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London Olympics: Dash of chaos, dollops of warmth


London faces more or less the same problem that so many venues have faced before — throw in enough media at a single place and problems appear to magnify overnight. If you believed the stories, Athens ‘04 was never meant to get its infrastructure right in time. Do you remember that theyhad said Beijing’s air was too polluted for peak athletic performance? And that the Commonwealth Games in Delhi would be an unmitigated disaster?


There may still be a shortage of volunteers at the London Games, but there was also the resplendent July sun and enough short skirts to reflect the cheer in the air.


At ground zero, London does not seem to be that far off the mark. Early morning, Heathrow was a breeze. The train service did announce a few delays but zipped about pretty steady through the day.


The issue of security seems to have been dealt with by extremely pleasant members of the British armed forces. No longer are athlete-carrying buses going awry.


The Olympics fever, however, does not seem to have got hold of London yet. There is a marked lack of buzz on the streets; far fewer insignia and branding dot the city than at the last edition in Beijing. But then, comparison with Beijing is going to be the quagmire London had best steer clear of.


In scale, the Chinese delivered a Games that are likely to stay unmatched forever. However, in warmth, London is already long strides ahead. Here, they don't have a horde of manpower to throw and make problems disappear. But they do have a bunch of people who smile.


The smiles alone, however, won't help if bus and train drivers, along with other sundry service providers, use the occasion as a chance to make a quick profit by holding their own government to hostage.


London could certainly do with a bit of Chinese discipline in its workforce. After all, when the Olympic lane opens on Wednesday — the fast inner lane of some roads is barred to any traffic other than the Olympic family — things are only going to get all the more frustrating for the Londoner who is still to embrace the spirit of the Games.


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