Games on: The Olympic countdown starts here
With just six months left until the opening ceremony, London 2012 has suddenly started to seem alarmingly close.
It is six years, six months and more than £9bn in public expenditure since Jacques Rogges stood on a platform in Singapore and read out the word "London," igniting wild scenes in Trafalgar Square. This morning, the countdown clock that now stands there reads 182 days: there are just six months to go until the opening ceremony of Games of the XXX Olympiad, at what was relatively recently an industrial wasteland in east London.
This morning, at the Olympic Park, the opening ceremony's Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle will reveal the first clues as to what to expect when an estimated four billion sets of eyes are focused on the capital. Details remain a closely guarded secret, and little is expected to be revealed prior to the event itself. Over the coming weeks, thousands of would-be performers will audition to be part of what Mr Boyle hopes will be the greatest show on earth.
Preparations seem to be progressing unsettlingly well. Almost all the venues are completed, and almost all the tickets sold. A minor planning row over stabling facilities at the Greenwich Park home of the equestrian eventing is the organiser's most significant headache. A handful of tickets for the football competition remain unsold.
Games organisers have said they will not change their minds over Dow Chemical's controversial £7m sponsorship of a fabric wrap that will go around the stadium. One of the 12 sustainability commissioners resigned yesterday over the company's connections to the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India – a gas leak that has since accounted for the death by poisoning of up to 25,000 people. Dow Chemical has since bought the company, Union Carbide India Limited, that was responsible for the disaster
Of greater concern – at least to the residents of London's Primrose Hill – are plans to install a 30ft-high replica of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer Statue, above, to mark the handover of the Olympic torch to the city, which will host the Games in 2016. The scheme has apparently been dreamt up by the Brazilian Tourist Board, but local Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Naylor said he was unconvinced a 30ft statue of Christ was what the area needed.
Primrose Hill, known for its views across the capital, has long been home to luminaries from the worlds of politics, fashion and show business: Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and David Miliband all live in the area.
A Brazilan Tourist Board spokesman said only that the statue was "a concept that was being considered as part of a wider platform of promotional activities" to mark the Olympic handover.
Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, David Cameron urged world leaders to "be part of this special year in a truly great country".
Mayor Boris Johnson made a surprise appearance, compelling world leaders to visit the city in its Olympic year and reminding them that London "remains a formidable exporting power".
When the bid to host the Olympics was won in 2005, it was in a markedly different world financial climate. But Games chief Lord Coe said in an interview with AFP yesterday that the Games had been an "absolute godsend" to the British economy. "The Olympics has been a fantastic catalyst in a very difficult economic environment," he said.
Progress report: Lord Coe's to do list
1. Complete the main venues
Done. The final square of turf has been laid in the main Olympic stadium, and most other venues are ready.
2. Fix traffic
Progressing well. London boroughs have successfully trialled "quiet deliveries" in the small hours of the morning.
3. Get the volunteers
70,000 Olympic Gamesmakers have been recruited and hired, and their duties assigned.
4. Finish remaining venues
Most venues are complete, but work is ongoing at the Water Polo Arena.
The wheelchair tennis court at Eton Manor still needs stands. And the greenery that will fill in the gaps between the venues still needs to be completed.
5. Sell remaining tickets
Only a few thousand football tickets remain in the general sale, but in April would-be spectators will be able to buy any unwanted tickets bought in the original ballot.
6. Fit the lifts
The mangled giant rollercoaster sculpture otherwise known as the ArcelorMittal Orbit is structurally sound, but the lifts and the fixtures and fittings still need to be completed.
7. Cast the medals
The thousands of bronze, silver and gold medals that will be awarded at the Games are still being produced at the Royal Mint in Wales.
8. Find the dancers
Auditions for extra dancers and performers at the opening ceremonies take place in the coming weeks.
9. Bring in the kitchen fitters
Work converting the Athletes' Village into flats, including installing kitchens, cannot begin until after the athletes have gone home.
10. Pick the teams
Team GB competitors will be announced throughout the next six months, with the Team GB football squad announcement likely to come after Euro 2012.
Don't miss out how you can still join in
Support the relay
The Olympic Torch's 70-day journey will take it within 10 miles of 95 per cent of the UK's population, with celebrations in nearly every city.
The last batch of tickets for a whole range of test events will go on sale in March. In one weekend in May, six events will occur simultaneously at the Olympic Park.
There are more than 10 million free tickets for hundreds of events that form part of the London 2012 festival, including concerts, art exhibitions and performances at London's National Theatre.
Get a job
Thousands of jobs are still available at the Games, from ticketing and retail to overseeing the opening and closing ceremonies.
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