The swing from joy to sorrow


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 10 Jul 2005

By CHOI TUCK WO

BARELY 24 hours after London secured the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the city was left reeling in a state of shock following a series of devastating bomb attacks.  

Without doubt, the euphoria of pipping archrival Paris to host the Games in 2012 has been horribly punctured by the tragedy.  

The nightmarish scenes of carnage and chaos in the very heart of London were a stark contrast to the wild celebrations just a day before. Then, thousands had converged at Trafalgar Square and elsewhere and broken into rapturous applause when it was announced that the British capital had won the bid. That was definitely a moment of sheer ecstasy for millions of Britons.  

However, as Londoners woke up on Thursday morning to be greeted by the wail of ambulances, roadblocks and a massive public transport shutdown, they were prepared for the worst, and a sense of deep foreboding took over as the scale of the disaster slowly sank in.  

Plans for a heroes’ welcome to celebrate the games bid team’s success were abruptly cancelled, as it would have been deemed to be inappropriate.  

No one was in the mood for celebrations as the whole nation focused on tackling the aftermath of one of the worst bomb attacks in British history.  

Indeed, the attacks bore grim resemblance to the Madrid train bombings last March, which killed nearly 200 people.  

 

Formidable enemy 

They also raised grim reminders that a great city like London – for all its hi-tech security and intelligence forces – can still be crippled by horrific attacks on its public transport system.  

But then again, London had faced up to IRA attacks from the late 1970s to the early 1990s with equanimity and steely determination. 

Then, the locals were confronted with sealed litterbins, cordoned streets and random searches in their daily lives. 

Somehow, the experience of living through those nerve-wracking years still lingers on among some urban folk. 

Even before the latest attacks, grim reminders of “Guilty Unless Proven Innocent” notices adorned buses, trains, airports and other public areas warning the public to report unattended, suspicious-looking bags to the authorities immediately.  

But for first-timers of a bomb attack in London, the experience can be pretty traumatic. 

In fact, many residents already felt the jitters when they had booklets titled Preparing for Emergencies, including Terrorist Attacks shoved under their doors some months back. 

Despite this, many could hardly believe their eyes when their worst fears were confirmed as the disaster unfolded right in their neighbourhood. 

It must, however, be pointed out that the IRA was, perhaps, a more recognisable and therefore less formidable enemy than the modern day bombers.  

But the underlying principle remained that no matter how many bombs exploded, London would face up to the attacks.  

The bottom line is that Britons must show to the world that they are a resilient lot and would not be cowed by any act of terrorism. 

More importantly, they must demonstrate that no amount of chaos and terror will detract from London’s huge success in securing the Olympic bid. 

 

  • Choi Tuck Wo is Editor, European Union Bureau, based in London (e-mail: twchoi@thestar.com.my) 

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