Belfast Telegraph

If you really want to enjoy the Games, stay at home

By Mary Kenny

It was an ordinary commuter train plying between London Waterloo and a south London suburb when it suddenly drew to a halt.

Passengers were locked inside the carriages because a problem had occurred: someone had thrown something onto the line, so the next station had to be shut and the electrification system switched off.

Eventually, after a further delay of 40 minutes, the passengers were taken off the train and put on a standby bus.

Tempers were frayed and everyone voiced the same thought: 'If it's like this now, what is it going to be like come the Olympics?'.

Chock-a-block tubes, standing-room-only buses, cars stuck for hours in congested traffic. London has been thus for the past month.

Anyone who can leave London for the duration of the Olympics - they start on July 27 - seems to be doing so. All this apprehension was already mounting even before the latest fiasco, when the world's biggest security firm, G4S, announced that it could not provide enough security guards to cover the Games. And now 3,500 troops have had to be called in; soldiers just back from Afghanistan have had their leave cancelled. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is coming under pressure to resign.

There are serious problems, too, around London's airports and the intelligence agencies have warned of the 'vulnerability' of Britain to suicide bombers. In short, the message to anyone outside London is: Don't visit the capital over the next six weeks unless your trip is truly necessary.

Many ordinary Londoners have hated the idea of the Olympics from the start.

The story went around that Paris lost the bid only by a fluke - because the Finnish Olympic representative overheard former French President Jacques Chirac describe Finnish cuisine as "quelle horreur!" and took revenge by giving his casting vote to London. Only for a chance remark, all this trouble might be in the lap of the French.

There is also widespread resentment at the way in which the Government - under the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act (2006) - handed the organisers virtual monopoly concessions of the franchise for everything concerned with London 2012. The London Organising Committee has come down like a ton of bricks on anyone suspected of using the logo without permission - a butcher in Dorset was charged with infringement of copyright when hanging sausage rings in an Olympic pattern in his shop window.

Anyone who infringes upon the franchise of sponsors, such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's, may be hauled before the civil courts.

All this is part of the commodification of the Olympics, which has been going on for some time and is far indeed from the original Olympic spirit.

Naturally, we all hope that individual athletes win the medals they deserve.

But the best place to see the spectacle is right where you are, in the comfort of your own living-room - not battling your way through a gridlocked, often sullen and security-jittery London.

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