12:13 PM PDT, July 22, 2012
LONDON -- When they are not complaining about traffic dislocations and commuting slowdowns created by designated Olympic lanes and the expected crush of Olympic visitors on public transport, Londoners' most frequent complaint about the upcoming Summer Games is their inability to get tickets.
Mention that you are here to cover the Games, and the first response is a near wistful lament about being left to watch on the telly.
"I thought Londoners would get some priority, but that apparently wasn't the case," a cabbie said Sunday morning, echoing what a waitress and a mobile phone salesman had told me in the past couple days.
The cabbie was leaving Thursday for a vacation in the Canary Islands, a trip he would have gladly rescheduled had the ticket lottery been favorable.
By the time his children learned they could get some tickets through their school, it was too late to change the vacation plans.
There were plenty of soccer tickets available, but that has an ice-to-Eskimos feeling for Londoners. Why watch Olympic soccer when you have the good stuff -- Chelsea, Arsenal -- in town all year long?
Not that being out of town was a bad thing, the cabbie said, holding up a London Olympic Organizing Committee guide explaining revised street travel plans for the Olympics.
For cabbies in particular, there already is fear and loathing of the dreaded Olympic lanes, marked with the five rings, in which travel is restricted to those with special permits so the "Olympic family" can get across town with a minimum of disruption. Cabs cannot use those lanes once the restrictions go into effect this week.
"It's going to be chaos in Mayfair and Park Lane," he said, referring to posh areas of the city, which will have stentorian security because the International Olympic Committee members are bunking there.
Imagine how those Londoners will feel if they see empty seats in fat cat areas of arenas. The IOC has hectored its members to use their designated seats at events, often to no avail.
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