BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor — Special Assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
LONDON, England — Very few private cars could be seen around the Olympic City yesterday as Londoners heed the warning to park their vehicles and take public transportation.
In many instances, there was only standing room on the tube trains as visitors and Londoners alike tried to get from one point to another as quickly as they could.
The vehicles that were most visible in the city were the Olympic-labelled BMWs, 4,000 of which were bought specifically to be used for the Games.
Commissioner of London's Transport System, Peter Hendy said traffic levels yesterday were around 13.5 per cent lower than they would normally be at this time of year.
A recent poll showed that 64 per cent of Londoners are concerned about Olympic traffic and that the designated Olympic Games lane, which cover a third of the recently commissioned Olympic Road Network, will add to the congestion. The game lanes are designated for 'Olympic family' and athletes.
Taxi drivers have also complained bitterly about not being able to leave passengers in the game lanes in some places and make some right turns.
"A lot of persons are used to parking their cars and taking the train into Central London already because there is such limited parking, but even those persons who don't like to take public transport are doing so now because that is the only way to get to where you are going quickly because of the human traffic here at this time," said Syannie Jonas, a London resident.
She explained that any attempt to drive in certain parts of London will result in hours-long traffic snarls. "This is the only way," she said with a smile, before rushing off to catch a train.
In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of persons who arrived in London ahead of today's start of the Games, while away the time with retail therapy, sightseeing and even lining the streets to watch the Olympic torch go by.
Retail stores, such as those located in Westfield shopping centre in Stratford — the home of the Olympic stadium — are doing brisk business as beefed-up staff work round-the-clock shifts to answer customers' queries or locate requested items. Long lines at the cashier counters are also a regular sight as customers with basketful of goodies wait patiently to spend their money.
"They had a lot of things on sale a few weeks ago, but now the prices are back up because the businesses hope to capitalise on this large number of persons passing through," said Jamaican Emily Whitehorne, adding that she was hoping to have been able to stock up on the customary sale items to send to Jamaica.
"Normally the stores would have a lot of the summer items on sale as they get ready to stock winter stuff but even that is different this time around," she said.
However, she is delighted at the number of persons in London and is confident that this will translate into a further boost for the British economy.
Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that thousands of passengers had changed their travel plans at the last minute because of a strike threat by immigration workers at the busy Heathrow airport. But despite this, yesterday saw a record for arrivals with 125,000 passengers coming in.