Bottlenecks choke London

Bottlenecks choke London

Organisers forced to cancel part of opening ceremony to avoid traffic chaos

Bottlenecks choke London

 The organisers of the London Olympics on Wednesday scrapped part of the opening ceremony due to fears that an overrunning show would cause bottlenecks on public transport.

Organisers LOCOG said a sequence involving stunt bikes had been cut to ensure that the spectacle, which kicks off the Games on July 27, finishes on time and avoid a possible late stampede for trains and buses home.

“We need to make sure the show comes in on time to make sure spectators can get home on public transport, so we have taken the tough decision to cut a small stunt bike sequence of the show,” a LOCOG spoke­sman said.

He added that the 27-million pound ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in east London was due to finish between midnight (2300 GMT) and 12.30 am.

The show is designed to transform the stadium into a rural British idyll, complete with cows, sheep and synthetic clouds to provide traditional British rain -- in the unlikely event that the weather does not provide it.

The ceremony’s artistic director Danny Boyle, whose film “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight Oscars, has said it would give Britons “a picture of ourselves as a nation”.

But the British press has poured scorn on the plans, comparing the set to the one seen in hit children’s television series “Teletubbies”. Some media reports suggested the bike sequence was removed over fears that security checkpoints would be unable to cope with a rush of more than 60,000 spectators.

One billion people are expected to watch the ceremony around the globe, while an audience of around 62,000 will see the show in the stadium. The budget for the opening and closing ceremonies was doubled to 81 million pound in December, reportedly after British Prime Minister David Cameron intervened.

More troops

Meanwhile, the British government said it may have to call up yet more soldiers to police the Games, after a failed private sector recruitment drive left an embarrassing hole in security and dashed London's dreams of a spotless showcase.

The security fiasco and doubts over the ability of London's strained transport system to handle a swarm of visitors have overshadowed an event which the government still hopes will give recession-hit Britain something to celebrate.

The glitch came after G4S, a global security firm that employs more than 650,000 staff, said it could not deliver a promised 10,400 security guards to watch over the Games, exposing the government to accusations of poor planning.

To fill the gap, the Ministry of Defence called up an extra 3,500 troops -- many just back from serving in Afghanistan -- to take the armed forces contribution to 17,000 personnel.
More troops could be deployed to chaperone crowds at the Games if G4S struggles to find a minimum requirement of 7,000 staff. An extra 2,000 troops may be needed.

On Tuesday, G4S Chief Executive Nick Buckles suffered an excruciating grilling by irate lawmakers, agreeing with one during a parliamentary hearing that failed efforts to recruit enough guards had left the firm's reputation “in tatters.”

The transport teething problems have also contributed to a difficult last week before the Games.

Taxi drivers, renowned for their territorial attitude towards the streets of London, brought traffic outside parliament to a standstill on Tuesday in protest at their exclusion from the Olympic traffic lanes.

London's spaghetti network of underground routes and thin, cluttered roads comes under strain from commuters, tourists and shoppers at the best of times, but it must cope with an unprecedented burden in the coming weeks.

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