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The 2012 Games: Those who do not Learn From History...

Posted: 01/11/2011 23:00

Let's go back in time. It's 2010 and the eagerly awaited opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympic games. Viewers have just watched Nelly Furtado and a giant electric bear take to the stage, but then disaster strikes. One of the Olympic pillars fails to rise and an unfortunate torch bearer looks on awkwardly as her fellow companions light their Olympic columns.

It is like something out of You've Been Framed or that YouTube video where a best man accidentally pushes an unsuspecting bride into a pool. You don't want to laugh but it is a truth universally acknowledged that people messing up, especially at moments of great consequence, is funny.

The Atlanta Games of 1996 were largely seen as a failure. Drivers flown in from all over America were not properly trained and hundreds went home after a few days. As a result spectators and athletes struggled to find transport to venues. The Olympic committee dubbed the games a "qualified success", rather than the usual "best Games ever."

If the London 2012 Games will fall short like past Olympic attempts, it will no doubt be because of our abysmal public transport network. This is the scenario: take an already overcrowded underground and bus system, then add hundreds of thousands of tourists. How will our infrastructure cope?

Speaking recently at a local Olympic meeting in Hackney TFL and LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) called for people to cut out any "unnecessary" journeys and reduce their transport use by 30% during Game times. If you have any idea what "unnecessary" travel is then please let me know, I like to think all my travel around London is "necessary" or I definitely wouldn't be doing it.

London's Olympic dream could crumble because of a lack of understanding about the needs of local communities around the Games. After seeing presentations from TFL and LOCOG in the Wally Foster community centre in Hackney I am convinced that Olympic organisers still have a lot of work to do.

When asked by residents about specific bus replacement routes during Game times TFL's Head of Technical Operations, Peter Hewitt, admitted he wasn't sure what they would be yet because of "safety" issues surrounding the Park.

A Games to aspire to, the Sydney Olympics, was praised because of its good transport arrangements. Mr Jim Sloman, the former Chief Operating Officer for the Sydney Olympics said, "The transport system was absolutely crucial to its success."

However, at the Sydney Olympics ensuring equipment and resources were moved in a controlled way was possible partly because Sydney didn't have as many residents in the vicinity of the Olympic Park.

London organisers plan to imitate Aussie hosts by implementing restrictions on deliveries and the clearance of rubbish. Delivery times at the Sydney Olympic Park itself were restricted, restocking and the removal of rubbish took place between midnight and six in the morning.

But one of the biggest problems Londoners could face is down to the layout of our streets. Marking out some lanes for "Olympic traffic" could cause huge jams and confusion on the roads. Remembering Atlanta and its traffic difficulties, planners have identified lanes for use by athletes and officials only, although there are worries this could create a built in inequality to the 2012 Games.

Olympic organisers have also said they aim to have 100% of people travelling on public transport, walking or cycling rather than driving - an ambitious figure far above the aims or even the desire of any past Olympic host city.

With the Olympics just around the corner, people that live around the Games are concerned about whether they will be able to go shopping or visit friends. It is simply not enough to ask people to stop travelling - as Boris does - there needs to be a watertight strategy.

People want to remember 2012 for the sport, not transport failure.

But transport is just one issue. Other pitfalls include faulty equipment, ill-trained volunteers and failing computer systems- not to mention freak weather. During the 1998 Nagano Olympics in Japan too much snow forced the postponement of some events.

To save face bosses of the Olympic Games will want to take heed of past blunders. After all, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

 

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