London Games glitches

  • Other Sport
  • Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012

LONDON: Athletes began arriving in London for the Olympic Games on Monday – to be greeted by road chaos, a deepening security shambles, bungling bus drivers and pouring rain as Britain’s damp squib summer continued.

A VIP bus carrying US stars took four hours to complete the estimated 45-minute trip from Heathrow Airport to the capital’s Olympic Village after its driver got LOST.

Aussie team members were taken on an unscheduled tour of London as their driver could not work his satnav. But Mayor Boris Johnson joked of the bus hiccups: “They had the scenic view.”

The first Olympic Lane designed to speed traffic to the Games opened yesterday — and sparked massive queues as bewildered drivers lost the plot.

Jams 32 miles long built up on the day athletes began arriving in the capital.

In further teething troubles, some stars’ baggage went missing.

The early glitches came amid the security chaos sparked by guard firm G4S, whose failure to recruit staff had forced ministers to draft in 3,500 troops to protect sites.

Traffic crawled into London yesterday morning as the opening of the first Olympic Lane on the M4 and an accident near junction 11 combined to cause travel chaos.

Confused commuters shuffled into crawling queues to avoid a £130 fine as athletes and bigwigs breezed past. At one point the M4 snarl-up began at the A34, 32 miles from the start of the Games Lane. Many drivers seemed unaware when or where restrictions were in force. But Highways Agency officials spoke of only minimal hold-ups.

The lane which opened yesterday made up only a small section of the 30 miles of VIP routes coming into force on July 25, two days before the opening ceremony.

Ex-top traffic cop Kevin Delaney, head of road safety at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “The Games Lanes have reduced those for ordinary traffic. If there is a breakdown or a crash, the road network just wouldn’t cope.” The M4 lane is being introduced early to handle the rush from Heathrow as competitors arrive.

Some 335 athletes and more than 1,000 “Olympic family” members passed through the airport yesterday – with 16,000 athletes and thousands more officials and back-up staff due over the next week.

But a VIP bus carrying US stars took four hours to cover the estimated 45-minute journey from Heathrow to the high-security Olympic Village in Stratford, East London, after its driver got LOST. Hurdler Kerron Clement tweeted: “Um, so we’ve been lost on the road for 4hrs. Not a good first impression London.”

He added: “Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee. Could we get to the Olympic Village please.”

Meanwhile, Australian team members, told how they were held up for three hours because their driver could not work his satnav.

A physio working with the Aussie team eventually guided the bus in using an app on his smartphone.

Australian Olympic Committee media liaison officer Damian Kelly said: “The driver said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s my first day and I’m lost’. We saw Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge and a few other things. Someone on the bus described it as the Monopoly tour.”

London 2012 officials later said he journey took about 2½ hours – 30 minutes longer than usual.

Despite the hiccups, Mayor Boris Johnson talked up London for the athletes, saying they’d find better eateries than Paris, less rain than Rome and more bookshops than New York. “I hope you’ll see what our great city has to offer,” he said.

Of the stars whose buses got lost, he joked: “They had the scenic view. They had the chance to see more of our beautiful scenery than bargained for.” — The Sun, London

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