* Olympic torch starts final stretch in London
* Games have faced cynicism among many Britons
* Officials hope mood will lift as Games near
By Mohammed Abbas
LONDON, July 21 The Olympic torch relay began
its final stretch in London on Saturday, starting in the
capital's historic district of Greenwich on a journey officials
hope will help dispel a cloud of gloom and cynicism hanging over
Officials were all smiles in Greenwich as a young torch
bearer jogged through the maritime district's Royal Park past
the grand colonnades of the old naval college. But many Britons
fear the games will be a costly, rain-soaked logistical fiasco.
As weeks of rain dampened prospects of a summer buzz ahead
of the sporting event, Britain has struggled to raise the
necessary number of security guards for the July 27 to Aug. 12
Games. Transport and border staff are set to strike soon.
"As it sprints through the city, I know that its radiance
will dispel any last remaining clouds of dampness and anxiety
... and it will spread the crackling bush fire of Olympic
enthusiasm throughout the city," London Mayor Boris Johnson told
reporters, referring to the torch.
It arrived in London Friday after touring scores of British
of towns, cities and villages, delivered by a Royal Marine
Commando who abseiled from a helicopter into the Tower of
London, one of London's most popular tourist sites.
In the coming days it will be carried around religious,
political and royal landmarks during its tour of the capital,
culminating in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in the main
stadium in east London.
Olympic chief Jacques Rogge dismissed pessimism hanging over
the Games, telling Reuters on Friday that "despite some
difficulties", he believed the event would be "a great Games",
his last as president of the International Olympic Committee.
Foreign media covering the run up to the Games have poked
fun at the British tendency to whinge, with an article in the
New York Times labelling "complaining, expecting the worst and
cursing the authorities" Londoners' favourite sports.
Germany's Der Spiegel magazine published a story saying the
Games "can't end soon enough" for the locals and that "London
and the Olympic Games are clearly not made for each other".
Transport delays loom over the event, with border officials
going on strike on July 26 and train drivers in central England
walking out from Aug. 6-8 during the second week of the Games.
Even before tens of thousands of Olympic tourists arrive,
London's underground rail network already struggles to cope with
millions of commuters.
Misgivings over heavy-handed enforcement of copyright on
Olympic branding have also cooled enthusiasm, amid reports of
vendors being banned from displaying Olympic rings in shop
windows or selling types of fast food sold by Olympic sponsors.
Michael Payne, a former Olympic marketing director, told
Britain's Independent newspaper that the Olympic authorities'
enforcement of the sponsorship deals had "gone too far". Payne
is credited with bringing in sponsors such as McDonalds and
Coca-Cola in return for use of the Games' trademarks and the
exclusive right to sell their products at the sporting venues.
Still, there are signs that the mood among Britons might be
lifting as the games approach.
An Ipsos MORI poll on Friday found that 71 percent of
Britons say the Olympics will have a positive effect on the
public mood and 61 percent say hosting the Games will boost
Britain's image abroad.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Saturday urged Britons to
"prepare to be inspired" by the "magnificent once-in-a-lifetime
event", while the Guardian newspaper said it was time to "sit
back and relish the heady, exhilarating, unforgettable mix of
triumph and disaster that is the Olympic Games".
Athletes began arriving in London last weekend, and on
Saturday Libya's representatives to the Games left Tripoli for
the British capital, hopeful the committee's president, taken
from his car by gunmen last week, would join them.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)