The Spectator

Barometer | 21 July 2012

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Waiting games

The Olympics have not even started yet, but already one world record is under threat: that for the world’s longest traffic jam. The first day of operation of an Olympic lane on the M4 led to a 32-mile tailback from the edge of London to Newbury in Berkshire. These are the records to beat:

Longest jam Nothing has yet surpassed the 109-mile tailback on the A6 between Lyon and Paris on 16 February 1980, caused by Parisians returning home from their skiing holidays in poor weather

Longest-lasting jam A record set, appropriately enough, in Beijing — although in 2010, two years after the last Olympics. The 60-mile jam on a motorway leading from Inner Mongolia lasted ten days

Biggest urban gridlock London will have to surpass the record set in São Paolo on 1 June, when 183 miles of the city’s roads were blocked by rush-hour traffic

Losing the race

The 2011 census found that the population of England and Wales grew by 3.7 million, or 7.1 per cent between 2001 and 2011. But the population of some places is shrinking:

Barrow in Furness 4%
Knowsley 3.5%
Sefton 3.2%
Sunderland 3.2%
South Tyneside 3.1%

Tug of war

The Army was called upon to provide security at the Olympics following the failure of private security company G4S to train enough guards. How do the Army and the private security industry compare?


Army: 102,000 regular soldiers

Security industry: 75,500 security officers


Army: Must pass two-day selection course

Security: Level 2 Award in security guarding


Army: £9,400–£19,862 for new recruits

Security: £17,514 after basic training


Army: £7.3bn spent in 2010/11

Security: £4.33bn

Sources: MoD, British Security Industry Association

Human pyramid

The BBC announced that it would be using 765 members of staff to cover the Olympics. How many staff has the BBC sent to the Games in the past?

Beijing 2008 493
Athens 2004 404
Sydney 2000 350