London 2012: Guess who'll be losers at these Olympics? Us!

An overloaded rail network, haphazard road planning, airports operating at capacity — domestic travel in crisis. And now there’s an Olympics, suddenly it’s a big deal.

The same with inefficient border controls, afternoons wasted in sweltering queues, clueless security screening, the chaos at Terminal 3. Haven’t you noticed? Now there’s an Olympics, now it’s a problem.

When it was just we, the people, getting stiffed, nobody gave a monkey’s. Travellers have been passing through Heathrow for years now with tales of woe. We’ve all stood for an hour in baggage reclaim or been confronted by pandemonium at passport control. We’ve all been selected for pointless random checks, and encountered a hundred examples of delays caused by idiot bureaucracy, filling in where common sense should be. But there wasn’t an Olympics coming then.

Checks: White air passengers are routinely stopped and searched by customs officials simply to ensure the right racial 'mix' of travellers at Gatwick Airport (pictured)

Chaos: For years we have dealt with inefficient border controls and clueless security screening, but no one has bothered trying to do anything about it

Here’s the difference. In his manifesto for the London mayoral elections, Ken Livingstone wanted to trial a system to delay motorists at traffic lights by having an initial green light phase for cyclists only. Yet when the Evaluation Commission of the International Olympic Committee came to London on Livingstone’s watch, before the Olympics had been awarded, Lord Coe confirmed traffic lights were being re-sequenced to aid smooth progress. No getting stuck behind a pair of slow-moving Lycra-clad buttocks for the Olympic bods.

Olympic ideal: London is trying to be something it is not

Olympic ideal: London is trying to be something it is not

They matter; you don’t. London’s Olympic ideal is to pretend to be something we are not. All of the practical ideas that would make the capital a nicer place to live — from extended public transport hours to free wi-fi connection, as well as revamped working practices at the airports — should be here to stay.

Instead, many of them will be implemented — and just as quickly withdrawn the moment there are no longer visitors to impress. They get special transport lanes and a VIP fast-track; you get a wait in passport control that is longer than the flight, and a Tube station that closes when it’s time to go home.

The boss of the UK Border Agency recently issued a report on Gatwick airport revealing that, on October 9 last year, passenger numbers fell between 5pm and 7pm but staffing increased; then, as passengers increased post 7pm, staffing fell. Tell us something we didn’t know.

How many times have you stood in line at a major British airport wondering why they always seem surprised that planes have turned up?

From July, passengers at London Tube stations will be able to access free wi-fi. Then the Paralympics end on September 9 and, after that, charging starts. No free wi-fi for you, sunshine. You only live here. You only paid for the Olympics.

Cheek: Passengers on the underground will be able to access free wi-fi... until the games end

Cheek: Passengers on the underground will be able to access free wi-fi... until the games end

Tube times will return to normal, too. No more trains at 1.30am once all the shiny new people have left. No having dinner after a West End show, unless you want to bring your car or wait shivering for the night bus.

The Olympics are like that commercial with the annoying bank manager offering mortgages to new customers only. There are good deals out there, just not for us. We’re not new, we’re not special. Normal service will resume in the autumn when the British people will, once again, find themselves at the back of the queue. No Olympics, no problem.


A lengthy report into assurance schemes in Britain discovered that the red tractor label found on many foods is close to meaningless.

Among the welfare standards the tractor allows is pig mutilation, sheep tethering, genetically modified or cloned animals and zero-grazed cows.

One could take this delusion further. There is barely a supermarket bottle of wine that does not claim to have won some award, and fresh produce now makes an array of puzzling claims.

The public don’t understand what much of it means, either. ‘Are these farm eggs?’ a half-informed customer suspiciously asked my father at his poultry stall. ‘Farms don’t lay eggs,’ he replied.


It’s just racism in French dressing

The most amusing thing about the French elections — first they voted for a fascist, then a bloke who got in on a ticket of not picking up the tab — is watching various commentators tying themselves in knots as they try to make the French electorate conform to the cliché of continental sophistication.

‘A Le Pen vote is a vote for anger, not racism,’ read one laughable offering in The Times, in which the writer cut her compatriots some slack that is never offered to the citizens of Burnley or Barking when the British National Party put on a show. ‘Pour me another glass of Cotes du Ventoux,’ was her detached reaction to a vote that would, rightly, terrorise and further alienate French immigrants.

Having lurched to the Right, France then swung Left. This time, we were told, the populace had been pushed to extremes by Nicolas Sarkozy. Not quite. This time, France has decided to look at its watch and slip off home, rather than stand its round. Don’t dress this up as some great intellectual protest. It’s jibbing, that’s all.


The unmasking of internet troll Robert Zimmerman, who abused Conservative MP Louise Mensch, was quite delicious. Zimmerman turned out to be a hermit-like, long-white-bearded weirdo, the sort of old bloke that kids laugh at in the street and the rest of us pity.

Then again, hiding behind an anonymous alias, spewing vile, nihilistic abuse, who do you think most internet trolls resemble: Cary Grant?

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