London witnesses 50 km long traffic jam as Olympians arrive!

London: Utter chaos prevailed on London`s streets today as athletes started arriving for the upcoming Olympics, with a 50 km long traffic jam hitting traffic and logistic problems forcing some of them to take an unintentional `tour` of the city.

The Olympics are set to begin from July 27 and the period is being described as Britain`s biggest peacetime transport challenge, as contingents from 50 countries camp in the city.

A 32-mile (51 km) long traffic jam on an arterial motorway into London was reported as special lanes and vehicles transporting athletes and officials came into operation today, affecting normal traffic.

The first of the teams ? Russia, Australia, Italy, China ? arrived amidst reports that many athletes and officials had to make circuitous routes around London because untrained bus drivers lost their way en route to the Olympic Park in Stratford.

Two buses containing Americans and Australians were reportedly lost, one for nearly four hours, the other three hours this morning, even though their route was supposed to be fast-tracked by the implementation of the Olympic lane on the M4 motorway.

As the Daily Telegraph termed it `London 2012 Olympics travel chaos`, a spokeswoman for the organising committee said: "We will do over 100 bus journeys today".

"It is day one and we have only had one or two issues where journeys have taken longer than planned. The vast majority of journeys have been fine".

Hugh Robertson, the Sports and Olympics minister, apologised to athletes who were caught up in the transport problems.

"If people have been on buses that have got lost then it is of course regrettable. I am extremely sorry, and clearly the drivers need to know where they are going," he said.

London mayor Boris Johnson made light of the road problems by saying: "If they (athletes, officials) took four hours then they will have seen far more of the city than they might otherwise have done".

Heathrow was expecting to process as many as 236,955 passengers today, which would surpass its previous record of 233,562 set on July 31 last year.

This compares with 190,000 passengers through Heathrow on an average day.

Nearly 335 competitors are expected on Monday, as part of 1,027 so-called "Games Family" arrivals (including athletes and coaches) from more than 50 countries.

Heathrow operator BAA expects the busiest day for arriving athletes to be July 24.

"Today heralds the start of Britain`s biggest peacetime transport challenge and Heathrow`s busiest ever period," said BAA`s head of Olympic and Paralympic planning, Nick Cole.

PTI

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