Organizers, U.K. Media Turn Attention To Games Week, Adopt Positive Attitude
LOCOG and London government officials “hit back on Sunday at cynics after weeks of negative headlines, saying criticism over planning mistakes and costs were being outweighed by a surge in public excitement as the gala opening ceremony nears,” according to Mohammed Abbas of REUTERS. Britain's “famously caustic” media also “seemed to adopt a more positive stance as thousands turned out to cheer the Olympic torch relay through London.” London Mayor Boris Johnson said, "The mood is perceptibly changing. People are starting to get really excited here in London about the arrival of the torch. ... The last remaining clouds of dampness and Olympo-scepticism are going to be banished" (REUTERS, 722). In Toronto, Rob Longley writes the “moaning about the impending traffic woes and security concerns was replaced by talk of the weather Sunday as Londoners flocked outdoors to the parks and pub patios in search of a long overdue sunburn.” And if the public “needed a little rallying cry to kick off the opening week of the Games, the venerable Sunday Times supplied it with a screaming headline spread over two broadsheet pages.” The headline read, "Stand By, World, London Is Going To Outdo Beijing" (TORONTO SUN, 7/23).
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD: U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson “predicts a ‘grim week ahead’ as the world's press casts it forensic eye on London.” But he said, “The moment the starting gun fires, everyone's attention is on the sport. The only thing people will be taking about is gold medals.” He said outcry over the shortfall in G4S’ preparedness to provide security for the Olympics is a “classic example of all the extraneous crap you have to try not to focus on.” Robertson: “You can analyse to death why this all happened, but the fact is last Wednesday we had a problem and we had to fix it, which we did.” He added, “I think the International Olympic Committee are a fantastic organisation. (The President) Jacques Rogge is a fundamentally decent human being. ... FIFA on the other hand, are very different. They are utterly untransparent. I don’t see any evidence of the things that their attempts to change anything are having any effect, and I would want to see evidence of things having fundamentally changed before we considered bidding for a World Cup again” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/23).
CHAIRMAN'S CHANT: In a special to the London DAILY MAIL, LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe wrote under the header, "We've Had Accusations -- Now It's Time To Lighten Up For 19 Days Of Spellbinding Sport." Coe wrote, "The words fiasco, chaos and crisis become the £50 of journalistic currency and the organising committee portrayed as dysfunctional, out of touch and about to inflict grievous and irreparable wounds to our national reputation." He continued, "Sometimes you fight back because the reportage bears no resemblance to reality. Sometimes you have the insatiable desire to start every explanation to your inquisitor with: ‘Lighten up. We are staging the greatest celebration of sport that the world’s best athletes of their generation are going to lay before us'" (London DAILY MAIL, 7/21). In N.Y., John Burns wrote Coe is “eager not to seem complacent,” and the former Olympian “oozes the resolve that once faced down competitors on the track, saying he has no regrets about taking on the challenge of the Games.” Coe’s friends and associates said that if he can make a success of the Games, then “a place in Britain’s sporting pantheon will be secure.” But if he “fails, his legacy may be permanently scarred” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/21). The GUARDIAN’s Owen Gibson writes Coe is “hard to ruffle,” but even he has “appeared slightly unnerved in recent weeks.” Still, he “retains an unshakeable conviction that the Games will be a triumph.” Coe said that he is “not surprised the torch relay that arrived in London this weekend has been such a hit around the country, reaching an estimated” 10 million people. Coe believes it will go "up a notch" again this week in the capital. He also “believes the Games will showcase the best of Britain -- on the field of play and off” (GUARDIAN, 7/23).
SECURITY: In London, Terri Judd updates the security around the Games and the performance of G4S and cites a security operator as saying that the situation "had barely improved, with a third of his work force failing to materialise, while the chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation said officers were ‘shocked and alarmed’ by the lack of G4S training.” A security contractor yesterday said that a “third of his staff were still not arriving for duty.” He was instead “sent predominantly female university students, employed through G4S's ‘Bridging the Gap’ recruitment campaign, who he turned away.” The security contractor said, "They have minimal training. They are all girls under 20 and I did not feel comfortable leaving them to carry out duties at night" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/23). IOC President Jacque Rogge said of security, “The problem has been identified, the problem has been addressed in a good way, the company will compensate for the extra costs for the Government and really it’s time to move to another issue. We are interested in the end result and the end result is satisfactory. We are not going to enter in the blame game, we are not going to point fingers because this is useless” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/23).
LIGHT MY FIRE: The AP’s Rob Harris noted there is “an answer to the question of who will light the Olympic cauldron at Friday's opening ceremony,” but organizers are “not saying." Gold Medal-winning rower Steven Redgrave "is the favorite with the bookmakers to light the flame.” Robertson said, "It is the most closely guarded secret in the book. There is a tiny community of three or four people who are doing this. Personally, I would love to see Seb do it because I think he has contributed more to the Olympic movement than anybody else in this country” (AP, 7/21).