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Boris Johnson © Gallo Images

London ready for 2012 Olympics



The 2012 London Olympics are just one year away on Wednesday as the British capital reaches the home stretch of its preparations for the world's biggest sport event.

The aquatics centre at Olympic Park will be officially opened, the medals unveiled, and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge will will use a Trafalgar Square ceremony to formally invite athletes to participate at the July 27-August 12, 2012, Games.

Led by Sebastian Coe, the organising committee LOCOG is on time and on budget, ready to deliver just as Coe did when he won Olympic 1,500m gold in 1980 and 1984.

London is the first city to host the Summer Games three times, following previous editions in 1908 and 1948.

"With a year to go, we can safely say that we are ready to welcome the world," said London mayor Boris Johnson.

Coe said: "The one-year-to-go mark is London's invitation to the world to come to the Games. We share the nation's excitement and we won't let you down."

Britain has invested almost 10 billion pounds in an urban facelift. The LOCOG budget is 2 billion pounds.

The heart of the Games is the East End where an impressive 2.5 square-kilometres Olympic Park has been built in the Stratford district, dominated by the 80 000-seat Olympic stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics events.

The area's infrastructure includes 8 000 new flats, Europe's largest shopping mall and an urban recreational area.

Some 20 000 permanent jobs are to be created, football club West Ham United will move into the Olympic stadium after the Games, the aquatics centre will be open for recreational swimmers once Michael Phelps and company have competed for gold and glory, while the basketball arena will be taken down and re-erected abroad.

Other venues for the Games bringing together some 10 500 athletes from more than 200 countries in 302 medal events include iconic Wembley (football) and Wimbledon (tennis).

Olympic construction is not limited to the East End as the Games facelift takes place all across the famous city.

Not all of it is visible as a huge chunk of the infrastructure budget has gone into an upgrade of the public transport system, the oldest underground in the world, bus networks and a new rail service between St Pancras station and Startford.

Rogge has named transport one of the biggest challenges at every Games. Officials hope for a smooth operation even though he will have to cope with 3 million daily Olympic rides on top of the 12 million on an average day.

Another major issue as always is security.

London was the target of terrorist attacks by home-grown suicide bombers on July 7, 2005, which left 52 people dead, the day after being elected Olympic hosts by the IOC.

The debate was re-opened after Friday's attacks in Norway which left at least 76 people dead, but Olympic minister Hugh Robertson expressed confidence that Britain has every threat scenario from international terrorism to lone wolves covered.

Security will be tight but organisers are determined not to spoil the expected party atmosphere in town.

"We are very good at policing in a friendly and a discrete way," said Coe.



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