As London readies for Olympics, some fear chaos

A Lynx helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the Royal Navy Helicopter Carrier HMS Ocean as it is moored on the River Thames at Greenwich as part of security rehearsals ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London. The exercise is aimed at testing military capabilities to ensure operational readiness before the start of the Olympic Games.

Kai Ryssdal: In about three months' time, the spectacle that is the Summer Olympics is gonna land in London. The British capital is limbering up. But as with all Olympiads, there are doubts about preparedness. So authorities are putting the city through its paces.

From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: A jet fighter tears through the London sky. Operation Olympic Guardian is underway; a huge military exercise designed, says John Gearson of King's College, not only to deter the terrorists.

John Gearson: They're also trying to reassure the public that the Armed Forces as well as the police are taking Olympic security seriously.

But some Londoners are not reassured. Nadine Moses says the military have just told her there will be a missile battery on the roof of her apartment block, not far from the Olympic Park. She now feels she's a terrorist target.

Nadine Moses: It's a bit worrying that they're going to put missiles on the roof. It is a bit terrifying.

Other residents say the missiles are an over-reaction. But the government's also been accused of under-reacting to the likely influx of millions of Olympic visitors.

Over the past two weeks, London's Heathrow Airport has suffered massive delays. Some incoming passengers have been forced to wait up to three hours to have their passports checked. Lawmaker Keith Vaz:

Keith Vaz: The scenes at Heathrow are deeply embarrassing, damaging to the reputation of the country and damaging to the standing of London as a world class city.

The union that represents the passport control staff blames austerity measures. The government has cut 100 jobs at Heathrow. Appearing on a BBC discussion show, the union boss Mark Serwotka said it doesn't bode well for Olympics.

Mark Serwotka: Everyone knows they've cut too far. Britain looks embarrassed when people are queuing at the airports. And frankly, the Olympics is a disaster waiting to happen.

The government says it will deploy an extra 500 immigration staff at Heathrow during the Games. And moves are afoot to ease congestion on London's notoriously overcrowded subway, the Tube.

Automated voice: Mind the Gap, stand clear of the doors please.

When the Games open at the end of July, the world will be watching to see how London performs. The city is anxious that it doesn't fall flat on its face at the first hurdle.

In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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