London breaks world record for stadium completion
London: Four-times silver medallist Frankie Fredericks laid the final roll of turf at London`s Olympic stadium on Tuesday as organisers said construction of the gleaming venue was complete ahead of schedule.
Fredericks, part of a week-long International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspection visit, said London`s 80,000-seater stadium, which has taken three years to build, ranked alongside any he raced in.
"It`s a perfect stadium for track and field...it`s a great, great stadium," the Namibian, who was runner-up in 100 and 200 metres in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, told Reuters as he stood astride a chalk line on the black tarmac to mark the finish on the track that will be installed later this year.
"I remember when Michael Johnson beat me in Atlanta in the 200m and broke the world record and I`m sure he was inspired by the stadium," Fredericks said. "I hope that will be the case again with the athletes competing in London. I`m sure it will."
Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) chairman John Armitt said the stadium had come in under budget at 486 million pounds (USD 776.7 million), although that figure is still far higher than the 280 million quoted in London`s original bid document.
Even then, fans will still get wet if London`s unpredictable weather does its worst next summer.
"A completely covered roof would have added a lot of money," Armitt told reporters in between rain showers.
"Two thirds of the stadium are covered. It`s a compromise. Basically it`s a summer stadium for the Games and it will work. If you are bound up with the excitement a light rain shower will not put you off."
London Organising Committee (LOCOG) chief Sebastian Coe said there was still plenty to do before test events could begin this year.
"It`s everything we hoped it would be," he said. "It`s an intimate stadium and the competitors will be lifted by the fact that fans will be so close."
"I wouldn`t want anyone to think we are in a position to stage an Olympic Games tomorrow as we have a massive amount of work to do but it`s great we are in a position to start fine-tuning and creating the theatre."
Britain`s Natasha Danvers, 400m hurdles silver medallist in Beijing, who helped put the finishing touches to the infield said she was excited at the prospect of competing in front of a home crowd.
"When we won the bid that was the day I knew I couldn`t retire," Danvers, 31, told reporters. "It has a wow factor. You can see that the crowd are going to be so close to the action. I think it`s just beautiful."
After the Games Premier League club West Ham United will take over the stadium, reconfiguring it to a 60,000 capacity but with the athletics track retained.