Olympics

Helen Warrell

Photo via @BTLondonLive on twitter

Even before Boris Johnson got stuck in the middle of a zip wire, suspended high above a crowd of Olympic revellers in East London, it was clear that this was not a stunt that any other politician would have attempted.

Wearing a giant red and blue harness over his suit, a hard hat strapped securely under the chin, and waving a Union Jack in each hand, the London mayor’s aerial progress towards spectators was anything but dignified.

The harebrained scheme had been intended to provide a spectacular mayoral entrance to one of the many “live” Olympic events being held around the UK capital, this one sponsored by BT and held in Victoria Park. However, when Boris came to a halt after gradually losing momentum, he was left prone above the assembled masses, unable to do anything except wave his flags in a lacklustre way and call on onlookers to throw up a rope.

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Kiran Stacey

Empty seats at the dressage eventDavid Cameron met with his “Olympics Cabinet” today to discuss, among other things, what can be done about the spectacle of rows of empty seats at Games venues. Various events, including swimming and even the popular beach volleyball, have not been full, despite huge public demand for tickets.

The problem, Downing street explained today, is not so much the sponsors (as some have suggested), but accredited Games officials, who have a certain allocation for each event, but don’t necessarily turn up.

So what did the prime minister tell the hapless official from the organising committee (Locog) who briefed him about the problem this morning? Not much really, says Number 10 – there’s not much he can do. A spokesperson said:

It is disappointing.

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Kiran Stacey

1968 Black Power salute

The 1968 protest which the UK fears Argentina may copy

A week ago, the Sunday Times revealed Whitehall fears about Argentina using the Olympics as a platform for protest against British control of the Falkland Islands. The paper reported:

Ministers are worried about a possible demonstration by Argentine athletes similar to the one staged at the 1968 Games in Mexico City by African-American athletes at the men’s 200m medal ceremony.

Any symbolic gesture by team members would be broadcast worldwide, fuelling tensions between Britain and Argentina. Diplomatic relations between the two countries are already strained.

Since then, Christina Kirchner, the Argentinian president, has tried to reassure anxious Brits and Olympic officials by telling her athletes not to do anything “stupid”. She said:

We’re not stupid. We don’t need to use sport to stand up for our rights. We’ll defend our rights in appropriate forums, like the UN.

Well, just in case the athletes didn’t get the message, Jeremy Browne, the foreign office minister for South America, has put further pressure on the Argentinians. In an interview with the FT, he made it clear the British government would see such a protest as a serious escalation of hostilities (emphasis mine): Read more

Jim Pickard

Business leaders in London should let staff work from home or travel outside rush hour to prevent gridlock during the Olympic Games, the government has urged.

Shifting to flexible working would be essential while the Underground, roads and trains contended with the weight of tourist numbers flooding into the capital, said Norman Baker, transport minister. More than 8m tickets are being sold for the 2012 event.

We are going to have a gigantic influx of people all wanting to travel to see events and it is simply not possible for everything to keep running if everyone carries on as normal,” said Mr Baker. “You have got to work differently to do this.”
A third of large companies already plan to allow staff to work flexibly during the games, according to a recent survey from Deloitte.

With just over a year to go before the event, Mr Baker is trying to spread the message that getting companies to cut their transport use could have beneficial effects beyond the Olympics.

Not only would it cut carbon emissions but also support the economy by easing congestion, he said, explaining that sometimes his brief as transport minister meant asking people not to travel.

Describing rush hour as an “insane concept”, he said: “It is crazy that we all travel on the same train on the same day at the same time. We should be able to spread the peak across different times.”

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