'Not a good first impression London'

Heathrow has brought in an army of Olympic volunteers to deal with the volume of baggage and equipment coming into the country with the teams. Photo / AP
Heathrow has brought in an army of Olympic volunteers to deal with the volume of baggage and equipment coming into the country with the teams. Photo / AP

The first special vehicle lane has opened in London ahead of the Olympics, however athletes have already complained about delays getting to the Olympic Village.

The Olympic lane on the M4 came into use overnight NZ time, as the first athletes landed at Heathrow and made their way to the Olympic Village.

More special lanes in the Olympic Route Network (ORN) will open on July 25, however drivers are already confused about which lanes they can drive in.

Footage screened on Sky News showed motorists clambering to change lanes on the A4 and A40, despite restrictions on these lanes not yet being in effect.

Drivers face a £130 (NZ$254) fine if they use the special Olympic lanes, which are reserved for athletes and VIPs.

Meanwhile the special lane on M4 did not helped US athletes get to the Olympic Village faster, with 26-year-old hurdler Kerron Clement venting on social media website Twitter about delays not long after landing in London.

"Um, so we've been lost on the road for 4hrs. Not a good first impression London," the Beijing gold medallist wrote.

"Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee. Could we get to the Olympic Village please."

A spokesperson for the London Olympics Organising Committee would not comment specifically on Clement's lost bus driver, however acknowledged some bus journeys took "longer than planned".

"It is day one of team arrivals. We have successfully completed a large number of bus journeys so far today, from the airport, to the village and the training venues.

"Whilst there may have been one or two journeys taking longer than planned, the vast majority were completed successfully," the committee said in a statement.

Transport for London commissioner, Peter Hendy, told media at a briefing in Westminster the Games were "running smoothly", the Mail reported.

"If the drivers got lost it says nothing about the readiness of the city. I am very surprised to hear it took four hours. They'd be in Southend, never mind Stratford."

Once at the village, where the US athletes where heading to get their accreditation before moving onto a training camp in Birmingham, Clement was at least complimentary about facilities.

"Eating at the Olympic Village. Love the variety of food choices., african, caribbean, Halal cuisine, india and asian and of course McDonalds."

New Zealand footballer Chris Wood has also given the village the thumbs up.

"Arrived at the Olympic Village!!! Looking good!!" he tweeted this morning.

Meanwhile Heathrow Airport said it was ready for its first big Olympic crunch test.

"We are expecting a lot of teams and a lot of bags," acknowledged Nick Cole, who heads Heathrow's Olympic project. "We are going to be on show."

Europe's busiest airport usually handles 100,000 to 110,000 arrivals a day, but that was expected to swell to 120,000 today, many of them Olympic VIPs. Another big arrival day will be July 26, two days before the Games opening ceremony.

In response, Heathrow has recruited 1000 Olympic volunteers clad in bright pink to help and created special teams to deal with oversize items such as javelins and bikes. Hundreds of immigration agents will be on the job to ease the long queues that have plagued the airport of late. Rows of Olympic VIP buses will be waiting to whisk teams and coaches to the Athletes Village.

At least, that's the plan. Cole promises it will also be the reality.

"We've got into our battle rhythm," he said.

With less than two weeks to go until the Games begin, Locog, the organising committee, still has tickets available for some of the best athletics and cycling events such as the men's 4x100m relay and the individual pursuits. However, with the cheapest seats priced at around £700 ($1365) each and packages costing thousands, many remain unsold. Tickets to the opening ceremony are also available for up to £2012 each.

Mark Perryman, who helped transform the image and culture of the England Football Supporters Club, said British sports fans had missed out on seeing their sporting heroes live at the London Games because of "the ongoing IOC vanity project" and the organisers' policy of high prices for blue riband events such as the 100m.

Hundreds of uniformed Olympic officers were to begin touring Britain today enforcing sponsors' multimillion-dollar marketing deals, in a highly organised mission that contrasts with the scramble to find enough staff to secure Olympic sites.

The clampdown goes on while 3500 soldiers on leave are brought in to bail out the security firm G4S, which admitted it could not supply the numbers of security staff it had promised.

Yesterday, the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, refused to rule out that even more soldiers might be called upon to help with security, but dismissed the issue as merely a "hitch".

As well as the regular army, the Olympic "brand army" will be starting its work with a vengeance.

Wearing purple caps and tops, the experts in trading and advertising working for the Olympic Delivery Authority are heading the biggest brand protection operation staged in Britain.

Almost 300 enforcement officers will be seen across the country checking firms to ensure they are not staging "ambush marketing" or illegally associating themselves with the Games at the expense of official sponsors such as adidas, McDonald's, Coca-Cola and BP.

Under legislation specially introduced for the London Games, they have the right to enter shops and offices and bring court action with fines of up to £20,000.

Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including "gold", "silver" and "bronze", "summer", "sponsors" and "London".

Publicans have been advised that blackboards advertising live TV coverage must not refer to beer brands or brewers without an Olympic deal, while caterers and restaurateurs have been told not to advertise dishes that could be seen as having an association with the event.

- Independent, AP, Herald Online

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