With just under a year to go for the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the British capital is ahead of schedule in its preparations for the world’s biggest event next year.
The head of the Games’ organizing committee, Lord Sebastian Coe, spoke to Kathimerini English Edition about the progress of preparation for the event, the impact of the Games and the Olympic torch relay. He also referred to Athens as the 21st century city of transport, thanks to the 2004 Olympics.
How ready do you feel you are at this stage?
With one year to go, we are eager to show the world we will be ready to host the world’s greatest event. I can say we are on schedule and within budget for a project of infinite complexity.
This is an effort that involves 60 million people, the whole of the UK’s population and on all fronts we are almost ready. There is not a lot of hard work ahead of us.
We are now involved in testing, and as a former competitor I know the value of testing very well.
Our venues are almost complete. We have raised large sums of money and compiled a world-class team for an extraordinary British achievement.
I can say therefore that we are not fearful of anything. I can look at every athlete in the eye and say we have left no stone unturned.
Some people think that the smaller the country holding a successful Olympics, the greater the benefits from its staging. What do you think the benefits will be in terms of finance, tourism development etc., from the London Games?
The Games is going to offer a profound benefit for British economy. There already are some 1,500 UK business involved with a turnover of 5-6 billion pounds. Expenditure during the Games is expected to run up to 750 million pounds.
This is also a very good opportunity for a great tourism dividend as London is the gateway to UK tourism. Don’t forget that we have built a new city inside an old one, with a new Olympic park and the largest urban park in the world in a massive regeneration project in London. There will also be many more working opportunities for young people thanks to the Games.
A few months ago, some seeking the causes of Greece’s financial problems focused on the staging of the Olympics in 2004 as being partly responsible. Do you think that one day you may also be in the spotlight of a similar criticism, too?
Not for a moment did I consider that a successful Olympics such as that of Athens could have anything to do with the country’s financial crisis.
As somebody who watched the Athens Games closely, I can tell you that the legacy of Athens has been extraordinary, particularly the transformation of its public transport. It was one of the best transformations for an Olympic event and I think Athens became the 21st century city of transport.
Will there be a Greek element to the 70-day relay of the Olympic torch around the UK after its arrival from Ancient Olympia?
There is a strong Greek community in North London and I am certain that when the torch relay comes to their area, about one week before the opening ceremony, they will add a Greek flavor to the event.
After all, the Greeks know better than anyone the significance of the Olympic Flame and its uniqueness, and are going to add some Greek element to it particularly since the flame will stay for one or two nights in North London.