One year and counting for London Olympics

London: The 12-month countdown to the greatest sporting show on earth gets under way here Wednesday as London reaches the one year to go mark for the 2012 summer Olympics.

International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge will join British officials at a ceremony in Trafalgar Square as preparations for London 2012 enter the home straight.

Rogge will use the occasion to issue an invitation to the 10,500 athletes expected to descend on London for next year`s extravaganza, which takes place from July 27 to August 12.

Next year`s opening ceremony 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 in east London.

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

"What we have within our control is under control, but clearly there`s still a lot of work to do. The construction part is 90 percent complete," Coe said in an interview.

The focal point of the 2012 Games is the massive redevelopment of a 2.5 square kilometre (one square mile) site in east London which will become the Olympic Park.

By the time the Games roll around, 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.

"I feel real pride at the extraordinary progress we have made on the Olympic Park," Coe said. "You cannot fail to feel proud when you are showing around politicians, schools, sponsors and other people around the park."

Residents living near the Olympic development have given broad support to the site.

"It`s definitely going to bring positive changes. Shopkeepers will earn more money, there will be more work," said Jason Vaughan, a 25-year-old builder who lives in a tower block overlooking the site.

But he was not convinced the authorities` main focus was helping local people. "I think they are just doing it for show," he said.

As well as the gleaming new facilities, the 2012 Games will also seek to exploit some of the British capital`s most iconic tourist backdrops together with 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.

Triathletes and long distance swimmers, meanwhile, will be plunging into the waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

The soaring arch of Wembley Stadium will host the finals of the Olympic football competition.

The immaculately manicured lawns of Wimbledon will stage the tennis tournament while Olympic archers will be letting fly on the hallowed turf of Lord`s, the home of cricket.

But while construction work for the Games is progressing smoothly, organisers have come under fire for ticketing to the Games, which saw hundreds of thousands of applicants end up empty-handed.

Coe insists that the disappointment was unavoidable given the "unprecedented" demand, with roughly 20 million applications for tickets made by some 1.9 million people in the first wave of sales in April.

British officials meanwhile are confident the £500 million security plan in place for the Games will not be affected by the resignation of Metropolitan Police chief Paul Stephenson over Britain`s phone hacking scandal.

The scandal has also led to the resignation of the Metropolitan Police`s Assistant Commissioner John Yates, Britain`s top anti-terrorist officer.

Coe was adamant however that the high-level departures would not affect Olympics security.

"It won`t impact it at all ... there are robust plans in place and they will remain that way," Coe said.

Bureau Report

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