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Ramadan set to cause 'traffic chaos' near London's Olympic site?

Olivia Harris / Reuters, file

Muslims attend Friday prayers in Spitalfields, East London, on February 10, 2012. The area, which is near the Olympic Park, was settled by Bengali migrants in the 1970s and 1980s after Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan.

LONDON - Visitors and athletes are being warned of "traffic chaos" near the main Olympic Park because the Games coincide with Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that draws thousands of extra worshippers to nearby mosques.

Local politician Abdal Ullah said extra traffic caused by large attendances at nightly prayers during Ramadan could disrupt those using key Olympic road links between central London and the main Games site in Stratford, about four miles to the east.


"The areas all around the mosques get very busy around prayer time during Ramadan, and there is often traffic chaos on nearby roads and it will be busier on the Underground [London's subway system]," he told NBCNews.com.  "Although the prayers are in the late evening, many people will stay on at the Olympic Park after events and will be traveling through East London late in the day and might not be expecting it to be congested, which is a big concern."

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A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

Ramadan began at 3:17 a.m. local time Friday. 

Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk during the 30-day period, which lasts until after the closing ceremony.

Astronomers, scholars debate start of Ramadan

The area around the Games site is home to more than 250,000 Muslims and almost 100 mosques. In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which has a large Bangladeshi and Somali community and the largest Muslim population of any U.K. district, Islam is the prevalent religion in many neighborhoods.

East London, which will host the Olympic Games, boasts a colorful history. NBC News' Jim Maceda reports.

The biggest local mosque, the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, which sits on the main route linking central London to Stratford, says it attracts around 5,000 additional worshippers every night throughout Ramadan.

The Summer Olympics hasn't clashed with Ramadan since the 1980 Games in Moscow.

According to Abu Dhabi's The National newspaper, more than 3,000 Muslim athletes will compete in the London Olympics, but many will not fast -- a decision that has been sanctioned by religious authorities. 

An actor from gangster movie "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" is giving walking tours of old underworld haunts in East London, where this month's Olympic Games are being held. NBC's Theresa Cook reports.

Ullah, whose St Dunstan’s and Stepney Green ward includes Mile End Stadium, the training base for Team USA track and field athletes, said local mosques were ready to welcome extra visitors, including competitors. "We want to show Britain’s Bangladeshi community in the best possible light," he said.

The East London Mosque said it expects to reach its peak capacity of 5,000 on some nights during the two-hour time frame for evening prayers.

Mark Evers, director of Olympic Games transport at city transit authority Transport for London (TfL) said: "TfL has worked with more than 20,000 companies of all types and sizes, including faith organizations, across London, to help them prepare for Games-time travel. We will continue to offer advice and guidance as required to help businesses understand the temporary changes on the road network and plan ahead to minimize how they will be affected."

A London taxi driver is converting his cab into a hotel room, just in time for the business rush of the Olympics. TODAY.com's Alex Witt reports.

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