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SBD Global/July 17, 2012/Olympics

American And Australian Athletes Team Buses Get Lost From Heathrow To Olympic Park

A taxi cab drives past an Olympic lane as the city prepares for the Summer Olympics.
Scores of Olympic athletes and officials, who began arriving in London Monday, found themselves enduring four-hour bus rides as "untrained bus drivers" transporting them from Heathrow Airport to the Olympic Park in Stratford got lost, according to Jacquelin Magnay of the London TELEGRAPH. Two buses containing Americans and Australians were lost, one for nearly four hours, the other three hours. Their route was "supposed to be fast-tracked" by the implementation of the Olympic lane on the M4. The bus driver containing the Australian contingent of 30 officials and medical staff took his passengers past Buckingham Palace and the back streets of West Ham. Australian Committee Media Dir Damian Kelly said, "It would have been a great tourist trip if that is what you are here for." U.S. two-time hurdles champion Kerron Clement tweeted from the lost bus: "Um, so we've been lost on the road for 4 hrs. Not a good first impression London. Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee. Could we get to the Olympic Village please." A media shuttle bus also "had difficulty finding its destination." The double decker, traveling from Russell Square to the Olympic Park, "pulled over 30 minutes into its journey." The driver said: "Sorry about this." He then "got out a map, before performing a U-turn and quickly getting back on the correct route." A LOCOG spokesperson said: "We will do over 100 bus journeys [Monday]. It is day one and we have only had one or two issues where journeys have taken longer than planned. The vast majority of journeys have been fine" (TELEGRAPH, 7/16). London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said, "I can't believe it would have been four hours -- they would have had to get seriously lost. They would have been at Southend rather than the Olympic Park." London Mayor Boris Johnson added, "I can't expand on the experience of the athletes, but clearly they would have had the opportunity to see even more of the city." Hendy added: "They would have seen the whole southeast England" (PA, 7/16).  In Sydney, Samantha Lane reported Kelly said that the Australian group had "taken the extended detour in good humour." Kelly said, "Everyone was having a few jokes and we saw some great sights. We saw Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge and a few other things, I presume we were supposed to see them anyway but I'm not really sure. Someone on the bus described it as the Monopoly tour" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/17).

ATHLETE INVASION: In London, Kennedy & O’Connor wrote the first Olympic athletes “started flying into Britain [Sunday] with no significant delays reported" at Heathrow Airport. The Home Office said that an “extra 500 border officers were posted at entry points" to the U.K., with "every passport desk to be manned" during the airport's busy times. With athlete arrivals coming over a “staggered period,” the extra manpower “has been promised to prevent a repeat of the delays which have frustrated passengers in recent months.” Meanwhile, the first Olympic road lane “came into force this morning as the logistical operation to handle the huge influx of Olympic athletes and officials began in earnest” (LONDON TIMES, 7/16). In London, O'Conner, Pank, Buchanan & Ford reported Heathrow "was running smoothly as the first athletes and officials arrived," with the longest immigration queues at Terminal 4, "where waiting times were 20 minutes." The airport processed 236,955 passengers, compared with an average of 190,000. An extra 500 border staff were drafted in to passport control as well as another 500 Olympic volunteers (LONDON TIMES, 7/17).
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