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Is London a friendlier city during the Olympics?

Picture: Time Out 

Before the 2012 Games, the greatest worry for the organisers and ordinary Londoners was transport. How would the already overcrowded public transport system cope with the extra 260,000 people estimated to come to London during the Olympics? Even I had my doubts before the games, when, once again trying to catch the tube on an ordinary commuting day from Kings Cross, I had to wait for several trains before being able to squeeze myself (dangerously) onto the carriage. I also knew that many tourist hot spots, such as Covent Garden tube station, are often closed during busy times.

However, today on Day 7 of the Games, the general traffic chaos which was predicted in central London has not materialised. As a family we've been to three events, and have found that we've got to our destinations pretty much in the time predicted by the official transport sites, such as Get Ahead of the Games and TFL. Even the Jubilee Line, which goes to the Olympic Park, was OK on Tuesday when we were making our way back from the women's gymnastics at the O2 Centre at the same time as the spectators were leaving Stratford. We haven't, though, tried to drive into the centre of town. (But this is something we'd not normally do anyway, so it'd be foolhardy to drive in London while the city hosts the biggest sports event in the world.)

It does seem that both the tourists and ordinary Londoners have kept away from the city, so much so that the retailers are complaining that the visitors have been scared away by the pre-games information campaign. But then it's fairly typical for this country that if one day we predict the end of the world, the next we are dissatisfied that it never happened and life carries on as normal…

For me, however, I've noticed an improvement in the general mood while travelling on the tube and bus. On several occasions now the Englishman and I have got into conversations with people on the tube, something which never normally happens. The few commuters who are not having duvet days working from home, seem to be more than happy to help the visitors find their way, or even smile (the country is going to the dogs) at tourists draped in their countries' flags, celebrating a medal, or just being happy to be here in London.

Our local area are hosting the Dutch at Alexander Palace, which they've renamed Heineken House, and I'm getting quite fond of seeing the orange-clad revellers on the bus, smiling and generally being happy. What a difference a few days make to the general mood in the country! Gold medals help, of course…

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning who won gold yesterday. Photo: Guardian

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Comment by Helena Halme on August 2, 2012 at 18:38

Mary, I do so agree! Crikey, Adrian, you're brave. 

Comment by Mary Hogan on August 2, 2012 at 18:09

Yes the mood is good,partly because there is something to unite people. Great time to be here. 'This is for everyone'!!

Comment by Adrian Essex on August 2, 2012 at 18:02

I'd like London to be a permanently friendlier city so I'm pleased about your observations. My contribution is to talk to whomever i sit next to on the bus. So far so lucky - no-one has taken objection

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