London to put cash before flash
The 2012 London Olympics are financially robust and have the full backing of Britain's new government, according to Games chief Sebastian Coe.
Coe told Reuters that organisers would not try to out-dazzle 2008 hosts Beijing but wanted to leave a lasting legacy by giving London a massive facelift.
"I don't think our team feel in competition with Beijing," Coe said on Wednesday. "I don't think anyone would try to deliver an Olympic Games like Beijing. Nor do I think the IOC (International Olympic Committee) expect it.
"Beijing was spectacular, incredible. Our Games will be spectacular but appropriate with what people in London and the world expect.
"We will leave behind venues which have a legacy and go on serving the community, not white elephants."
Coe brushed off an Olympic funding cut of 27 million pounds ($39.54 million) made by the coalition government last week -- a figure organisers say is offset by savings already made.
"We are ahead of schedule and within budget," Coe, a former Conservative member of parliament, said in a telephone interview while leaving Shanghai after a whistle-stop visit.
"The organising committee has already raised over 70 percent of the operating budget and all the new (permanent) venues will be completed next year.
"One thing the government and (Culture and Sports Minister) Jeremy Hunt made clear was that they have the Olympics very high on their list of priorities.
"We all realise public finances are very difficult to manage at the moment but...we have the commitment of the government.
"The organising committee need to balance the budget, continue raising revenue from sponsors and keep downward pressure on costs."
Regenerating some of London's poorest areas and modernising the city's infrastructure meant the concept of sustainability was more than a buzzword in a bid dossier, Coe added.
"The ambition...was the economic re-energising of an area which for far too long has been out of kilter with the rest of London. It was an area of urban deprivation," he said.
"It was toxic. It had to be cleaned, the rivers cleaned. The regeneration of that part of London would not have taken place in that time frame had we not got the Olympics."
Coe, a double middle distance Olympic gold medallist in the 1980s, believes London's cool image will attract huge numbers of visitors to the city during the 2012 Games.
"The city is synonymous with young people," he said. "They will come to London because they know it will be a happening place during the Olympics.
"My ideal Games would be a combination of the best of the past Olympics -- the party atmosphere of Sydney, the spirit and humanity of Barcelona, the forensic detail of Beijing."
By Alastair Himmer, Reuters