We’re just days away. The athletes are arriving, designated Olympic lanes have been threaded through our streets and to cap it all off, this is the hottest summer “since records began”.
OK, so we’re still waiting on that last bit, but sun or no sun there are certain parts of the city that will prove a consistently sweat-laden, bastard tropical terrain. And whilst Stratford is where the glamour’s at, there is one event that has been overlooked.
And that is the all-powerful elbow-waving sneeze-happy slugfest for space and comfort on London’s transport system.
Although I missed out on tickets to the 100m final, the footy and even the badminton, I bought my ticket to this particular bumfight years ago. And I still don’t feel completely ready.
As you may have heard, Boris Johnson has taken to the airwaves, not asking us to take care of each other, but merely to get out of the way. Furthermore, he’s even got himself a hashtag.
And whilst Stratford is where the glamour’s at, there is one event that has been overlooked.
#GAOTG, or ‘Get Ahead Of The Games’, is not so much a helpful reminder that the transport system is going to be busy, but more a stark warning of a crumbling network that already struggles to get me from Bethnal Green to Holborn now having to accommodate an extra one million people a day.
If it sounds like I’m anti-games, well, I’m not. I’m dead excited. I’m as full of uncontrollable energy and anticipation as a Kris Akabusi sexface at the finish line. I just think there is one very British thing that has been overlooked.
And that, Boris, is that we’re not bothered about ‘getting ahead’. We just want to get along.
If there’s one certainty, it’s that I’m not going to be able to avoid using public transport for the duration of the games. And with that in mind I’d like the world, and other Londoners, to acknowledge what a decent bunch we are.
After all, it’s hard enough being chivalrous on the tube/bus at the best of times.
Sometimes the offer of a seat to someone who needs it most goes to plan, everyone is happy, it’s a spirited moment, both for the two parties involved and the hoards of cramped onlookers who feel pride in the pit of their stomachs and promise themselves they’ll do the same when they get a chance.
There are, however, moments where innocent misjudgments are made, to cringe-tastic effect. I’m fairly fucking good at these actually. There’s the older man, who looks unsteady, wearing a flat cap and light grey linen trousers. I offer my seat and in return… I get a steely East End look of a man half his age that says “leave it aaat son”. I leave the encounter deducing he was probably a boxer in the 60’s and still somewhat capable of putting me on the canvas. He definitely didn’t need a seat, but I’m glad I asked anyway.
Another opportunity arises, this time in the form of a moderately pregnant young lady with her back half-turned. I offer my seat, but instead what I thought was four months of pregnancy happens to be nothing more than a satchel concealed under her coat. Yet again, my fingers are burnt in the furnace of failed decency.
But again, I’m glad I offered.
These are, admittedly, both rare and isolated incidents. But even so, surely there is an easier way to navigate such a scenario? Is there not a way where, as I’m knee-deep in my 200th game of Temple Run, those who need a seat can just tell that I’ll vacate if needs be?
Well, now there is.
A bright spark at an agency called BMB had a thought that if those who were happy to stand simply wore a badge that made it clear their seat was up for grabs, people wouldn’t mind asking for it, making the whole transaction a lot clearer. A lot more certain.
And from this insight, the ‘Happy To Stand’ project was born, a ‘baby on board’ badge flipped upside down and inside out, allowing anyonewho needs a seat a clear opportunity to ask for one. Uplifting, don’t you think?
The badges are being launched today and tomorrow outside Covent Garden tube, and are being supported by a twitter campaign and all of that clever conversational stuff, so throw an Olympic-sized gesture of goodwill behind it to show the world that, although you may be distracted, your seat is for the taking.
If you’d like a couple of badges (including one to give away) please send a stamped addressed envelope to:
Happy to Stand
16 Shorts Gardens
@happytostand / #happytostand
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