Ticket, traffic qualms hit ′People′s Games′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.07.2012
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Ticket, traffic qualms hit 'People's Games'

The 2012 Olympics are meant to be first and foremost for the people of London. That's at least been the refrain sung by UK officials keen to sell the event as the "People's Games." DW looks at whether that's the case.

Olympic technical staffs finish the final details of the session room where five cities will make their best effort to persuade Olympic Committee members to choose their city to host the 2012 Olympics Tuesday July 5, 2005 in Singapore. London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris will be making their presentations before the IOC vote on Wednesday in one of the most competetive and closely watched games bids in history.(AP Photo/Ed Wray)

Olympia Bewerbung 2012

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics is set to involve school children, nurses and just ordinary people reflecting the diversity, creativity and humor of the British Isles.

The committee in charge of organizing the ceremony, which is set to involve a cast of some 10,000 people, has revealed to British media that the show will create a "picture of ourselves as a nation."

The set will feature scenes from the British countryside as well as a host of landmarks from around the UK. Although the details of the show were supposed to be kept secret before the opening ceremony on July 27, artistic director Danny Boyle told the BBC that even animals would be included: 70 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese and three sheepdogs.

The 27-million-pound (33.5 million euros) extravaganza is part of a bid to present this summer's Games as being there first and foremost for the people to enjoy - as something not aimed at the elite or privileged.

Though the ceremony, admittedly, won't come anywhere near the scale of the pomp seen in Athens or Beijing, Boyle told the Guardian that he was looking to recreate the "humanity of Sydney in 2000," which was unofficially labeled "The People's Games."

Police patrol opening ceremony in Beijing, China

The London 2012 opening ceremony will pale in comparison to Beijing when it comes to pomp

Ticket qualms

But such presentations and statements are hard to swallow for many Londoners, given the reality that most won't even be able to afford tickets to attend the games being played in their backyards.

So far, 7 million of the total 8.8 million Olympics tickets have been sold in an online process that began last year. And though there are still about 500,000 tickets left to sell, claims are being made that most of the tickets sold went on the black market for exorbitant prices.

Olympics tickets

Patrons have been wrestling for Olympics tickets for months

It's a charge the chairman of the Olympics Athletics Committee, Jonathan Edwards, denied, when he spoke to DW:

"The deal with tickets is simple: More people wanted tickets than there were tickets on sale. This is great news for us as an organizing committee, because 25 percent of our revenues come from ticket sales, and one of the things we promised - to the International Organizing Committee, indeed to the athletes of the world - is that they would compete in front of full stadiums, and that's exactly what they're going to get."

Edwards also insisted that the Olympics would have an impact far beyond its immediate reach.

"It's not to downplay the disappointment people feel, but there's a huge amount happening outside of actually getting Olympics tickets. There's a massive cultural program, the London 2012 festival, and there are plenty of ways to get involved in the Games, even if you don't get to see the final 100 meters of the high-profile races."

Blocked motorways

But the inaccessibility of tickets is one thing; the congestion set to descend on the British capital is another serious source of pre-Games criticism among local Londoners. At a press conference in June, Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer at Transport for London (TfL), warned motorists to avoid central London at all costs during the Games, adding even that London would be dealing with extreme traffic jams in the run-up to the Games.

"It goes without saying, really, that London is going to be crowded. We will see a rise of around three million extra trips being made during the Games, and with media and athletes and patrons arriving before they kick off, citizens will have to realize that traffic jams are going to be the norm at hotspots in central London."

A London bus is seen in a traffic jam in London

Londoners have been warned to avoid the center of the city from July 15 onwards

Drivers have been told to avoid, in particular, the 109-mile (175 km) Olympic Route Network (ORN) that will effectively make large areas of London a no-go for at least six weeks. The plan is to have lanes on the ORN that are only reserved for officials, athletes and other VIPs, harking back images of the ZIL lanes reserved for Soviet officials on all major roads in Moscow during the Soviet era.

London cab drivers are furious at being denied access to the ZIL lanes - a move they say will dent their business. "The Olympics are going to affect us greatly, the full use of ZIL lanes, or the Olympic Route Network is the first area of concern. They are painting non-access lanes along most of the main routes of London. We're talking about 38 miles of road here," Steve McNamara, spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association of London, told DW.

With all this being said, however, hope does remain in London that once the Olympics get underway, Londoners will get into the spirit of the Games and feel part of the action, regardless of the inevitable hassles that come with organizing such a massive global event.

But there are still real questions over how inclusive this summer's "People's Game" will be - from the people without tickets to the people whose daily lives will be significantly disrupted.

Author: Gabriel Borrud, Nina-Maria Potts
Editor: Helen Seeney