LONDON — An appearance by the hapless comic character Mr. Bean was one of the highlights of the London Olympics opening ceremony. Yet a series of Keystone Cops moments has games organizers hoping they don’t keep up this slapstick routine in real life.
London police acknowledged Monday that last week they lost a set of keys to Wembley – one of the most famous soccer stadiums in the world and an Olympic venue in London – and had been forced to hastily change the stadium locks.
It was the latest unintentionally comic moment to beset the games and has raised fears of what else may be in store.
News of the lock debacle followed a diplomatic tiff with India, triggered when a woman who was not part of the country’s athletic delegation marched right beside India’s flag bearer at Friday’s opening ceremony.
Olympic officials insisted there was no security risk from either incident. Games chief Sebastian Coe said the Indian team’s interloper was an accredited cast member from the opening ceremony who “got slightly over-excited.”
Police said the Wembley keys appeared to have been lost rather than stolen and “measures were taken immediately to secure all key areas of the venue.”
Last week, as the Olympic soccer competition kicked off, organizers mistakenly displayed the South Korean flag on a jumbo screen while introducing the North Korean women’s team. There could hardly have been a worse mix-up – the two countries are still technically at war.
Britons, at least, are quick to see the humor. Opticians Specsavers ran a full-page ad displaying the two completely different-looking Korean flags and suggesting that anyone who can’t tell the difference should stop by for a checkup.
Over the weekend, television shots of so many empty seats at Olympic venues enraged many ordinary Britons, who had struggled for months to get tickets, many unsuccessfully.
Organizers are now scrambling to fill rows of empty seats allocated but not used by members of the “Olympic family” – national federations, sponsors and the media. Among the remedies: 150 British soldiers were told to stop handling security duties for a few hours Sunday and go watch the Olympic qualifying for women’s gymnastics.
Ellis Cashmore, professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University, said the sheer number of Olympic errors has had a numbing effect.
“It’s almost as if we’ve become anesthetized to them,” he said. “It’s almost as if we’re expecting another gaffe.”