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Conditional Love for the Olympics

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A billion words have been written about the opening ceremony so I won't add to them, save to say that it has given a little boost to the nation's feelings for the Games which nevertheless still teeter on the line between a full embrace and complete intolerance.

The breaking story of empty seats has merely compounded the early ticketing issues and as Londoners find themselves locked into their communities by various events, the mood can quickly turn ugly. This morning, a coach driver, having picked up his bus at a depot in Fulham found himself unable to get out of the area for jobs in south London. He roared at policemen (manning what a times do seem like barricades) that Boris Johnson had promised us that people would still be able to go about their work. Yesterday, at the men's road race which passed by my house, there was a real mood of excitement and support but quickly turned nasty when a senior Olympic steward spoke arrogantly and rudely to a member of the public who wanted to know when he might be able to cross the road to get home. Although the peleton had passed by some minutes previously, the supervisor roared at his staff that there was still one car to come through. The member of the public asked "when might that car be here?" and was answered with a curt "when it gets here". His response epitomised what many have felt has been the approach to the games; you just have to put up with it. The homeward bound gentleman delivered a fitting corrective response to the official.

Londoners have generally been assailed by doom and warning for the past few months and as such are conditioned to expect chaos on every form of transport. It has been so relentless that now the population are either frightened to leave their homes or have got out of town. Businesses in this area are complaining that trade is seriously down and I can certainly vouch for the effect it has had on our own audience; we have had people phoning the box office asking for refunds because " I can't possibly get to the theatre with all this going on". Something has gone badly wrong in this respect.

In fact, the streets are quieter than usual but theatres and retailers are seeing a profound change in their customer's behaviour and I haven't personally noticed a significant upturn in foreign visitors. The Olympics for those outside of London and the rest of the planet will be a real festival of sport and glory. London 2012 will be no different in this regard and I too have been parking myself in front of the splendid array of new BBC HD channels to watch the sporting endeavour. At Opera Holland Park we saw a huge upsurge of excitement and joy when the torch visited the theatre on Thursday and the media seemed to be taking a less negative tone on opening night but that has turned again with the issue of empty sponsor's seats.

We have to hope that as the next few days progress, people will realise that things may not be quite as bad as they had feared and been led to believe by the authorities and start to get out and enjoy themselves again. But it is a slim chance in all honesty; the warnings have bored deep into them and so many have simply left the city. Other than those directly contracted to work on the Olympics, it would appear that the bonanza has simply not materialised.