Simon Calder: The man who pays his way

Even now, it's time to celebrate victory
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The Independent Travel

They came to crush our hopes and dreams on a damp, blustery morning. Despite the weather, Thursday should have been the happiest of days both for Londoners and the half-million visitors to western Europe's biggest, most diverse and most welcoming city. The murderers chose to wreak their meticulous violence as the capital began its first full day as host city for the 2012 Olympics. The random victims, both local people and visitors, were united only by their innocence.

For those bereaved by the arbitrary anger of strangers they never knew, the future is too bleak to contemplate. Our hearts go out to them. It falls to the rest of us to find a way forward, to search for grounds for some solace, some optimism amid the devastation.

The frightened, injured visitors to London who were caught up in Thursday's mass murder are all too aware how uniquely vulnerable they are to terrorism. People on holiday are on unfamiliar ground, yet are at the same time more relaxed than usual. As a result, a succession of atrocities against tourists - in Egypt, Bali and Kenya - have been murderously successful from the point of view of the perpetrators.

Even though the attack was targeted haphazardly against humanity, rather than specifically at tourists, it is a natural reaction to want to stay safe at home.

Yet the best response to those who seek to diminish our lives is to expand our horizons: to travel more, not less; to celebrate our freedom to meet people across the world; to understand their lives, hopes and fears. And then to welcome them to our benign, resilient country and its beautiful, unbowed capital.

SURELY EVERYONE in Britain is now committed to making the 2012 Olympic Games an outstanding success. In particular, the Olympiad must make London a more attractive destination, and improve travelling life for everyone. I have been studying the form for the last quarter-century, and picking out the mistakes other host cities have made.

The 1980 Moscow Olympics are best described as "glum". The first and last "communist Games" has bequeathed the Russian capital with just two visible, lasting legacies. One is a sports hall which was turned into a night-club that attracted people of questionable moral stature; the other, Sheremetyevo airport. What was intended to be a space-age introduction to the Soviet Union has degenerated into quite the nastiest international hub this side of Vladivostok. Oh, and it has given Moscow an enduring reputation for unusual hotel room service; athletes and broadcasters still tell of unsolicited late-night visits from strange women.

SPORTS STADIA are rarely attractions that visitors find compelling, yet in Barcelona (host in 1992) a pair of them make it on to the tourist circuit. The main Olympic Stadium, daintily perched atop the hill of Montjuic, remains an austerely elegant structure and a reminder of the life that the Games breathed into the Catalan capital; and Nou Camp stadium is a shrine to the beauty of football.

Atlanta provided a textbook lesson in how not to stage the Olympics. Georgia is an appealing state with a fascinating capital, yet the organisers managed to blow £1.5bn on diminishing the stature of the city.

In comparison, Sydney could hardly fail - yet the 2000 host's was not quite a perfect performance. In the years building up to the opening ceremony, travellers found construction work on a scale that blunted the appeal of Australia's largest city. And the extortionate rates demanded by hoteliers meant thousands of rooms stayed empty during what was supposed to be the greatest show on earth.

Proprietors of hotels in Athens did not learn from their counterparts in Sydney. The airlines also looked as though they were coining it for a while, with easyJet charging the highest fares in its history for flights to Athens and back - at least for a time. Predicted demand failed, predictably, to materialise. Shortly before the Games began in the Greek capital airlines slashed their fares. But by then most of us had decided to go elsewhere.

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