- - Monday, February 13, 2012

LONDON — Officials have stark advice for Londoners planning to stay home this summer and deal with some 11 million visitors attending the Olympic Games:

Don’t get married, get sick, go to restaurants or theaters - or die.

“I would ask people that if you’re going to die, you’d better do it before the games or try and hang on till afterwards,” funeral director John Harris told a London newspaper.

City planners are bracing for massive traffic jams that could leave the sick stranded and ambulances stalled on the streets.

Commuters who already deal with a creaky London Underground could find the world’s oldest subway system grinding to a standstill. Restaurant owners fear they won’t get deliveries, and some theater producers are planning to shut down their shows.

Many residents are ready to get out of town.

“The anticipated hustle and bustle of Olympic London is clearly not for everyone,” said Michael Riegel, CEO of Wimdu U.K., which commissioned a survey that found one-quarter of London’s 7.8 million people want to escape the city.

About 15,000 athletes and 11 million ticket holders will descend on the city for the games from July 27 to Aug. 12.

Traffic officials fear gridlock along the 100-mile Olympic Route Network of traffic lanes reserved for athletes, sponsors and dignitaries, and worry about the closure of some of the bridges over the River Thames.

The London Ambulance Service expects an increase in demand of up to 9 percent during the games. It has drafted personnel from other ambulance services across Britain, and paramedics on bikes will be based at busy train stations to manage the rise in demand.

The authorities are calling on visitors to drink alcohol sensibly and wear sunscreen.

Visitors to the games may find no access to private doctors, said Dr. Penny Law, who runs a private medical service in central London.

She said that the National Health Service in London is making preparations for government medical care, but that no extra provisions have been made for those who prefer private health care, such as wealthy sponsors and members of visiting royal families.

“The hotels will be full, so we are putting on extra doctors at night, but private doctors are not allowed to use the [traffic] lanes for athletes and VIPs,” she said.

As part of the huge security operation around the games, vehicle access to the Olympic Park will be severely restricted.

Couples thinking of tying the knot this summer at St. John’s Church in Stratford, at the heart of the Olympic Park area, or families wanting to hold funerals for loved ones there may have to think again.

Theater reservations are down for July and August, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theater company is considering closing its West End shows, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Phantom of the Opera,”during the games.

Restaurant owners fear massive traffic jams will mean a loss of business. They also wonder how food deliveries will be affected by the expected gridlock on the roads, said Richard Bradford, chairman of the British Restaurant Association and owner of two central London restaurants.

He said he is not expecting a bumper summer despite the huge number of visitors to the first Olympics in London since 1948.

“Big events don’t tend to mean more trade,” he said. “During the royal wedding weekend, we were down by 50 percent.

“I have two restaurants in Covent Garden, and a preparation kitchen across the river,” he added.

“We don’t know if we will be able to get across town from one to the other. We can’t plan ahead if we don’t know what we’re planning for, but you can’t just leave perishable goods on the pavement.”

The subway system, popularly known as “the Tube,” could be overwhelmed with an estimated 3 million extra journeys a day during the games, officials said.

Transport for London, the body that oversees public transportation in the city, has warned that the Canary Wharf station in the city’s financial district will be able to cope only if 60 percent of workers stay home.

Londoners planning to get out of town could make neat profits by renting out their homes. With average rent for the entire period of the Olympics at $6,650 for a double room, Londoners could make a total of $2.5 billion, according to Wimdu.

Residents of Hackney, near the Olympic Stadium in northeastern London, are more excited about renting out their apartments than in following the athletic competitions, said Chris Main, 39, a university lecturer from New Jersey who has lived here for 20 years. He has tickets for Olympic basketball and will be staying in town.

“I’m excited about the cultural Olympiad as well as the sports,” he said, referring to the festival of theater, art and music running alongside the games.

“Lots of money has been invested in arts and cultural heritage. … I am seeing cafes opening and derelict buildings being done up.”

Leslie Fabello, 30, a marketing executive also originally from New Jersey, has lived in London for eight years and predicts the British will be able to carry off the Olympics with amazing pomp and circumstance, “like they did with the royal wedding and the queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.”

“I think it will be fantastic,” she said. “I am disappointed because I applied for tickets, including the most expensive ones, and didn’t get any. Then I applied to be a volunteer, and I never heard back from them. But I’ll be watching on TV and will try to go to some of the free events like road cycling.

“I’ll be avoiding the Tube to get around, though. It struggles even on a normal day,” she said. “I’ll stick to my bike.”

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