Sebastian Coe: Fantastic Games will be our calling card to the world
Tuesday 15 February 2011
Today sees the publication of the London 2012 Olympic Games sport schedule in full. Its assembly was a herculean task which has taken the best part of two years and has involved our teams piecing together nearly 650 separate sessions across 26 sports and 39 disciplines into 19 days. It's a major piece of work and another landmark on the way to London 2012, not just for us at the organising committee, but also for the athletes who can now add some further dates to their intricate schedule. It makes things a little more "real" for organisers and competitors alike.
The greatest show on Earth is coming. And for everyone else, things are also going to start getting a little more "real" in the next few months as we get ready to sell millions of tickets to the Olympic Games. If this is the greatest show on earth, then surely these are the world's greatest tickets. Between 15 March and 26 April, the ticket application process is open giving everyone the opportunity to apply for tickets. And there's plenty of choice. The summer of 2012 will be a festival of sport, featuring the greatest sportsmen and women from all over the world (10,500 from 205 nations to be exact) competing in first the Olympic Games and then a further 4,200 athletes from 167 nations competing in the Paralympic Games. Tickets for the Paralympic Games will go on sale from 9 September.
When I competed, shorts were shorter and hairstyles longer, but the basic logic behind an athlete's preparation was the same as it is now. A training schedule was developed to the finest detail and focused on the major championships, with the Olympic Games at the pinnacle. I know from speaking to some of our hopefuls that their training regime is now utterly focused on getting them to the peak of their powers for next year. The prospect of competing at a "home" Olympic Games is something that few athletes can contemplate – a once in a generation moment. What will make it all the more special is the support of the crowds in the stadium, at big screens around the country and those who are at home watching on television.
Given the cosmopolitan mix of London and the UK, those athletes coming from the other 204 nations are also likely to be greeted by a "home" crowd when they compete. I'm convinced London 2012 is going to be a pretty special Games – a fantastic "calling card" to the world, plus a unique opportunity for our young people to be inspired by sport, an opportunity which must be grabbed. And those 650 or so sessions are taking place at a pretty amazing set of venues, the best of what we have to offer in the UK.
The football tournament is taking place all over the UK – it may not quite be the major football tournament we wanted in this country, but let's not forget a certain Lionel Messi is a gold medal winner from the Beijing Games and we can expect some of the finest young players gracing our stadiums.
Some iconic London landmarks will stage sport for the first time – bringing equestrian sports into the city at Greenwich Park and bringing the thrills and spills of Beach Volleyball to Horseguards Parade. Plus we have our very own Olympic Park which will be home to some fantastic sport next summer and for years to come, as well as being the focal point to a quite astounding piece of urban regeneration in the east of the capital.
We have made ticket prices as accessible as possible, with £20 tickets for every sport plus special prices for under-16's and those over 60 – our prices at the higher end of the scale helping us to ensure there are millions of tickets available at lower prices. The work we have done here and with the schedule should help us ensure full venues and magnificent atmospheres. And the excitement starts on day one with the men's road race in cycling, which will see thousands line the streets of London and down into Surrey watching the likes of Mark Cavendish go for gold.
The summer of 2012 is going to be like nothing we've ever seen in the UK before and I hope that the effects will be felt for generations after. If you want to be part of it – now is the time to start planning. See you there.
Sebastian Coe is chairman of the London Organising Committee
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