With the countdown clock in tourist-thronged Trafalgar Square ticking towards six months to go until the start of the London Olympics many of the ordinary Londoners passing by the landmark were pouring cold water on the looming party.
While there is plenty of genuine excitement, fears about the state of the British economy, Government cuts and transport meant that not everyone was as enthusiastic as the children and tourists who posed for photographs next to the sleek 4.5 tonne digital clock perched in the famous square.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has trumpeted London as the place to be in the summer but some, like student Michaela Deane, think the city will grind to a halt with the huge influx of visitors expected later this year.
“Living in London and using the Tube is hard enough but it's going to be near impossible with millions of extra tourists,” the 20-year-old, who plans to leave the city during the Games, told Reuters on Thursday.
“I live near Greenwich Park and I’m not happy about the extra 20 minutes wait on the Tube. I’m also not happy that they’re flattening the park for the Olympics.”
Others questioned the economic sense in spending billions on what they perceive to be a vanity project, especially at a time when vital public services are at risk of cuts as the government enacts austerity measures.
“What’s the point of spending millions of pounds on buildings when they don’t really encourage exercise and healthiness in schools,” said David Graham, 25, just before performing three back flips and a back somersault in front of his friend who filmed with him with a camera.
“It’s going to bring London to a standstill, the tickets are really expensive and they are impossible to get,” added Steven Tye, 48, a construction worker.
The British are well-known for their skepticism and the Olympic project has given them plenty of ammunition with the projected costs for the Games having more than trebled to 9.3 billion pounds since London wion the bid in 2005.
It is not all doom and gloom though and a sense of enthusiasm is slowly creeping in.
“We are going to get more excited as we near the Games,” said Amy Emerson, 21, a promotion worker.
“People were very cynical about the Royal Wedding but when it finally came, everyone got into it and embraced it.”
The colorful countdown clock, nestled between two large water fountains and the steps leading to the National Portrait Gallery, has become a temporary tourist attraction and on Friday it will show there are 182 days until the two-week sporting festival begins on July 27.
“We are all very excited and aware the Olympics are coming up,” said Marina Line, 42, as her child posed in front of the clock with other pupils from a south London primary school.
As the red double decker buses negotiated the lunch-hour traffic, Trafalgar Square was abuzz with activity as 15 young men and women performed mock exercises for charity, dressed as Olympic runners.
“This is going to change London,” said Lucy Willman, 25, a charity worker struggling to make herself heard as her colleague with a loudspeaker shouted “run faster” at the runners.
“I haven’t managed to get tickets but I’ll be watching it on telly and I can’t wait.”
London will become the first city to host the Olympics Games three times, having also done it in 1908 and 1948, and for some they feel it is high time the Games returned.
“We haven’t had the Olympics for 64 years and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Dan March. “People should be aware of the Games and just enjoy them.”