* Olympics dogged by criticism in recent weeks
* Anticipation builds as torch relay tours London
* Mayor says "Olympo-scepticism" is being banished
By Mohammed Abbas
LONDON, July 22 Organisers of the Olympics hit
back on Sunday at cynics after weeks of negative headlines,
saying criticisms over planning mistakes and cost were being
outweighed by public excitement as the opening ceremony nears.
Britain's famously critical media, which has highlighted
security and transport problems ahead of the July 27 to Aug. 12
Games, also appeared to take a more positive stance as thousands
turned out to cheer the Olympic torch relay through London.
"I think possibly what we're going through as a nation, as a
city is that necessary, pre-curtainup moment of psychological
self-depression before the excitement begins on Friday when the
curtain goes up," London Mayor Boris Johnson told the BBC.
"The mood is perceptibly changing, people are starting to
get really excited here in London about the arrival of the torch
.... The last remaining clouds of dampness and Olympo-scepticism
are going to be banished," he later told Sky News.
Thousands turned out in London on Saturday as the Olympic
torch relay began its final leg of its journey around Britain,
and on Sunday the flame was carried to the top of the London Eye
ferris wheel opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
In the coming days, the torch will be carried around
London's religious, political and royal landmarks, culminating
in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in east London.
The run-up to the Games has been dogged by weeks of rain and
difficulties in recruiting enough security staff, prompting the
government to draft thousands of extra army personnel to make up
for the shortfall.
Transport delays also loom over the games, with border
officials planning to strike on July 26 and train drivers in
central England set to walk out on Aug. 6-8. London's
underground rail network, a 19th-century creation, may struggle
to cope with tens of thousands of Olympic tourists.
"FIASCO, CHAOS AND CRISIS"
Writing in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, Sebastian Coe,
chairman of the London Olympic organising committee, said the
words "fiasco, chaos and crisis" had become the new currency of
journalists, who describe his committee as "dysfunctional".
"Sometimes you fight back because the reportage bears no
resemblance to reality .... you have the insatiable desire to
start every explanation to your inquisitor with: 'Lighten up. We
are staging the greatest celebration of sport'," he said.
Britain's press however appeared to be joining the Games
bandwagon on Sunday, dedicating pages of coverage to the torch
relay in London and giving away special Olympic guides and
"Let's get the Olympic party started" the Sunday Times said
in its editorial, while an article in the Sunday Telegraph urged
readers to "celebrate a world united".
Still, jitters hang over the games, with 2012 the 40th
anniversary of the 1972 Munich attack by Palestinian gunmen that
killed 11 Israeli Olympic team members a reminder of the
security challenges ahead.
"This is an event that is naturally attractive, even if
there aren't concrete alerts. Readiness and vigilance are
required .... things like the Munich massacre have happened in
the past," Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told reporters.
The International Olympic Committee on Saturday ruled out
marking the anniversary of the Munich killings at the London
opening ceremony, despite decades of campaigning by families of
the victims for an official commemoration.
The president of Libya's Olympic Committee Nabil Elalem
might make it to the Games after being freed on Sunday, a week
after he was taken from his car by gunmen in Tripoli.
Asked if Elalem would go to London, a colleague said: "Maybe
in two or three days' time. The Olympic staff have worked hard
for his release."
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams; editing by Andrew Roche)