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Rant Blog: Biggest Olympics fears, gripes and moans

23rd Jul 12 12:01 am

I hate to sound pessimistic, but…

I’m happy about the Olympics happening here – I really am. I’ve been a cheerleader for it ever since we won the bid, countering doom-mongering arguments with Keanu-Reeves-in-the-Matrix-like nimbleness.

But over the last couple of months a few niggling doubts have grown and grown into big old belligerent beasts, and I can’t hold it in any more. There are some things about “the greatest Olympics on earth” that are absolutely terrifying me. And even more things that are seriously, desperately, wall-punchingly-irritatingly narking me right off.

Londoners, we are a nation of moaners. So let the moaning be unleashed, and join me in an unrelenting ululation of woe. (Then hopefully we can get back to being positive again. Maybe.)

Security shambles – it’s even worse than you think!

Aside from the fact that G4S completely ballsed up the security contract by not having enough people, as recently as last Sunday it still hadn’t told temporary security staff what days, where or even if they’d be working at the Games. Yup, I had that straight from one of the temporary worker’s mouths a measly 12 days before the Games begin. Bodes well for the general organisational state of Games security, doesn’t it?

Travel Armageddon, as mismanaged by “a bunch of Soho media tw*ts”

A senior army bod told me over an indiscrete pint of Pimms recently that travel during the Olympics will be a “f*cking nightmare” because it was “being organised by a bunch of Soho media tw*ts”, who chose 20 people for a brainstorm over one manager to make a call on anything.

The same senior army bod said he and his military colleagues had several times raised questions such as: How exactly are you going to accommodate the one million extra people expected in London on the tube and buses? Are there going to be lots of extra tubes and buses running? Have you employed extra drivers for these tasks? And extra staff to manage the extra people moving in and around the stations?

All of which the Soho media tw*ts would invariably reply: “They’ll walk.”

“Really? Really?” Mused senior army bod and I. You really think one million extra people, VISITORS to London, with potentially no familiarity with the city whatsoever, are going to opt to navigate its more than 600 square miles by foot? Like he said: Soho media tw*ts.

To make matters worse, TfL has plastered over all the usual tube signage that London residents use on a daily basis with big pink stickers pointing you in the direction of things like “Hyde Park” or “Pall Mall”, even though such locations might be a mile or two away. A couple of days after they did this, I happened to come up from the underground at Victoria and was looking for my exit. Except I couldn’t see the sign thanks to bloody pink stickers right over the top of it. Fellow travellers were clearly experiencing the same issue. Cue a mass of bunching of London residents stopping immediately after going through ticket barriers to try to figure out whether Pall Mall is in the same direction as their office.

And I’ve heard from more than one semi-authoritative source that we can expect two-hour plus queues at change-over stations like London Bridge.

All these extra crushes on transport make me even more worried about…

Terrorist threats

Heaped on top of our shambolic security situation is my personal concern about all these extra people on the tube. It’s bad enough on normal days’ peak hours when your face is squished like warm Silly Putty against the glass windows of Northern Line carriages. Or at Victoria when you have to queue for 20 minutes to get in and out of the underground on a Friday evening.

Now imagine those situations plus even MORE people. And then plus a bomb threat or fire. It doesn’t even bear thinking about how on earth all those passengers would be safely evacuated on time.

Ticketing shambles

So part of the reason I can’t wait for the Olympics to start (despite all these gripes) is that I have tickets. Hurrah! Only cheap ones, mind – or at least that’s what I thought originally. Two tickets, £40 in total. Oh, except I moved house last summer, a few months after buying the tickets. Lo and behold, you can’t update your address on your Olympic ticketing account. Instead, the on-site Q&A tells you that you MUST set up a Royal Mail redirect if you’ve moved house. Two trips to my local Post Office with two charming 20-minute waits each time and another £20 later, I had set up the redirect.

Except my tickets got sent to my old address anyway. How helpful! Numerous phonecalls later, I managed to get my tickets sent to my new address’ local Delivery Office. Then hit a most welcome 10-minute queue there to pick up the tickets which should have been delivered direct to my front door in the first place. Great!

Ticketholders face two-hour waits to get into events

This one has come straight from LOCOG: an email providing “critical information” about my event. This email advised ticketholders to arrive TWO HOURS before the start of the event to accommodate the security checks for attendees, which would be akin to “taking an international flight”.

So after spending three hours on the tube to get anywhere you then have to queue for another two hours before you’ve even got into an arena. By which time you’ll be so thirsty you’ll have to bankrupt yourself by buying sponsor-brand-only refreshments which will no doubt be edging towards the £300 mark per 100ml.

Which reminds me of another thing…

Ruining the fun for small businesses

By now you will have heard or read about cases like the family-run butchers in remote countryside locations told to remove Olympic-ring-style sausages from their window displays, or the village high-street sports shops told to take down the Olympic logo hula-hoop shop windows. Because naturally local residents would otherwise have assumed that these three-people local businesses were Olympic sponsors who had paid multiple dozens of millions of pounds for the privilege. And that wouldn’t be fair on Coca-Cola, McDonalds and co, would it?

Meanwhile, small food carts and stands within the Olympic Park have been given the once-in-a lifetime opportunity to sell their products to visitors from every country on earth. A fantastic chance for small UK caterers to expand their brands, no? Actually, no. Because all non-sponsor food carts, despite serving their own food and drink, are banned from using their own company name or branding while doing business at the Olympics.

(Side note: I know that sponsors’ rights have to be protected – when they’re paying that much money, of course they’re going to ask for some brand protection. I get it. And I know they’re also doing lots of truly fantastic things for British businesses and suppliers, and launching community programmes, and being innovative – all of which I warmly and wholeheartedly applaud, I really do.

But it seems the ODA and LOCOG are being so paranoid about the whole thing that they’ve taken all sponsor rights issues to a ludicrous extreme – and I find that very sad.)

Ruining the fun for locals, while also disrupting their lives

The Olympic sailing is taking place in Weymouth. Of course, this will cause huge disruption for the Weymouthians, as their roads are blocked, their town overloaded with Olympics-type visitors, and their restaurants booked out by corporate hospitality packages. But it’s okay, because at least they’ll get to watch the sailing, right? Or even just gaze out onto the open ocean to calm themselves among the throngs of unwanted visitors?

Of course not. Because there will be a giant wall blocking them from glimpsing even the white blustery whisper of a sailing boat going past. Those in Dorking face a similar circumstance. Residents wil
l see main roads barricaded from 4am on Saturday 28 July, causing them not inconsiderable inconvenience. But rather than LOCOG thinking that actually quite a nice compensation for this might be to let them watch the cycling go past, they will instead be charged for tickets to see anything, or else blocked from viewing the event, just like in Weymouth.

How utterly miserly of LOCOG, and how entirely inconsiderate.

A couple of final gripes

If you bring a product that rivals a sponsors’ into Olympic venues, you could be arrested.

A lot of Olympic work that seemingly went to UK companies actually got outsourced overseas.

The greatest sporting event on earth is being sponsored by two of the most obesity-inducing, health-ruinous, diabetes-peddling, Child-Catcher-like multinationals on this planet. It’s just wrong!

Great Britain? Hmm. We’ll see.

Got something to get off your chest? Email [email protected] with “Rant blog” in the subject line

More on the London 2012 Olympics…

Not Made in Britain: How the Olympics got outsourced overseas

London SMEs! It’s still worth bidding for Olympic Games contracts

Turfed out! How this business took on Seb Coe and the LDA and won

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