The first physical evidence of the Games Lanes can now be found in London; including Olympic rings painted on the streets, and road signs reading “Olympic route only”. My August mornings and evenings, and those of tens of thousands of my fellow Londoners, will be spent queuing for hours waiting for congestion to ease on busy underground platforms. Already the tube system feels vulnerable, with tube trains stuck by network flooding, and passengers being walked to safety through deserted tunnels. There has also been the first bus workers’ strike after 94% of drivers voted for action in a ballot (every day they go on strike, the workers promise, they will increase their demand for an Olympic bonus by £100).
Focus inevitably turns to the wretched Olympic Route Network (ORN), under which 30% of the London road network has been entrusted to the London organisers. Traffic lights are to be held indefinitely on green, and extra parking spaces allocated, all so that (at least in theory) athletes and officials can have the best possible access to the Games.
Certain details of the ORN are among the most closely-guarded secrets of the London Organisers. You see, for the duration of the Games, a large majority of the athletes are going to eat, sleep and exercise in the Olympic village. Even the Royal Olympian Zara Phillips, who is hardly short of a spare London residence or 10, has been persuaded to stay for the duration of the Games in East London. If the purpose of the Games Lanes was really to get the athletes to Stratford without difficulty, then why is there a concentration of Olympic routes in the vicinity of Hyde Park? It is not a sporting venue, nor is it a place where any of the athletes will be living, it is however the location of the most expensive hotels in London…
And if the point was to protect the senior bureaucrats of the Olympic world, the IOC only has 105 members, and there are only around a dozen or so senior officials in the London Organising Committee: but we are told that 20,000 permits have been issued for the Games Lanes. Even if each IOC member was bringing with him or her a small army of brothers, sisters, children, cats, dogs and second cousins, that wouldn’t fill up more than a small portion of the permits issued.
The suspicion has long been that the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) has allocated the majority of the Games Lane permits to the 1200 “sponsors” (i.e. regional salesmen, corporate chums, and the occasional plutocrat) who were invited to run the Olympic torch relay, and to several thousands non-sponsors who have block-booked corporate holidays in London through the various official and semi-official ticket touts.This, the London Organisers have repeatedly denied, maintaining that the ORN is for bona fide work purposes only and the global mega-rich are being kept out.
Now Jaques Rogge, the head of the IOC, has intimated that the Organisers have not been telling the full truth., and the main beneficiaries of London’s traffic chaos will indeed be the sponsors. This is what he told the Standard, “There is always a return to be given to the sponsor foe the financial support that Locog gets. The return is the people they can show the Games to…”
In this respect, as in every other, the London games are a gigantic scheme for making life easier for the rich, and mucking it up for all the rest of us.