Bumps along the way but let the London 2012 Olympic Games begin...
Thursday 26 July 2012
Seven years ago I stood in the square in front of Stratford station, behind which stood the wasteland of an Olympic dream, one of a curious audience who had gathered just in case; just in case Jacques Rogge opened the envelope and said "London" in that careful, plodding voice of his.
Tomorrow night that same voice, that of the president of the International Olympic Committee, will declare the Games of the XXX Olympiad open. It is a Games that has not come cheaply and has not been without its difficulties or its controversies, particularly in the last few days of security shortfalls, transport concerns and anxious glances heavenwards in between placing desperate orders for extra rain coats to have ready to hand out to spectators – just in case.
The security issue remains the biggest blot on the organisers' copybook. It was the spectacular initial underestimation of the numbers required by Locog that led to a shortfall that was always going to prove impossible to make up. Transport will be an issue from start to finish… and the rain. "Don't worry it will be all right," a Japanese journalist assured me as we stared mournfully across a damp Olympic Park last week.
The Games of the XXX Olympiad will be all right. They may even be better than that. The construction process was smooth and within budget (once it had been realistically hiked from £2.7bn to £9.3bn). The venues, built largely by British contractors, are impressive. The Veldodrome and the Aquatics Centre are raucous arenas that will lift home competitors. The 80,000-seat main stadium's future may be far from settled but it is a worthy arena for an Olympic Games.
Home success is crucial for the overall success of a Games and Jess Ennis could become the home star. In Sydney – branded the "best ever" by the IOC – the home athletes excelled themselves. Britain have assembled their biggest team for a modern Games – like the Games themselves that has not come cheaply – and they are backed by a level of detailed support to equal that deployed behind any sport.
It still needs athletic talent at the end of it all, and there is evidence that there is enough of that bedding down tonight in the Olympic village, as well as in Weymouth and Eton Dornay where the rowers will compete. That curious audience has been replaced by an expectant one.
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