Managers involved in the various organising bodies behind the Games are already at each other’s throats, as the issue of empty seats at key events straddles the news agenda. LOCOG honcho Lord Coe waxed ignorant on the issue, saying: “Let’s put this in perspective – those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there.” He then attempted to explain away the empty blocks as just a consequence of busy, “accredited” sponsors – who have gratuity tickets – being unable to watch several events at once. “There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within the accredited family who are trying to figure out what their day looks like; where they’re going to be asked to go to.”
International Olympic Committee (IOC) press officer Mark Adams begged to differ. “It’s completely wrong to say this is a sponsors issue,” he said. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, described the patchy attendances as “very disappointing”, and recalled that a prime lesson of the Beijing Olympics was that fuller venues create the best atmosphere for competitors. British Olympic Association (BOA) chief Lord Moynihan was even more emphatic, saying that his organisation’s position is clear: “We want every seat filled.”
The upshot? Today, on just the third day of competition, Hunt and Coe will be hunkering down at their desks to kick off an inquiry into a ticket-allocation system that had a development window of some seven years.
Bosses at beleaguered security firm G4S have launched an urgent investigation after it emerged that one of their staffers spat at a soldier colleague while they were patrolling the Lord’s venue during an archery contest. The staffer apparently also accused the soldier of being a “baby killer”, in relation to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. While a source said that the G4S man was “ranting and raving” out of control, the soldier was credited for maintaining his calm and professionalism. G4S said: “We do not tolerate insulting behaviour and where necessary appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”
Barack Obama’s team has branded disparaging Olympics comments made last week by presidential candidate Mitt Romney as “embarrassing” for the United States. After a special meeting with David Cameron, Romney said that there were “a few things that were disconcerting” about the Games preparations, and appeared to mock British reserve. “Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?” he asked. “That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.” For Obama adviser Robert Gibbs, Romney’s move to question Olympic spirit “in the country of our strongest ally … does make you wonder whether he’s ready to be commander-in-chief.”
Retail bosses have slashed the prices of slow-moving Olympics souvenirs by up to 80%. Supermarkets, department stores and other outlets such as catalogue chain Argos have all gone on lengthy re-ticketing sprees, as items such as London 2012-branded tax disc holders and sticker selections fail to leap off shelves. Disturbing monocular mascot Wenlock has also proved a hard sell, as children are finding him some way short of cuddly. Organisers, however, are confident that total souvenir sales will end up hitting £1bn.
That said, City insiders have predicted that any Olympic fillip to the UK economy is unlikely to reduce the threat of a triple-dip recession (yes, you read that right): a terrifying prospect for UK businesses, and a massive headache for Plan B-free chancellor George Osborne. Citigroup economist Michael Saunders said: “My guess is that after a technical bounce in the third quarter, the economy will be roughly flat, which is a disastrously bad outcome compared with previous cycles.” Saunders thinks that Britain will achieve only negligible growth of 0.3% throughout the whole of next year. Meanwhile, Azad Zangana of Schroders Investment Management predicted that UK GDP will rise 0.5% following the Games, but could quickly slump back. “A renewed eurozone crisis will lead to a further collapse in business confidence and investment,” he said.
Until Friday night, Her Majesty the Queen was always an unseen presence within the James Bond cinematic universe – a symbolic figure embodying the virtues of honour and patriotism for which 007 stands. But that all changed during the Olympics Opening Ceremony, when she not only acted out a fictionalised version of herself – striding through the corridors of Buckingham Palace alongside Daniel Craig’s clearly pleased-as-punch secret agent– but blew the nation’s collective mind by “leaping out of a helicopter” with Bond to make her entrance to the Olympic Stadium. Thanks to Games creative director Danny Boyle’s flair for editing pre-filmed footage into the rhythm and logic of the already wildly theatrical live event, Her Maj appeared to stroll out to her Royal Box unruffled, wearing the exact same wardrobe as she sported during the pre-leap sequence with Craig. The Guardian rightly credited the head of state and part-time Bond girl for revealing “a sense of humour hitherto hidden during her 60-year reign”, and asked for some form of encore to be arranged.
But of Bond’s failure to appear in the stadium, not a word has been written by the national press. Could it be that he’s MIA following the death-defying parachute jump?
Or is he just working behind the scenes on a hush-hush op to beef up Games security?