August 6, 2012 / 3:01 PM / 5 years ago

Olympics-This is the London I recognise, not city of riots - Coe

* Festive Games atmosphere a year after riots

* Games volunteer finds closure, 7 years after bombings

By Avril Ormsby

LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Huge and enthusiastic crowds at the London Olympics are helping to dispel last year’s images of rioters rampaging through the capital, organiser Sebastian Coe said on Monday.

“The world saw a very different London a year ago, and you know exactly what I‘m referring to,” Coe told reporters on Monday. “And I think I said at the time, it saw a London I didn’t recognise.”

This time last year, parts of London were burning as rioters ran through the streets, looting at will and randomly attacking passers-by. Olympic officials from more than 200 countries were in the country at the time, discussing this summer’s Games.

While he studiously avoided the word ‘riots’, Coe was clearly referring to the contrast between those scenes and the festive atmosphere at the Olympics, epitomised by sports-mad fans and thousands of enthusiastic volunteers.

“What I am seeing at the moment, and what they are seeing at the moment is a London I do recognise now,” said London-born Coe, a double Olympic champion and chairman of the London organising committee.

“And I think that for me has been a very important journey over the last year.”

Hundreds of thousands of Britons have enthusiastically embraced the Games, spurred on by a rush of gold medals from the national squad, Team GB. The country anticipates one of its greatest medal hauls.

However, unemployment remains high among Briton’s young, especially in streets neighbouring the Olympic stadium in east London. Disenchantment and lack of job prospects were among the factors behind the riots that spread to other English cities.

The prospect of higher employment remains dim as the economy shows little sign of recovering quickly from recession.


The Olympics are also helping some come to terms with another traumatic event in the city’s recent history.

On July 7, 2005, a day after the Games were awarded to London, four Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people in attacks on three underground ‘Tube’ trains and a bus.

Andrew Hartle, an Olympic volunteer, was working as an intensive care consultant at a London hospital at the time.

“My journey to the Games began on the 7th of July,” he said.

“For most of the last seven years those two events, the award of the Games, and the 7th of July bombings, have been pretty inextricably linked for me, and I found the opening ceremony just over a week ago, really quite cathartic, I found it really gave me closure.”

The ceremony, created by Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle, included a tribute to the victims.

“London now is known for something else - London’s known for hosting a fantastic Games,” Hartle said. “And I’ve found that London has changed now. People are friendly, people are talking, the Tube is working, it’s a great experience.”

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