Olympians stuck on buses for 4 hours

(CBS News) LONDON - The British love to anticipate a disaster, and the media has had a good run at predicting everything that might go wrong as the Games approach, but with 10 days until the opening ceremonies, how London responds under the microscope is still up in the air.

A record-breaking stream of 237,000 passengers - many of them Olympic athletes - moved through Heathrow airport with barely a hitch on Monday.

Outside the airport, on the main road, however, there were some hiccups.

American hurdler Kerron Clement was stuck on one of three buses that got lost for four hours in the maze of central London's roads. The journey should have taken about an hour.

"Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee," Tweeted Clement in desperation. "Can we get to the Olympic Village please?"

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For their part, London's local drivers were puzzling over how to use - or not to use - the new express highway lane reserved for Olympic vehicles. Instructions were less than clear.

"It has, at the best of times, only got three lanes in each direction, and one of them was taken out yesterday," explains British travel writer Simon Calder of the M4 highway which links Heathrow to central London. "Of course, if you take one third of the road capacity out, that is going to cause an awful lot of traffic hold ups."

Calder says London's noble past is actually something of a drawback in the Olympic present.

"The highway system is, frankly, a disaster," he tells CBS News. "It was based on a plan originally put in place by the Romans 2,000 years ago, and much of it hasn't improved very much since then."

So, disruption is inevitable, especially with more than 16,000 U.K. troops deployed for security, in addition to hundreds of extra police.

Commuters have been warned to expect delays, or better yet, avoid them by staying home. But that has infuriated some cab drivers.

"They are going to gridlock the streets and not let us get around, and then they have the affront, the absolute bare faced cheek, to tell me the Olympics are good for me and good for taxi drivers in London? Well, they are not," fumed on London cabbie.

The runup to the Games has, however, already added some festive touches to a city desperately in need of a morale boost during this, the rainiest summer on record.

"I think, in the Great British tradition, we will muddle through," says Calder. "We will welcome everybody. They will, I hope, have a fabulous time here."

To see Elizabeth Palmer's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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