Olympic organisers are considering holding the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Games across the whole of the capital rather than just in the main Olympic Stadium, the Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, has revealed.
Rather than replicate the spectacular ceremonies that marked the beginning and end of the Beijing Games, organisers are considering hosting a number of parallel events when the Games come to London. "We don't want to try to emulate Beijing," said Ms Jowell. "What we want is new ways of thinking about the opening ceremony.
"We want the whole of London to be involved, with different parts of London taking part in the ceremony. The London Games must be deeply democratic, with the city's citizens feeling they're intimately involved. I think what you will see is a very vivid sense of celebration right across the city at both the opening and closing ceremonies."
Ms Jowell also revealed that a ticketing system similar to that employed at Wimbledon was being considered. At the All England Club, tennis fans who leave the courts before the end of play are encouraged to hand back their tickets, which are then sold on at heavily discounted rates.
"We want to create the expectation that seats will have people on them," said Ms Jowell. "You can't stop sponsors buying seats, nor should you – but we must maximise the public's chances of seeing the games first-hand."
Ms Jowell said she was very impressed by what she saw in Beijing, but insisted that there were areas where London could do better. "In terms of great organisation, fantastic facilities, and a welcoming attitude and pride among the people, Beijing was superb," she said.
"But there are things we can and will do better. I saw lots and lots of Chinese people standing outside stadiums, on the wrong part of a perimeter fence, as observers rather than participants. We must reverse that trend and make sure our Olympics are more accessible. I also want to minimise the number of empty seats in stadiums, which frustrate the public and keep them at a distance for no reason. And I want our volunteers to be trained better and given a more clearly defined role."
A number of innovations have been touted as ways of generating a party atmosphere in the capital in the run-up to, and during, the Games. The Mayor's office may keep the Tube network running all night during the Games. The extended schedule would help deal with the estimated 500,000 extra visitors to London on each day of the Games.
Museums and galleries, many of which are already free, could potentially be kept open until midnight. A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) said that, though it was ultimately a question for the trustees of each institution, the DCMS "supports in principle the aim of increasing accessibility". "We cannot commit to such ideas at this stage but the principle of getting more people to museums, and increasing access to London's cultural heritage, we endorse," said the spokesman.
The Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, announced 4,000 new projects aimed at achieving "the goal of a more active nation" yesterday. The £36m scheme, part of £100m of extra investment in sport announced by the Government earlier this year, will aim to get all pupils doing at least five hours of sport each week, up from the 86 per cent who are doing two hours at the moment.
"Sporting participation is both an end in itself and a means to other ends," said Ms Jowell. "If you look at what works as an anti-crime, pro-education, pro-health, strategy among the young, especially those from poorer backgrounds, sport is unmatched." The minister added that the controversy over Tarique Ghaffur, the Asian policeman previously in charge of security for the Games who is suing the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, for alleged racial discrimination, would have "no impact whatsoever" on security planning for the Games. "We have a cabinet committee working on security and high-level planning is well advanced," she said.