On schedule and on budget – Olympic chief praises London
Preparations for next year compare favourably with Beijing's efforts, says confident IOC president
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 26 July 2011
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, believes London's preparations leave them as well positioned with a year to go as any recent Games, including the behemoth that was Beijing.
The 2008 Games organisers enjoyed the unparalleled support, funding and resources of the Chinese government and a budget that has been estimated as more than four times that of London's £9.3bn, but Rogge has told The Independent that he regards next year's host city as being in an equally strong position.
"They have done a great job," said Rogge of London's organisers. "We are extremely pleased – it is on schedule and on budget. Quality-wise we are very satisfied. They are very well prepared. In terms of preparation they are on a par with Beijing."
The Olympic Park in London's East End is now 88 per cent complete – the £269m Aquatics Centre will tomorrow be the latest venue to be finished, with Tom Daley due to christen the diving pool live on BBC1. Test events around the city have begun, with the first one in the Park itself scheduled for 16 August in the basketball arena. "It is going to leave a legacy to the city," said Rogge, "bringing new infrastructure, housing and roads – a very strong urban legacy."
Rogge, a former Belgium Olympic sailor who has led the IOC since 2001, said there were no areas of London's preparation that worried him, although the questions over transport and security remain constants at every Games. "There are no particular concerns," Rogge said of London. "There is the eternal concern of traffic circulation but that is valid for all Olympic cities and London appears to have adapted a good strategy.
"Security has been a number one priority for the Olympic movement since Munich in 1972. That is something we must never forget. There must always be good balance – implementation without being too heavy."
There was also high praise yesterday for the state of the host's sporting preparation. At UK Sport's latest briefing on the state of the 28 Olympic and Paralympic sports ahead of the Games, Liz Nicholl, the body's chief executive, expressed growing confidence in their ability to meet the target of a fourth-placed finish in the medals table, as they did in 2008, but with more medals from more sports than Britain won in Beijing. Nicholl said: "We are on track – the current state of play is very positive indeed. British sport is feeling good."
Taking the Olympic sports as a whole, British teams and athletes are further ahead in this stage of the cycle than they were before the 2008 Games, which yielded 47 medals and 19 golds. "It is clear that the mood in the camp across British sport is positive and one of measured confidence," said Nicholl, who cited taekwondo, swimming and cycling as sports that have particularly impressed in recent months. Cycling met their target of winning five to 10 world championship medals with three events in hand – they already have eight - while British taekwondo recently enjoyed its best world championships with four medals.
UK Sport, and its director of performance, Peter Keen, use a traffic light system to indicate the readiness of the Olympic sports under a variety of categories. Currently 11 of the 28 have been given a green rating with none on red. Athletics, in particular, is rated at being in a much stronger position than one year out from Beijing.
Nicholl said: "I am optimistic that, with 12 months to go, British sport could not be in a better place."
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