This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
London • If the energy in the air doesn't tip you off, the brightly colored pamphlets and smiling, uniformed information kiosk attendants will tell you: This is one big summer for London. With less than a month to go before the opening ceremonies, London is letting its colors unfurl in preparation for the Olympics. 2012 has been described by the Southwark Council as a, "once in a lifetime year of sports, celebrations, music and entertainment," and the streets are already busy as tourists and Londoners emerge to take part in the summer's offerings.
London's jam-packed cultural extravaganza is already in full swing.
Festivals dedicated to literature, world music, stand-up comedy, and Shakespeare (to name a small sampling) will coincide with the wave of Olympic anticipation. In the month leading up to the July 27 opening of the games, just about every niche audience will have a world-class display to enjoy.
Throughout the summer, Southbank home to Shakespeare's Globe and London's National Theater will host the Festival of the World. A bank of rainbow colored sand is just one of myriad art installations dotting the pedestrian walkway, turning the margin of the Thames into a multicolored urban beach. Passersby can have personalized poems composed on site by a team of poets, sample street fare from across the globe, and learn acro-balance from professional circus performers all within 30 yards, and all for free.
Just down the river from the Southbank hub, Borough Market, London's most renowned food market, is gearing up for greatness. Already bursting at the seams a month before the games, Borough normally only opens on weekends, but the market will be open every day of the week during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A similar shift can be seen across the city, as leading artists from every discipline put on events for The London Festival. This truly overwhelming artistic smorgasbord will, "allow the whole of the UK to share in the excitement of London 2012," according to their website.
The festival will showcase world-class arts to rival the sportive talent on display, offering theater, dance, music, that "promise to make this a once in a lifetime festival." The list of nearly 12,000 performances on tap is truly staggering, with indoor and outdoor events going on every day in venues through the UK.
While central London is already in full flourish, the Olympic Park in Stratford remains partially under construction. But the formerly marshy and forgotten east corner of London has already undergone a miraculous facelift. The Orbit a 115-meter metal statue towers above the Park, offering views of the athlete's village, and of Europe's largest mall, which opened last year. Equally stunning views can be seen from a ride across the Thames in the Emirates cable car, which opened last week.
The city center is replete with banners and art installations lie around every corner, daring visitors to forget that the games are close at hand. But amid the atmosphere of celebration, security and transportation are still bracing themselves for impending chaos.
A big concern is that the Tube, London's iconic 100-year-old underground system will bring the games to their knees. Despite a $10 billion investment to renovate trains, extend lines, and even offer free wifi underground, normal service remains unreliable.
To cope with the 6.5 million expected visitors, the TFL (Transport for London) website now offers advice for navigating anticipated high-traffic areas. Tables of predicted wait times and alternate route planning guides aim to help Londoners avoid the Central and Jubilee lines, which will be, "exceptionally busy throughout [the games]," according to TFL.
The outlook for air transport is sunnier. To direct the hoards, Heathrow has promised to dedicate extra staff and, "an army of 8,000 brightly dressed, trilby hat-wearing volunteers called Team LondonAmbassadors," according to the AP.