Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Olympic spirit, British style: when will this nightmare end?

While the world’s athletes limber up at the Olympic Park, Londoners are practicing some of their own favorite sports: complaining, expecting the worst and cursing the authorities.

Asked “What do you feel about the Olympics?” the other day, a random sampling of people here gave answers that included bitter laughter; the words “fiasco,” “disaster” and “police state”; and detailed explanations of how they usually get to work, how that is no longer possible and how very unhappy that makes them.

“At the end of the day, it’s a pain in the backside,” Steve Rogers, a construction site manager, said as he puffed on a cigarette near Victoria station the other day. Particularly painful, he said, were the subway plans (“absolute shambles”), the road closings (“complete nightmare”) and the fact that instead of creating construction jobs for Britons, the Olympics had provided work for “a bunch of Lithuanians, Romanians and Czechs.”


Many Londoners feel that they are getting the worst parts of the Olympics — the cost, the hassle, the officials telling them not to do things or go places — without any of the benefits. The security company hired by the government at huge expense proved to be wildly incompetent; the Olympic brand managers have made it clear that no one, apart from official sponsors, will be allowed to appear to capitalize on the Games.

 “It’s like living in a police state,” said a business owner, explaining that her company had wanted to start a social media campaign tied to the Olympics but had been warned by lawyers that it would be prosecuted and fined if it used the word “Olympics.” Full story...

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