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Olympics: lane bondage, Lord Coe’s straight bananas and BoJo’s hair

Now that the London 2012 Olympics are almost here, all the special arrangements that are going to be imposed for their duration are getting cranked up.

The lines have been painted on the road to allow Olympic-related traffic to move quickly through the city. Unsurprisingly there are already grumbles that the lanes will snarl up other traffic, including cyclists wanting to use National Cycle Route 1 or the Victoria Park/Olympic Park Greenway, both of which have been closed.

When they went live today on the busy A 40, A 12 and A 13 arterial roads, journeys were reported to be taking twice as long as usual. So when the lanes are fully implemented from 25 July, it’s going to be even worse! And motorists could be fined £130 for straying into them. Not so much lane discipline as full-on lane bondage, perhaps.

Less intrusive for most Londoners, but more intrusive for Games visitors and local businesses, are the sponsorship rules. Participants – including volunteers of all ages – have been told they won’t be allowed to wear branded footwear other than Adidas. Security teams have already been out in force to tell shops in Hackney they can’t put up unofficial bunting to celebrate the event. There have even been rumours – denied by Lord Coe, chairman of LOCOG (the Games organising committee) – that police officers would have to transfer crisps out of Walkers branded packets into clear plastic bags to avoid publicising a company owned by Pepsi, rival of Games sponsors Coca-Cola.

Lord Coe told BBC Today presenter Evan Davis (top guy, and our favourite meerkat lookalike) on 20 July that this rumour was “slightly in the territory of straight bananas“. But then again, if he was intending to defuse the scary rumours about sponsor Stalinism, he didn’t do a terribly good job of it either. At one stage he suggested that spectators wearing Pepsi T-shirts wouldn’t be allowed into any of the Olympic venues – LOCOG later had to issue a statement explaining that bans would only apply to groups, to prevent attempts at ambush marketing like Oranjeboom’s team of 36 orange dress-clad ladies at the 2010 World Cup.

Take these together with the failure of G4S to provide enough staff for security – forcing the organisers to bump up the numbers of Army and police service personnel called upon – and the impression is that it’s all rather chaotic, with a nasty streak of tawdriness too.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has been calling on people to “put a sock in it”, “cut out the whining” and “get behind our team and the Games”. Of course he has – he’s got a large personal stake in the success of the Olympics. Any criticism of how they turn out may well come back to him sooner or later. Paradoxically, as the chaos grows his hair seems to have got smoother.

Well, maybe it will all come out in the wash. For my part, I’ll be happy to dip in and out of the Olympics on the Web and the telly every now and again, thanking my lucky stars I’m not in London right now!

PG Author: Dave

Dave was bitten by the expat bug at the age of 13 when he went to live in Germany. Since leaving school at the age of 30 (with a doctorate in something so obscure even he can’t remember what it’s about) he’s also lived in Bangladesh, India and Thailand, and travelled to most European countries (including several that don’t exist any more, though he denies responsibility), as well as Barbados, South Korea, St Vincent, UAE, Laos, and many more.

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