August 1st, 2012
06:57 PM GMT
London (CNN) – Did London 2012 Olympic organizers scare off too many people?
It started to occur to me last week that I was getting seats on trains and buses at times that I shouldn’t. I had the fastest commute home in 22 years. I beat my best by ten minutes and now compare myself to a certain female swimmer.
Transport For London (TFL) warned us for years that there would be a 20% increase in travel during the Games and that certain stations would be "exceptionally busy."
The crabby newspaper writers warned about so-called "Limousine Lanes" clogging traffic in London. These were set aside for those in the "Olympic Family" to get to venues and back to the Olympic Park. Taxis complained they could not use them.
I used one of these lanes on Monday (CNN has one car with the special pass) and there were few vehicles using it at the time and there were few cars in the other lanes.
Then, I got an email from a friend who owns a restaurant in Soho. "Where are the punters?" she asked. Her takings were down 30%. On top of that, after years of warnings, she booked night deliveries and bought extra refrigeration and paid for extra security to take these deliveries.
I can tell you the streets around the area are eerily quiet.
Companies prepared by renting sleeping pods and getting staff to take trains. Others told staff to work from home or take long holidays.
It worked. Too well.
So far, other than the usual train problems, London is working fine.
Shall we call it Y-2-12?
Think back to the late 1990s, and Y2K. That was when people started to warn that older computers could not handle the date change from 12/31/1999 to 01/01/2000. Millions (billions?) of dollars were spent upgrading software or buying new gear to prepare.
I remember CNN deploying people to command bunkers for nuclear power plants in Japan to military installations in Colorado and giving updates throughout the night.
Little went wrong (apart from planes crashing in that wonderful Simpsons Y2K episode) and a lot of people made money scaring us into spending a lot of money to fix it.
West London traders are now pleading for visitors to leave the Olympic Park and come have a pint or meal around Regent St.
Shops are reminding us locals they are open and the tube is working fine, so far.
Given the ways of the British media, I know organizers would have been pilloried if they didn’t prepare for the worst, and athletes suffered from clogged roads and companies could not get vital supplies.
On Friday, when 80,000 people head for the stadium for athletics, maybe London’s Victorian transport system will start to strain.
Frankly, it may be time to stop calling it that. The (underused) overground is not that old and has new carriages; the Dockland’s Light Rail through East London has many new stations; the airports are modern and now well connected to public transport.
Given the first week, it will take a lot of simultaneous problems and the return of many locals in order to cause problems.
Let’s hope it does not happen.
I need to get to Gatwick Airport on Saturday.
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