Brit summer sizzles with Olympics, queen's Diamond Jubilee
LONDON — The Brits are preparing to have a party, and they’re inviting the world to join in.
Or to be precise, two parties.
A million people, including 5,000 media types, are expected to swell the streets of London, a city already bursting at the seams, for the Olympics, which unspool July 27.
And in early June, celebrations kick off for the 60th anniversary — the Diamond Jubilee — of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
The BBC is planning an international feed of the festivities, which include a Thames river pageant and street parties, with a climax that features a concert by Paul McCartney, Elton John and Brit band Madness at Buckingham Palace.
“This event and others like them at the Olympics represent a great opportunity to remind the world of England’s unique contribution to music and indeed fashion, and what we’ve given to the world since the ’60s,” says Hugh Gadson, manager of Madness.
A closing night Olympics concert headlined by the reunited Britpop phenomenon Blur takes place in London’s sprawling Hyde Park on Aug. 12.
Behind the scenes, and mindful of the riots that engulfed London last August when disaffected young people took to the streets, looting and setting fire to stores, tens of thousands of security officials are being hired as Blighty prepares for what is reputedly its largest such peacetime operation.
Meanwhile, catering companies providing refreshments for events at the Olympics have been told that every item of food will be scanned by airport-style security machines.
Yet for all the precautions, the mood music remains distinctly upbeat.
Yes, there are gripes about how Olympics tickets have been allocated and how the U.K. capital’s long-suffering commuters will actually get around town once the sports get under way, but the welcome mat has already been put out, with Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this month urging hundreds of thousands of Americans to visit London for the Games.
Further, Brits are being persuaded to take their vacations at home this summer as the PR machine geared to the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee starts to hum.
A £5 million ($8 million) advertising campaign featuring multi-hyphenate Stephen Fry and thesps Julie Walters and Rupert Grint is exhorting Brits to stay for the shows. The West End is anticipating an uptick in ticket sales.
With so many extra folks expected to head to London, a story circulated that the annual Glastonbury music festival, last year headlined by Beyonce, had been cancelled due to a shortage of portable bathrooms. This, however, turned out to be an urban myth. “Glastonbury always takes a break every few years so the site can lie fallow,” Gadson says of the fest, which will return in 2013. And scanning the setup for the Olympics and the Jubilee, he adds: “From what I’ve seen so far, everything looks well organized. I don’t anticipate any shortages of the essentials that concertgoers need in order to have a good time. Londoners can look forward to a great party.”