Twixt and tween the London scene
London in-between the Olympics and Paralympics
LONDON (eTN) - It was fascinating to see the golden days of the Olympics Games 2012 (The Greatest Show on Earth), which has brought a new spirit and feeling of togetherness to Britain and even switched on a button for making the impossible possible, with people chatting on the Tube (Metro) and exchanging results when paying at the open 24 hours super markets in Central London in the middle of the night.
Nontheless, it was a surprise to see an incredibly empty London, with empty streets, empty parks, and plenty of empty parking lots, where usually it is jammed packed.
Shopkeepers were unhappy, business was not quite as exciting as they thought it would be, with a downturn of 30%, they said, while grumbling taxi drivers said they lost nearly 40% of usual business during that time.
And in the end, the traffic lanes functioning as GAMES lines - were open for all traffic, but there was hardly any traffic to be seen, especially toward the end of the last day of the splendid and spectacular London Olympics 2012.
Britain’s royal heritage and the settings of countless historic celebrations were turned into Olympic venues. The historic London Horse Guard Parade was transformed into the setting for beach volleyball with mounds of sand, and into a temporary arena, while Earls Court Exhibition Center and former venue of World Travel Market was hosting volleyball without sand.
The Serpentine (lake) in Hyde Park became the venue for the women’s triathlon and also for long-distance swimmers. The sounds from the equestrian events were pounding out from Greenwich Hill as far as to Canary Hill, while the famous Royal Artillery Barracks turned into the ideal venue for shooting competitions, and the cyclists could enjoy the beautiful surroundings and rounding up to Hampton Court Palace.
There were many areas that were free for the public to come and watch the Games without tickets. For example, one could witness the men’s marathon for free, which was the final athletic event of the Games. The marathon route included some of the most famous sights of London - the Tower, St. Paul’s Cathedral - before reaching it finals stretch into the Olympic stadium.
And when it was over, “The Times” wrote: “A joyous party ends the wonder of 2012!”
Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the British Olympic Association, said: “I have noticed how politicians have enjoyed the Games. I can understand why Roman emperors were keen on staging Annual Games.”
“The challenge for Great Britain is now to surf on this wave,” said Dr. Jacques Rogge in his closing remarks, as he praised the organization, the quality of the atheletes’ village and venues, and the use of the iconic landmarks as backdrops, as well as the input of “marvelous, smiling, and efficient” volunteers and the “wonderful” military.
Indeed, most popular and unique were the local heros and tens of thousands of volunteers called the “Game Makers” (70,000 were selected out of 250,000 applications to be a volunteer) who helped visitors to find their way around. They were the local heros of London, and they brightened up empty roads and lonely feeling tourists. Among the Game Makers were bankers, students, teachers, and engineers, all with an incredible amount of enthusiasm and rain-proofed smiles.
Even the day after the end of Olmpics, many Game Makers were still in uniform, proudly wearing their badges. When asked, “What are you doing now?” the answer was, “We are getting ready for the Paralympics!”
And so 2012 ends on a wave of optimism, wrote the British press, with the people of Britain riding on a wave of positive feelings - 51 percent said their spirit was lifted by the event.
But there is still more to come.
With the equally great Paralympic Games coming up in only one week’s time, London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy is welcoming the world once more and asking for help by avoiding the busiest times and locations.
During the Olympic Games, the London Tube carried more than 60 million passengers - 30 percent more than usual, and more than at any other time in its 149-year history. Transportation above ground rose by 47%.
Other than the Olympics in 1948, when there was little money for the capital to put on a lavish display, this year’s Games started with a glorious opening ceremony on Friday, July 27, 2012, and ended with an exuberant celebration of the British culture rock world on Sunday, August 12, 2012.
The 2012 Games were supposed to come in under 2.5 billion British pounds (as estimated during planning in 2005) but costs rose rapidly, going up to 9.3 billion GBP. The reality is that the cost ended up closer to 13 billion GBP, with some suggesting that the real figure was 25 billion – so still cheaper than the Beijing Olympics (28 billion pounds) .
By looking at hotel occupancy and restaurant statistics, the figures were not as rosy as forecasted in June and early July. Hoteliers dropped rates in the final pre-Olympic sprint.
Air & Business Travel News wrote that Trivago - a hotel search, booking, and tracking website – reported that up to 30 percent of London's hotel rooms were unclaimed during the Olympic period, and London hotel rates fell an average of 17% over the last 3 weeks, from £242 to £201. Prices for hotel stays in London dropped on August 12 after the closing ceremony, with a 35 percent decrease in rates. Hotels just outside London, such as in Wimbledon, lowered their rates by 50% the last weekend of the Olympics.
However, according to STR Global, the leading service provider of market information to the hotel industry, London hotels reported increases in the average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room during the 2012 Olympic Games. Hoteliers across London reported an average occupancy of 88.5 % and an ADR of £212.22. This represents an increase of 4.8 percent and 86.1 percent, respectively, compared to the same days the year prior. STR Global tracks daily performance from more than 390 hotels in London and 2,400 hotels across the United Kingdom overall.
“The London 2012 Olympic Games have provided great sporting moments and a very enjoyable atmosphere for athletes and spectators alike,” commented Elizabeth Randall Winkle, Managing Director of STR Global, “The smooth running of the event and its positive coverage to a global TV audience will encourage more visitors to come to London in the future.”
Now and almost a month since the start of the Olympic action, the eyes of the world will continue to be on London as the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games takes place in the London Olympic Stadium London. The event will being with the Paralympic Athletes' Parade, with award-winning film director, Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), heading the team behind the ceremony. There will be a cast of over 3,000 volunteers, rehabilitating soldiers, children, and professionals in so-called "Enlightenment," with the program celebrating the inclusivity of the Paralympics, including a fly-past by "Aerobility" and incredible acrobatic performances on a 35-meter-high rig above the stadium floor. There will be 4,000 athletes from 162 nations participating in the 2012 Paralympic Games from August 29-September 9, 2012.