Cameron urges patience over traffic
London Olympics 2012BRITISH PRIME Minister David Cameron has urged Londoners to be patient with traffic delays caused by the Olympics, while ministers have been banned from using specially marked lanes except in emergencies.
The Prime Minister’s plea came as the first signs of the congestion to come emerged on some of London’s major roads, where Monday morning traffics jams on some roads jumped from lasting less than 40 minutes to over 80.
Thirty miles of lanes will be set aside solely for the use of Olympic athletes, staff, media and emergency services on Wednesday morning compared to the 90 miles of road cordoned off in Athens in 2004 and 180 miles in Beijing four years ago.
However, the lanes have already caused confusion, as many motorists are unclear about whether they can use them, or not, while the closing off of some right-hand turns on roads running along the Thames has also led to problems.
Traffic in the city has been lighter than usual in London over recent days, even allowing for the normal fall-off brought by school holidays, and, perhaps, indicating that some Londoners have decided to flee the city.
However, congestion was significantly worse yesterday morning on three key commuter routes: A12, A13 and the A40 – where the usual 36 minutes of congestion on an average Monday increased to 80 minutes.
“We have huge numbers of people coming to London to enjoy the Games and that is going to put huge pressure on the transport system. There is going to be disruption and there is going to be an impact on travel times,” said the Prime Minister’s spokesman.
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron has created diplomatic waves by deciding to meet US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday – even though usual rules should ensure that such meetings do not take place during campaigns.
During a briefing, No 10 repeatedly refused to offer details about the meeting, though for now it seems clear that Mr Cameron is determined to avoid offering TV camera shots with Mr Romney, lest it offend President Obama.
Though apparently trivial, the meeting has political significance in the US election race, where Republicans argue that the No 10 meeting and the Olympic welcome offered to the man credited with saving the Salt Lake City Winter Games enforces his credibility with voters.
Meanwhile, Olympics minister Hugh Robertson warned that London can face “a grim week” ahead from media-led complaints about preparations for the Games until “the moment the starting gun fires” when “the only thing” everyone “will be taking about is gold medals”.
A former British Army officer, Mr Robertson insisted that the Games will be secure, following the deployment of a further 3,500 soldiers at the last minute to fill in for new gaps left by the embattled security firm, G4S.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people, and there is no anger in the armed forces about bailing out G4S. There is a wonderful tradition, in the army, of having a moan about things, and then getting on with it and doing it extraordinarily well,” he declared.
Interestingly, Mr Robertson, whose reputation has been enhanced by his performance up to now on the Games, offered a strong defence of the International Olympic Council chairman, Belgium’s Jacques Rogge.
“It’s not a popular thing to say but I think the International Olympic Committee is a fantastic organisation.
(He) is a fundamentally decent human being,” said Mr Robertson, crediting him with punishing bribery unearthed during the 2002 Salt Lake City games.
Meanwhile, the BBC apologised for former Olympic gold medallist Daley Thompson’s anti-Irish jibe on the BBC’s One Show last Thursday when he was shown a photograph of an Olympic torch-bearer with an incorrectly-spelt tattoo visible.
Mr Thompson, who won gold in 1980 and 1984. quipped that the tattooist “must have been Irish”, though he was corrected by the show’s presenter, Matt Baker, who apologised again at the end of the programme.
The BBC later received considerable numbers of complaints.