At Trafalgar Square in London on Wednesday evening, the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge will formally invite the world’s athletes to London for the 2012 Games. But there’s more going on today than just Rogge’s kind words.
July 27 marks exactly a year to go before the 30th modern Olympics head to London, putting the British capital firmly at the center of world events (think of it as 17 royal weddings in a row!). In numerical terms, 14,700 competitors from 205 nations will be taking part in what’s called the greatest show on earth.
But the business of the 26 sports is for another day (366 of them to be precise, because it’s a leap year). For now, it’s all about the likes of the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park in Stratford being unveiled, with one of Britain’s big hopes, teenager Tom Daley, making the first dive into the pool.
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At Wednesday’s ceremony, the 2012 medals will be shown to the world for the first time, yet another reminder that the Games are drawing ever nearer. The free event during the evening will also have London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, in attendance (who can be so entertaining that if talking was an Olympic event, he’d surely nab the gold medal) as well as performances by bands, BMX riding displays and dance acts. “We are set to welcome the world for the best Games in history,” Johnson said on Wednesday.
But even though the Games appear well and truly on schedule, London 2012’s chairman, Lord Sebastian Coe (a former gold medalist himself), has been consistently dogged by complaints from much of the British public who have thus far missed out on snagging tickets.
Coe has been at pains (literally, it would sometimes appear) to point out that there were some 23 million ticket applications made by two million people for only (only!) six million tickets (more are going on sale at a later date). “There was an extraordinary demand, so there’s a massive opportunity to build on that level of excitement,” Coe told the BBC this morning. “No sporting event in the history of sport or Olympic Games — no sport in my lifetime — has had that kind of demand.”
Another key issue is security, especially in light of the horrific events in Norway and the fact that the police force in charge of proceedings have recently come under scrutiny due to links with the phone-hacking scandal that has gripped the nation. But despite two senior police officers, including the Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, resigning, Coe believes that security plans are “robust.”
“We will do anything we need to do to make it as safe and secure as we possibly can,” he said. “Of course you want to protect the athletes and people coming to this country, spectators and the beautiful venues, but you want to get the balance right.”