Will the weather save the London Olympics?

Months of exceptional rain and cold make way for summer sun, though troubles continue to plague games one day ahead of opening.

July 26, 2012 08:53
2 minute read.
Israeli flag raised at London's Olympic Village.

Israeli flag raised at London's Olympic Village 390. (photo credit: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

LONDON – It has been a bad couple of weeks for the London Olympics ahead of its grand opening ceremony, set to take place this Friday.

The government has had to call up 1,200 soldiers after organizers admitted serious security flaws, and airport workers have threatened to go on strike just as tens of thousands of Olympians and tourists are set to fly in.

From an Israeli or Jewish point of view, the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to hold a moment of silence for the victims of the Munich Massacre has put a damper on some of the jubilation.

All this and more has provided plenty of ammo for local Olympic skeptics, who thought holding the games – which have a price tag of £9.3 billion – in London was a daft idea in the first place.

But over the past couple of days, help seems to have arrived from an unexpected quarter: the weather.

After a couple of miserable months that included the wettest June on record – even by the standards of this famously overcast nation – the sun finally came out in all its glory to shine a bright light on England. Temperatures on Wednesday hit a season-high 31ºC in Hyde Park, where scores of sunbathers lazed on the green lawns under a clear, blue sky.

The Daily Telegraph, in hyperbole typical of the British press, triumphantly declared the UK “warmer than the Sahara.” In fact, the relative heat was a bit too much for the country’s notoriously tardy trains.

Greater Anglia, whose lines connect the capital with the northeast, told commuters the heat had caused several delays.

Still, almost all agreed it was better basking in the sun than hiding under an umbrella from the rain.

Hordes of people crowded the parks and open spaces of central London. At Trafalgar Square, dozens of people cooled off in the fountains underneath the statue of Lord Nelson, and at nearby Green Park, just across from Buckingham Palace, it was difficult to find a patch of empty grass to claim. A line stretched a few dozens of meters from a lorry (as vans are locally called) whose owner was making a small fortune selling cones filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate flakes to parched patrons.

“It just cleared now after months of absolutely terrible weather,” said Charlotte Cooke, one of the many Britons who lay in the shade of the park’s ancient oak trees. “It is pretty incredible. I hope it lasts.”

But like all good things, it probably won’t.

Forecasts at the moment predict it will remain warm for the rest of the week, though there is also a strong likelihood of a downpour on the day of the opening ceremony, according to the BBC.

Of course, for residents of Israel, where sweltering heat and tortuous humidity are a guarantee well into October, the British obsession with the weather might seem strange.

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