Olympic dream is close to becoming reality

EXCITEMENT The Sun sets over the Olympic Stadium in the Olympic Park, London.
EXCITEMENT The Sun sets over the Olympic Stadium in the Olympic Park, London.

From broken bones to new beginnings

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It seems like a lifetime ago that we saw those images of Seb Coe grinning like a Cheshire cat, David Beckham hugging Sir Steve Redgrave, while various other sporting personalities jumped about on a stage back home in Trafalgar Square.

Fast forward seven years and Olympic Park in east London has been totally transformed.

AMBASSADOR Jonathan Edwards in the athletes' village

AMBASSADOR Jonathan Edwards in the athletes' village

The whole site may not be quite completed yet but there didn’t seem to be any need for panic stations on our visit to what will become a series of iconic venues where heroes are made.

No doubt there will be more than a few finishing touches here and there as the opening ceremony approaches, but it’s very much on course to be delivered on time and under budget.

You know that the venue promises to be something special when your tour guide is an Olympic triple jump champion from the Sydney Games in 2000.

Jonathan Edwards – a figurehead in the bidding process and a member of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games – is as excited as a toddler on Christmas Eve at what is just around the corner.

In his eyes, seven years have been well worth waiting for and Edwards believes the event will be something truly special.

Edwards said: ‘In terms of a venue or a site for the Olympics, I’m convinced it will be the best there has ever been.

‘I have to pinch myself every time I look around it.

‘It’s phenomenal what has been done in a relatively short space of time.

‘In terms of hosting an Olympic Games and a Paralympic Games, the atmosphere will be amazing.

‘I’ve been part of something that I will never see again in my lifetime.

‘The breadth of the vision – and not just the hosting of the Games but all the different projects all over the country – I never thought it would be as good as this.’

While most of us know about the 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium that will host the athletics, it is the other sporting venues that are all within a short walk that promise to make this an Olympic Games like no other.

The Olympic Village will be a short jog from the stadium for Usain Bolt, Sir Chris Hoy wouldn’t even need to get out of first gear to get to the Velodrome for the cycling while Tom Daley could wander across to the Aquatics Centre in his budgie-smugglers and flip-flops.

Even the BMX track is on the same patch of land that was once effectively London’s industrial skip.

While many are excited at what is to come in a matter of months, some grumbling old cynics still complain about the cost, the traffic problems or the fact that their favourite soap opera might be on a bit later for a fortnight or so.

Edwards is aware that those views still exist, but is convinced they will change in July.

He said: ‘Whatever the cynicism might be now, I guarantee that people will be behind it when they see the opening ceremony.

‘In Sydney, they had a lot of negative public opinion in the lead-up to the Games – more than we’ve had here.

‘But once the eyes of the world are watching and your athletes start to win some medals, everybody gets on board. It will be stunning.

‘We will all be proud to be British.’

The excitement of London being named as host city to stage the 2012 Olympic Games caught the imagination of just about everyone who loves their sport – and even some who normally have no interest in it whatsoever.

Just like a home nation doing well in a World Cup can attract people to football or rugby when they normally have no desire to tune in, the Olympics is expected to captivate the masses when it’s on our own doorstep and we welcome the world to our shores.

Many of us have bellowed our support at the TV while watching athletes and competitors do their stuff in far-flung destinations from Los Angeles to Beijing when they can’t hear us.

In a few months’ time, they will hear that swell of home support and surely find that extra level of performance that is the stuff of sporting legend.

The long wait is almost over, excitement is building and – whisper it quietly – we look like we’re just about ready for it.

OLYMPIC FACTS

· The Olympic Games run from July 27 to August 12, the Paralympics run from August 29 to September 9

· London will be the only city to officially host the modern Olympic Games three times. In 1908, London stood in for Rome after Mount Vesuvius erupted and in 1948 the capital stepped in at the last minute to host the first Games after World War II

· 205 national anthems have been recorded by the London Philarmonic Orchestra for the victory ceremonies

· 4,000 trees have been planted across the Olympic Park and Olympic and Paralympic Village

· 14,000 athletes will compete in 26 Olympic sports and 20 Paralympic sports at 37 venues across the UK

· After the Games, the village will provide 2,818 new homes

· 800,000 people are expected to use public transport to travel to the Games on the busiest day

· 98 per cent of materials reclaimed from demolition within the Olympic Park were reused or recycled

· 1.4million cubic metres of contaminated soil was cleansed by machinery and 52 electricity pylons were removed from the site before building began

· In total 300,000 spectators will walk and cycle to the Games venues