First, the good news: London Bridge is not falling down. The fairy tale lies. As for the rest of this city? Friday’s opening ceremony can’t come soon enough. Bringing in the military at the last second is seldom a sign of anything but fear, and they just keep coming. Another 1,200 soldiers were mobilized on Tuesday as the private company hired to provide the bulk of the security at these Games – G4S, the world’s leading supplier of security solutions, according to its website – fought off new allegations that many of its hires cheated on tests to run X-ray scanners.
Meanwhile, trains on the Greater Anglia line can’t stop at the Stratford International station – the Olympic Park – because of problems with overhead wires created whenever the temperature goes above 28.
This after the London Underground’s Central Line broke down Monday night following a dress rehearsal for 60,000 folks at Olympic Stadium.
Can’t move people. Can’t keep them safe. Can’t even get them their freaking tickets. London never was going to be able to compete with the 2008 Beijing Games for logistical wizardry – democracy’s funny that way – but the trick now is to prevent people from casting wistful looks ahead to 2016 and Rio de Janeiro.
“Once the sport begins, the media will stop focusing on transport and security,” grumbled Peter Hendry, commissioner of transport for London.
Turns out that playing host to an event like the Olympics isn’t all that easy after all.
Now, it is true that the Summer Olympics are a different animal than the Winter Olympics in terms of scale. It is equally true that taking shots at a place’s weather is not fair game.
It says more about the International Olympic Committee than London that the title of fastest man in the world might be decided in a downpour.
But at this time, as we await Friday’s opening ceremony – like everything else, mired in controversy, this time about its length – it seems fitting that we proud Canadians burst forth with the rallying cry: “Remember our malfunctioning ice penis.”
You remember the ice penis, right? It was one of the four mechanical sculptures that failed to rise during the opening ceremony for Vancouver. The ice penis, as the Brit press referred to it. Symbolic in its flaccidity, symbol of a Games destined to go wrong, just hours after Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died on a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
You will surely remember how Kevin Eason of The Times of London wrote: “As Vancouver faces up to Games that appear to have been cursed, there is one positive outcome for London. Many believed that London would be overshadowed hopelessly by the glitz of Beijing in 2008, but Vancouver may have provided a buffer of reality that will make whatever London does look like light relief compared with Canada’s gloom.”
Or how Owen Slot, also of The Times, opined that: “Good news on the medal table is in high demand because the [Vancouver] Games organizers are winning few prizes for the impression that their Olympics are making on the rest of the world.” For pete’s sake, Marina Hyde of The Guardian chided us for being “touchy” about criticism of the 2010 Vancouver Games. “Ridicule is part of the Olympic ideal,” she wrote.
Hyde was right about one thing: The British press has not spared the rhetorical sword in analyzing and discovering the shortcomings leading up to these Games. I know what it takes to be a cynic, and these folks were predicting catastrophe on the media bus going to the gold-medal women’s soccer game in Beijing.
“You think this traffic’s bad, wait ’til you see London,” was the refrain.
So far, however, the knives have been out for the guys in suits who have mismanaged the basics. There’s been enough to rip apart in the nuts and bolts of this thing, without taking the next step of broad-brush statements about a country’s people or character. The euro zone is crumbling, as is this country’s faith in its bankers and media, and it feels as if we are on the edge of an economic precipice here.
No, London Bridge isn’t falling down, but there is a feeling that these might be the first Games wheezing just to get to the opening ceremony. Welcome to the club, London. Ridicule is a dish best served cold.