Let the Games begin -- without the gripes

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 26, 2012 - 11:57 AM

Brits and London visitors are embracing the Olympics, despite "whinging" of cynics.

Tourists and Londoners alike flocked to the city’s Tower Bridge for a photo op with the famous icon, adorned with the Olympic rings for the 2012 Games. The Opening Ceremony will be held Friday.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

LONDON - Boris Johnson had heard enough. Late last week, the gregarious London mayor suggested that citizens swear off the persistent grousing -- "whinging" in the British vernacular -- regarding any and all things Olympic.

Wednesday's news conference with officials from the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games showcased a few of the topics that have provoked widespread consternation and fuss. There was confusion about the Olympic-only traffic lanes that opened Wednesday morning, and nagging fears of gridlock. Delays had beset some lines on the London Underground. More troops had been deployed to provide security, after a private contractor failed to train enough workers. The Public and Commercial Services union had threatened a strike at Heathrow Airport.

The mostly British media also asked about the smog that had developed, reports that the swimming pool was too hot and a rumor that a "moth plague" was about to overtake the city. Though whin- ging (pronounced whin-jing) is often described as a national sport in Britain, Johnson delivered a message to the complainers in the Sun newspaper. "Put a sock in it, fast," he wrote. "We've got an advanced case of Olympo-funk. ... Let's get behind our team and the Games."

It appeared Wednesday that his message was resonating. At the new Westfield Stratford City mall and during the rush hour at bustling St. Pancras rail station, a random survey of Brits revealed nary a whinge. Some speculated that the splendid weather had lifted the gloom; others thought the beginning of competition, with women's soccer games in Cardiff, Glasgow and Coventry, had excited people who had grown weary of the long buildup.

Several said that despite the media's focus on the problems of these Olympics, the nearly 13 million people who have come out to see the Olympic torch relay -- and thousands who descended upon Olympic Stadium for Wednesday's final dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony on Friday -- prove that Britons are getting behind the Games.

"Of course you have the cynics," said Gaynor Nash, who traveled 101 miles from Leicester to attend the rehearsal. "Those people would probably be cynical about the Second Coming. I think that's down to a bare minimum now. Just look at all the people here to see the ceremony rehearsal. People are very, very excited."

Olympic organizers got a double dose of good news Wednesday. London enjoyed one of its hottest days this year (84 degrees), and the Heathrow strike was averted.

An additional 1,200 troops were dispatched this week to provide security in the wake of the fiasco created by private contractor G4S, which did not deliver the number of security personnel it promised. Troops wearing fatigues were staffing all media security checkpoints, while police in the St. Pancras station openly carried some very large firearms. LOCOG officials denied reports they had asked troops to wear track suits rather than fatigues to make them look less conspicuous.

At the Stratford City mall -- the UK's largest, built next to the Olympic Park -- shoppers stood at the top of the entry stairway to catch a glimpse of the athletes village. Though it is heavily fortified with razor wire, concrete barricades and security cameras, the village emitted a party vibe even from a distance. Music blared from the high-rise apartment buildings decorated with the flags of the resident athletes' countries, a perfect photo op for the mall-crawlers.

Fencer Susie Scanlan of St. Paul caught a glimpse of British tennis player Andy Murray in the village, always a hot spot for noncelebrity athletes to mingle with the famous. "The whole thing is mind-blowing," said wrestler Chas Betts of St. Michael. "There are so many awesome athletes walking around. The energy around the village is great. You can just feel how happy everybody is to be there."

There still were controversies Wednesday as Londoners adjusted to restrictions and congestion. Many people are upset about what they view as heavy-handed protection of the Olympic brand and the interests of its sponsors. Thursday is expected to be the busiest day at Heathrow, and both the Tube and the streets have yet to see their heaviest traffic.

But plenty of people have chosen to cut the whinging and embrace the role of Olympic host. For them, not even the threat of a moth plague could spoil that.

"We're a small country," said Tracy Croft, who traveled with Nash to attend the Opening Ceremony rehearsal. "This is something that is drawing people together across the UK. Of course it's exciting."

  • LONDON OLYMPICS

    Opening Ceremony:

    6:30 p.m. Friday • TV: Ch. 11

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 8
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 8 FINAL
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 7
Cleveland 2 Bottom 8th Inning
Chicago WSox 3
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Oakland 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Houston 2
Milwaukee 0 Top 6th Inning
San Diego 0
Los Angeles 3 Bottom 4th Inning
Arizona 0
Miami 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
LA Angels 0
Colorado 0 Top 3rd Inning
San Francisco 0
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 0 1st Half 33:00
Los Angeles 1
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Timberwolves win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close