The 2012 Olympics are technically already underway, with the first event taking place in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium (a women's soccer match between Great Britain and New Zealand). Outside the stadium though, shop owners are concerned that new visitors will remember the city's growing homeless problem more than the soccer matches.
The Cardiff Retail Partnership is asking local police to enforce a rather old law, the 1824 Vagrant Act, after retailers say they noticed an uptick in begging and public drinking on the city's major commercial streets.
According to the BBC, the act bans sleeping or begging on public streets, but is not enforced. Earlier this month, David Hughes-Lewis, spokesman for the CRP, told the BBC, "The last thing I want when the Olympics are on is a greater number of beggars. I'm Cardiff born and bred and I don't want people to go away with that as their impression of the city."
South Wales police claim there are no statistics available that show an increase in panhandling but the partnership worries it will only continue to rise with this week's opening of a $13.9 million homeless shelter in the city center. The chief executive of Huggard, the organization responsible for the shelter, contests that, telling the BBC, "Homeless centers don't attract people," adding, "Cities attract homeless people because they believe there are opportunities here."
This issue aside, the first day of events appears to have gone well for Cardiff, with city streets converted into a carnival of sorts featuring organized events held throughout the day. LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe was even quoted saying, "I felt I was arriving in an Olympic city, I have been to Cardiff plenty of times but it had a different feel about it today."
Top image courtesy Flickr user joncandy