London OIympic Games open in troubled times
By John Mehaffey
LONDON (Reuters) - London, an ancient city steeped in theatre and pageantry, stages its third summer Olympics against a somber backdrop tempering the excitement and anticipation before the world's greatest sports festival.
Euphoria in Singapore, where London secured the Games in 2005, was succeeded within 24 hours by horror in the British capital when 52 commuters were killed by four suicide bombers.
Consequently the Games of the XXX Olympiad, opening at the Olympic stadium in east London on Friday, will feature Britain's largest peacetime security operation which has further inflated the budget in troubled economic times.
"The security threat comes from a number of diverse actors ranging from al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists, lone wolves acting independently, Irish Republican Army offshoots as well as anarchists," said an assessment from the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based think tank.
"Another potential danger is street violence similar to the wild, apparently spontaneous and totally unpredictable riots, that hit parts of London for five days in August 2011, causing hundreds of millions of pounds in property damage."
London's creaking transport system, criticized as "often obsolete" by International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors after the city was short-listed for the Games, is another problem.
So, too, is the unpredictable British climate during a summer of unrelieved gloom and drenching rain, although signs that the weather gods may have finally relented came at the weekend with clear skies, rising temperatures and optimistic forecasts.
On the plus side, the Asia-Pacific Foundation report pointed out that Britain has a "very successful track record" in hosting major sports events, a point stressed by London 2012 Olympics organizing committee chairman Seb Coe. Continued...