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."


    Opening Ceremony:

    6:30 p.m. Friday • TV: Ch. 11

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78


question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question





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