diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 23, 2004

New York London Paris Madrid...

(...and Moscow too, except they haven't got a hope). These are the five cities still in the race for the 2012 Olympic Games, each eagerly seeking fame, glory and crippling long-term debt. I'm delighted to see that the industrial wasteland just up the road from my house is still on the final shortlist for this glittering prize. But the grey-suited men of the International Olympic Committee have held a mirror up to London's Olympic submission and haven't been quite as impressed as I might have hoped. They liked our airports, our hotels and our eco-friendly sustainable Olympic village. They weren't so impressed by public opinion, air pollution or our lack of experience in organising anything similar recently. But there's one common factor that all commentators believe is London's Achilles heel, and that's transport.

London thought it was being very clever sticking the majority of Olympic sports within a small area of East London but the rest at world famous locations around the capital. Wimbledon, Wembley and Horseguards Parade to name but a few - surely these landmark sites were vote winners? Well no, because the IOC scrutineers spotted just how long it will take athletes to travel from the Olympic village to such far-flung outposts, and they're not taken in.
Rail public transport is often obsolete and considerable investments must be made to upgrade the existing system in terms of capacity and safety. Urban expressways and main arterial road facilities lack the capacity to provide reasonable travel times and speeds. Due to its extremely dispersed Olympic venue concept (with the exception of Olympic Park), the average travel distances are substantially longer than most Applicant Cities. Moreover, the assumed average urban bus travel speeds (61km/h) appear unrealistic.
But hang on gentlemen! London's transport may not be perfect but it's by no means obsolete. Millions of us manage to travel around the capital each day without resorting to horse-drawn vehicles or steam locomotives. These ancient Victorian tube lines of ours are just an indication that we invented them first. And let's not forget that the 2012 Olympics will be happening in August when the Underground is half empty anyway. All those poor tennis players who need to get to Wimbledon, they can ride there from Bromley-by-Bow via the District line like the rest of us. As for the world's finest footballers, there's a five year-old engineering marvel called the Jubilee line that can take them from Stratford to Wembley direct. Admittedly it'll be harder to extend the new East London line as far as Weymouth, but surely international yachtsmen are more likely sail there than to hop onto public transport. So, spoilt ungrateful executives of the IOC, step out of your chauffeur-driven limousines and try joining the rest of us in second class for a change. I'll save you all a seat on the DLR in eight years' time, OK?

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