x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

London's great expectations as countdown for 2012 Olympics gets in full swing

London is getting ready to start the one-year countdown to the 2012 Games with plenty of pomp for the circumstance.

The Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park in east London is one of the venues tipped to be part of the 'best' Olympics ever in 2012.
The Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park in east London is one of the venues tipped to be part of the 'best' Olympics ever in 2012.

LONDON // The one-year countdown to the 2012 Olympics got under way here with officials bullishly predicting the city was on course to deliver the best ever games with 12 months to go.

Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee chief, is set to extend a formal invitation to the world's athletes during a 7pm ceremony (10pm UAE time) at Trafalgar Square in the culmination of day-long events to mark the one-year milestone.

Tom Daley, the British diver, is due to plunge into the waters of the gleaming new Aquatics Centre, one of an array of new venues built at the 2.5 square kilometre Olympic Park site in east London.

The British capital was also showcasing some of the venues being incorporated into the city's most famous landmarks, including a beach volleyball arena at Horseguard's Parade, where tonnes of sand have been deposited. Lord Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, said preparations were on schedule with 90 per cent of venues complete.

"And we are within budget with one year to go, and I take particular pride in that," Coe told journalists.

Some of Britain's most famous athletes toured the 17,500-seater Aquatics Centre, with the former distance runner Steve Cram giving the venue a glowing review.

"It is stunning. It's absolutely stunning," the former Olympic silver medallist told the BBC.

"A lot of people talked about the venues in Beijing, talking about how good they were - the Bird's Nest, the Cube.

"This is better than the Cube. It's not because I'm British, it genuinely is."

London organisers also received a vote of confidence from the Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, who said the London Games may surpass the 2000 Sydney Olympics - widely regarded as the best ever.

"From where I've been sitting London has been six months to a year ahead of us in their preparations all the way through since they were awarded the Games six years ago," Coates said.