Hosting the Olympic Games is never going to be easy. You might recall the behind-schedule construction nightmares before Athens 2004, the pollution complaints at Beijing 2008 and Montreal’s near-bankruptcy in 1976.
London 2012 hasn’t been immune to public relations disappointments, either.
The games haven’t even officially started, but already we’ve seen a North Korea football team walk off a field before an early game because someone embarrassingly introduced the squad with the wrong flag.
With billions of people expected to watch London 2012 at some point during the 17-day event, organizers will hope many of the major troubles are behind them by the time Friday’s opening ceremony begins.
Here are five ways the run-up to these games wasn’t as smooth as organizers would have hoped:
1. Security contractor thousands of guards short
The games got a bit of a jolt just two weeks ago when a security contractor announced it wouldn’t be able to field all of the guards that it promised.
Private security firm G4S had committed to recruiting a staff of about 10,400 as part of a total security force for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. But on July 11, G4S announced that although 4,000 of its people already were working at 100 venues, it didn’t have enough time left to train and vet applicants for all of the remaining positions.
That prompted lawmakers to summon the company’s CEO, Nick Buckles, for questioning. Buckles admitted that the staffing fiasco is "a humiliating shambles for the country."
To make up for the shortfall, Britain announced it would deploy a few thousand extra troops to the Olympics, many more than previously planned. About 1,200 of those were called up just this week after being placed on standby.
On Tuesday, G4S said it had around 5,800 security personnel deployed at Olympic venues, with more expected to be trained and accredited daily. Last week, it said it hoped to have 7,000 fully accredited by the start of the Games.
G4S has agreed to meet the cost of the extra troop deployment, which could run to $77 million.
2. Snubbed by a long-lost rock star
It’s embarrassing enough for Olympics organizers that The Who’s famed former drummer Keith Moon didn’t accept their invitation to play at the Games. Even worse is that the regrets had to come from the band’s manager.
Because, you know, Moon has been dead for 34 years.
The Sunday Times reported in April that a London 2012 representative asked The Who’s manager whether Moon would be available to play in one of the Olympic ceremonies. He would have been quite a catch, considering Rolling Stone readers rated him as the second-best drummer of all time in 2011.
Problem was, Moon hasn’t been available for some time. The British percussionist died in 1978 at age 32 of a drug overdose.
The Who’s lead singer, Roger Daltrey, confirmed the invitation in a May appearance on ABC’s "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
"It is true, and it can only happen in Britain. I mean we are so organized," Daltrey said. "We got … an e-mail requesting, ‘Could Keith Moon attend the opening ceremony?’ And our manager said in an e-mail back, ‘Well, actually, he currently resides at Golders Green crematorium, where he’s been for the last 35 years.'"
3. Tickets, please
A few ticket distribution problems have hit the media, with the The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and the Daily Mail reporting on people waiting for hours in London will-call lines. The people going to these lines reportedly are doing so for a number of different reasons, including: 1) distributors failed to mail tickets to purchasers on time; 2) purchasers failed to buy in time for tickets to be mailed; and 3) purchasers chose to pick up tickets in person to avoid delivery fees.
A different sort of ticket problem is shaping up at the Olympic aquatic center, with organizers offering up to 4,800 ticket refunds because of obstructed views for the 10-meter diving events, according to The Guardian.
The refunds involve 600 seats for each session involving the 10-meter board, including synchronized and solo events. Organizers didn’t tell people at the time of their £30-£50 ($47-$78) purchase that views from those seats were obstructed, but they are saying so now, The Guardian reported.
Organizers say only a tiny fraction of the dives will be obstructed from view, but nevertheless they will refund the ticket holders – even if they watch the event and choose to collect afterward, The Guardian reported.
4. That’s not our flag
The North Korean women’s football coach wasn’t impressed when he looked at the scoreboard and saw South Korea’s flag instead of his own country’s before the North’s first match Wednesday.
So he led his team off the field shortly before the game against Colombia was to begin at Scotland’s Hampden Park.
The scoreboard showed South Korea’s flag as it displayed the profiles of North Korean players.
London 2012’s organizing committee issued apologies to the team, and North Korea’s Olympic committee, and the game started more than an hour late. North Korea beat Colombia 2-0.
5. Disaster survivors, advocates protest Dow sponsorship
Advocates for victims of a fatal 1984 gas leak in India have criticized London 2012 officials for accepting Dow Chemicals as a major sponsor.
Dow has a multimillion-pound deal with the Olympics, and provided a fabric wrap around the Olympic stadium in East London. But victims’ advocates who accuse Dow of holding some responsibility for the 1984 disaster – a claim that Dow denies – have rallied against the deal for months.
The gas leak that killed an estimated 15,000 people involved what was then a Union Carbide plant at Bhopal, India. Dow bought Union Carbide 16 years after the incident and argues it has no responsibility.
The Olympics’ sustainability commissioner, Meredith Alexander, quit this year after Dow Chemicals was awarded the sponsorship deal.
Demonstrators plan to hold a 'die-in' protest outside the stadium Friday morning, hours before the opening ceremonies. In December, protesters in India burned an effigy of Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 organizing group, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.
Dow Chemicals told CNN it remained "fully committed to our partnership with the IOC and to contributing to a successful, positive London 2012 Games" and questioned whether the protest should go ahead.
"The use of the Olympic Games to protest has become an unfortunate part of what should be a global celebration. We believe in freedom of speech and encourage debate on this important issue," a Dow spokesman said in a statement.
"However, we regret the misinformed and misdirected allegations and actions of some, which are not constructive to the resolution of the issue or consistent with the spirit of the Olympic Games."