London begins counting days for 2012 Olympics

London: The one-year countdown to the 2012 Olympics gets under way here Wednesday with London preparing to showcase itself on a day of festivities to mark the final sprint to the sporting extravaganza.

British diver Tom Daley is to plunge into the waters of the Olympic Park`s Aquatics Centre while International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge will make a formal invitation for athletes to participate at the Games.

Rogge will issue his invitation in a televised ceremony at 7:00pm local time while Londoners will be given a first glimpse of how the city will look when key buildings and parts of the city are "dressed" for the Games.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 organising committee (LOCOG), said preparations for the July 27-August 12 games were firmly on course, noting that construction on most venues had already been completed.

"We are fully on track, we are on schedule, and we are within budget with one year to go and I take particular pride in that," Coe told journalists in a conference call for international media.

"One year to go is a defining moment in the history of an Olympic Games," Coe said.

"Jacques Rogge will in essence be inviting the world to the Games, and we want to be able to show the world that we`re getting ready to host them."

The 2012 Olympics will mark the culmination of years of planning which has seen billions of pounds lavished on an array of state-of-the-art sports venues and urban renewal project in east London.

The focal point of the Games is the redevelopment of a 2.5 square kilometre (one square mile) site in east London which will become the Olympic Park.

The complex will include the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, the £95 million Olympic Velodrome, the Aquatics Centre and venues for handball and hockey as well as the athletes village.

As well as the gleaming new facilities, the Games will also seek to exploit some of the British capital`s most iconic tourist backdrops together with famous pre-existing sports venues for events across the city.

Tonnes of sand will be deposited on Horse Guards Parade in the heart of Whitehall for the beach volleyball competition while triathletes and distance swimmers will plunge into the waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

Wembley Stadium will host the finals of the Olympic football competition while Wimbledon will host the tennis tournament.

While construction work for the Games has progressed smoothly, organisers have come under fire over the distribution for tickets to the Games, which saw hundreds of thousands of applicants end up empty-handed.

Coe insists however that the disappointment was unavoidable given the "unprecedented" demand, with around 23 million applications for tickets made by some two million people.

"There were 23 million ticket applications by two million people, that`s an extraordinary volume, a world record-breaking demand for any sporting event on the planet," Coe said.

Bureau Report

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