London

How far should we go to develop top athletes? Is it worth so much that a special “Olympic class” of people should be cultivated from a young age?

It seems that this has already happened in many competing nations. It reminds us of the strategy employed by District 2 in the The Hunger Games.

For those not familiar with this particular work of fiction, it tells the story of an entirely more violent set of games that involve a fight to the death by a bunch of teenagers (some even younger).

From each of 12 districts in the nation of Panem two kids are selected to do battle in a sci-fi version of a gladiatorial ring until only one remains and is proclaimed the winner by virtue of still being alive.

The “tributes”, as the teens are so-called, are mostly selected randomly. However, we are told that District 2 has “career tributes” who are entered into special academies at a young age. They then get to the ripe old age of 18 — at which point they are expected to volunteer themselves for the Hunger Games. Districts 1 and 4 have also been known to engage in this strategy, and all three districts that do this are wealthier than the other 9 districts.

This strategy, of having a specialist warrior class, makes tributes from these districts particularly successful at the games. (It also means that the rest of the kids in those districts don’t have to risk being selected by random draw.)

Our own distinctly real Olympic Games is gracefully free of such gratuitous violence. Instead, our Games represent to us sporting achievement in the context of universal ideals. Nations are brought together by them in celebration of values we share. 

Helen Warrell

David Cameron at the track cycling on day 6 of the Olympic Games ( Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

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.” 

Hannah Kuchler

Protesters see the games as a symbol of the widening inequality in London, claiming the poor have been shut out of both the Olympics and their legacy. Sponsors are targets either because they represent big business or, in the case of Dow Chemicals, because of links to a previous disaster. 

Jacques Rogge (L) arrives with Princess Anne at the Opening Ceremony of the IOC at the Royal Opera House on July 23. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)

With a goodly number of crown princes, princesses, sheikhs and counts in its ranks, the International Olympic Committee is not a club inclined to cut corners.

The presence in London of the 109 IOC members, led by president Jacques Rogge, is quickly coming under the kind of scrutiny they presumably knew they were in for seven years ago when they decided, narrowly, to stage the 2012 Olympics in London rather than Paris.

The grandeur of their five-star residence in the Park Lane Hilton, complete with security cordon, set the tone for the criticism they can probably expect to encounter on a regular basis during the games. 

Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Thursday July 26 has been billed as Heathrow airport’s busiest day ever, but it may not turn out that way.

For months, BAA, Heathrow’s operator, had forecast that a record 244,000 passengers would pass through the airport, with numbers swelled by those converging on London for the Olympic games.

But on Thursday BAA cut its forecast to 227,000 arriving and departing passengers, which means July 26 would not beat the previous record of 234,000 set in July last year. 

The editor of FT Weekend, Caroline Daniel, came across this handmade sign in a London cab earlier this week. It serves as a nice illustration of Hannah Kuchler’s story from today’s newspaper, from which: 

Hannah Kuchler

Paralympic medalist Ade Adepitan, (L), lights the torch of the next bearer, a South London school girl

The Olympic torch whizzed across London’s once-wobbly Millenium bridge on Thurdsay morning, carried by Paralympic medallist Ade Adepitan who moved so fast, he had to reverse to give the photographers their shot.

Office workers – who had been worrying about being late to work – joined with school kids on their summer holidays to screech and squeal as the flame made the journey between two of the capital’s most famous landmarks: St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern.

The torch has traveled through more than a thousand villages and towns across the four nations of the United Kingdom and will have journeyed for 70 days when it reaches the Olympic stadium on Friday.