Last week I waxed lyrical about London. The capital, I declared, had entered the most extraordinary and exciting year, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games guaranteeing a summer like no other. Factor in a cornucopia of cultural events like the Lucien Freud exhibition and next month’s London Fashion Show and it’s safe to say that I was definitely looking forward to being a Londoner in 2012.
A mere seven days later and my enthusiasm has waned. Why? Take a bow Mr. Norman Baker. The government’s Minister for Transport has told Londoners to “work from home” during the Olympics or else, he warns, “the transport system won’t cope.” Meanwhile one Mark Evans, the Director of Games (Transport) – I have no idea what this is either – has requested that local business cut out one in three journeys.
As a Londoner, I was happy to put my hands in my pocket and pay the majority of the Olympic bill because I presumed I would get to experience a once in a lifetime event. You can imagine my anger to learn that not only will we Londoners be forced to foot more of the Olympic bill than other Englanders (not to mention the Scots and Welsh) but we are being urged to watch Jessica Ennis et al – on television.
Perhaps I am suffering from amnesia but I don’t recollect Lord Coe and his colleagues told us, or the IOC, this during London’s final presentation in Singapore back in July 2005. Quite the contrary: I am quite sure that Seb Coe said that the London Underground would be updated so as to be able to cope with the crowds. The underground service seems to be interrupted without fail every weekend (don’t even get me started on the epic and expensive six-hour round trip I endured on Sunday) but I have yet to see any real improvements.
Someone needs to sort it out soon – and not just for long-suffering Londoners, but for tourists too. When Britain won the right to host the Olympics, ministers promised that the Games would lift tourist trade later in the year. However, I can’t see how images of crowded tubes and gridlocked streets will encourage visitors to come to the capital.
The bottom line? 2012 may be the year of the Games but the jury is still out on whether it will be a year of fun as well.