lewis and Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang among the torchbearers. London Games chairman Sebastian Coe insisted the choice of the person to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony was not his call, but a joint decision taken alongside the show’s creative directors.

Transport trouble four days from Games

Severe disruptions hit three of the main rail links to the Olympic Park in east London early on Monday, four days before the start of the Games, in the latest transport fiasco to raise anxiety levels in the British capital.

Adding to the stress factor, the labour union announced industrial action by staff in some parts of the city’s transport network during the Games to demand bonuses in recognition of the extra work involved.

The Monday morning rush hour seemed to confirm their worst fears as they were met with  announcements over the speaker system that the Central Line was suspended on its busiest stretch while the Jubilee Line was running at a snail’s pace.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012. 

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