London 2012: My Olympic experience, taxi driver Steve McNamara

For taxi driver and general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association Steve McNamara, the Games have been “a complete and utter disaster”.

The Olympic Games have been a complete and utter disaster. The shops are empty, the bars are empty, the restaurants are empty and the overall effect on London’s economy has been devastating. Cab drivers are anything between 20 and 40 per cent down on our usual income and this is the worst time for the cab trade since the recession of the 1990s.

I know August is traditionally London’s quietest month and I know that people usually go on their holidays at this time of year. But the Olympics being held in London means that the city is suffering even more. We’ve had months and months of Boris Johnson and TFL telling us not to come to work. They’ve re-engineered the traffic system to deliberately stop Londoners from getting into town. And the tourists – who are our usual supplementary customer base – aren’t coming to see Big Ben. Why would you when the Olympics are on? London has lost its core customer base this August, and it has been replaced by the so-called Olympic army. There are people trying to tell us that the numbers in the city right now are higher than they predicted. But you only need to look around the streets to see that no one is here and London is empty.

I know I’m all doom and gloom, but I’m afraid I always knew it wouldn’t be the bumper summer we were told to expect. As cab drivers, we know that the vast majority of our business comes from Londoners. When there are no Londoners around, it’s obvious that business will suffer. You only need to come out of one of the three major railway stations in London at the moment to see all of the empty cabs. They’ll tell you the truth. You can practically drive along the pavements!

I think that London is like Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities while the Olympics are on. If you’re in Stratford or Greenwich everything’s fine and rosy and you probably think that the Games are wonderful. But if you’re on the other side of the city – indeed, if you’re working in London – then it’s awful. In my opinion there’s a big sense of resentment growing around the Olympic fiasco; the whole thing is organised as well as a box of frogs.

I’m afraid it’s got to the stage now where I find it very difficult to find anything positive about 2012. The Games have had such a negative effect on the taxi trade and they have affected so many people’s incomes that I’m not really even watching it on the TV. Not everyone wants to have a month off this August. There are plenty of people who have to come to work. But there has just been too much negative imagery pumped out from the Games organisers – telling us to stay out of London and excluding Londoners from their own city. Everything outside of the Olympic stadium has been a disaster.

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