Monday, July 23, 2012
It's the summer that Londoners have been talking about since July 6th, 2005. It's the summer over which the British beat out the French, where Shakespeare came to London speaking so many languages and when the London Center got a new boiler.
Yes! The Olympics are here! As part of my own personal build up to the Olympics, I read The Devil in the White City (by Erik Larsen, I recommend it), which is about the Columbian Exposition (the World's Fair) which Chicago held in 1893. It shouldn't be much of a surprise, but I find it impressive that 119 years later, there are similar feelings in London as described in the book about what Chicago was going through- anticipation before showing off the city to the world, nerves about living up to expectations, excitement for the big event. Many of the specific issues don't compare (I'm pleased to say that sewage and garbage in the streets of London are nothing like what Chicago was sorting through), but some do. Recently the news has reported that the company awarded the security contract didn't hire enough employees for the Olympics- in Chicago there weren't nearly enough grounds keepers to pick up all the rubbish. Another issue is that the UK has hired extra staff to work at the borders to keep the airport queues down at immigration. But now they are threatening to strike the day before the opening ceremony, what is expected to be one of the busiest days at Heathrow. The carpenters who built the Exposition were asked to work longer hours and work faster to get the fair ready in time. They went on strike, asking for regular working hours and a minimum wage.
As with most large scale urban events, the transport system is one of the most obvious places to see the strains placed on the city. Chicago extended the routes of the L to better reach Jackson Park. London is giving free travel from zones 1-9 on the day of the event the spectator is attending. They've built cable cars (it looks like a ski lift) across the Thames between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks. And best of all, they've made this series of posters with advice for Londoners themselves. Here are some of my favorites:
But my favorite bit of commuter advice comes from the Mayor's own voice. Read the article in the link for the criticism that appeared on Twitter as soon as the message was released. Each time I hear it, I wonder what the other takes must have sounded like for that to be the one they chose. But it does what it needs to- it gets your attention.
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