David Cameron at the track cycling on day 6 of the Olympic Games ( Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
First it was a quiet retreat, as the booming transport announcements from Boris Johnson advising Londoners not to “get caught out” by the pressure of Olympic traffic were turned off.
Now ministers are in full U-turn mode on warnings of transport overload, with David Cameron entreating visitors to return to the capital amid fears that organisers’ previous scare stories of packed tubes and jammed mainline stations have left theatres, restaurants and shops empty.
Speaking to Sky News last night, the prime minister said he was confident that fears of transport chaos had been “defeated” and that it was time for people to return to the city.
“People said also that London wouldn’t cope, the traffic would grind to a halt, the capital city wouldn’t manage, that hasn’t been the case,” Mr Cameron said. “Clearly there is a challenge now though to say to Londoners, to the British public … London’s working well, it’s open for business, come back into the capital, come and shop, come and eat in London’s restaurants and let’s make sure that all of London’s economy benefits from this.”
Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Boris Johnson probably put it best when he said this morning that the geiger-counter of Olympo-mania was “creeping towards the red zone”. The UK is abuzz and senior politicians – already relieved that the Olympics are finally distracting from Britain’s economic woes – have entered fully into the manic spirit.
First off, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt provided some unexpected entertainment when he waved a hand bell rather too enthusiastically during the “all the bells” celebration on HMS Belfast to mark the start of the games. The bell flew off its handle, narrowly missing the crowds on deck. “Oh, oh dear! Are you all right? Health and safety!”, Mr Hunt cried, in a very British way. He later recovered enough to laugh off the incident with a humour rare among politicians who have suffered televised mishap. “I was ringing a bell in a very excited way and the bell actually collapsed in my hand and went flying off,” he told the BBC. “It was a clanger, if you’ll forgive the awful pun.”