While in London last week, I was surprised that there was no tangible excitement in the lead up to the Olympic Games. In fact, London residents described the international games with dread. I heard a few well-chosen comments about how traffic in the upcoming weeks would be “utter chaos.”
Most of these complaints seem to be coming from cabbies and bus drivers, which makes sense since it looks like they will be the ones most affected by the creation of special traffic lanes to transport athletes and sports officials to the gaming venues. In the three days in London, I witnessed three traffic snarls in residential areas – something which I’ve never experienced in London before. So with only twenty-four days left to the Games, traffic management is going to be a big challenge.
There is a general expectation that productivity would hit a low during the Games. Many offices have started anticipating this and have given employees the opportunity to work from home rather than battle traffic to get to work. Still others are changing office timings to avoid the Games rush by either starting work a couple of hours earlier or finishing a couple of hours later to compensate.
Yesterday, the official lanes were set up with the Olympic rings emblazoned upon them. About 30 miles of road around east and central London have now been set aside exclusively for VIPs. However, ordinary drivers will be hit with a £130 fine if they use these lanes. Although these lanes will not be in use until two days before the Games, adjustments to traffic will begin this week.
There will be close to one million extra visitors in London on each day of the Games and up to 1,300 Games Family vehicles travelling between key venues. In addition to road traffic, London’s only commercial helicopter landing site - Barclays London Heliport - has seen an increase in landing slots booked. The heliport’s managing director, Chris Orphanou, said it already has about 130 slots booked that are specific to Olympic visitors, in excess of the traffic it normally handles.
Because there is only one heliport, air traffic is said to increase as well and there needs to be extra careful monitoring to avoid accidents. For a city with a remarkable record in traffic management, current snarls are creating a disadvantage for London’s citizens and this is exactly the target group that needs to be assured that life would go on as normal. So far, nobody is reassured that the Games would be memorable in spite of the ensuing chaos.