Coe says London on track with 1,000 days to go

BY foxsports • October 29, 2009

With nearly 1,000 days to go until the London Olympics, organizing chief Sebastian Coe says preparations are on track but there is no time to waste because the 2012 Games will be here in "the blink of an eyelid." Coe said London has met all its targets as it reaches the 1,000-day countdown on Saturday, another milestone in the city's seven-year Olympic planning project. "We're on track. We're on budget," Coe said in a conference call Thursday. "The venues are taking shape. ... There is nothing that we should have done that we haven't done. We are absolutely where we want to be."' But Coe said there was no room for complacency and the tough work is about to start as London moves from the construction phase to actual operational delivery of the games. "I don't think any of us thinks that 1,000 days is anything other than the blink of an eyelid," he said. "We recognize that the last three years of this project are tough years of delivery. The framework foundation stones that we have in place ... have allowed us with confidence and certainty to move forward. But delivery of any games, any project that is this complex, will always be a challenge." Most immediate is the need to finalize a solution on two remaining sports venues. London organizers propose moving badminton and rhythmic gymnastics to Wembley Arena in north London instead of building a temporary venue near the Olympic Park in east London. The move could save organizers about 20 million pounds ($32.7 million; ?22 million). London officials have held discussions with the two international sports federations. The issue will be discussed when the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission visits London from Nov. 25-26. The IOC wants the venues finalized as soon as possible. "I'm very satisfied that we will reach a resolution on this very quickly," Coe said. On the financial front, Coe said London has continued to buck the recession by signing 23 domestic sponsors so far and raising about 550 million pounds ($900 million; ?1.1 million). London's overall sponsorship target is about 700 million pounds ($1.1 million; ?775 million), but Coe declined to predict how much the committee could raise. "I don't kid myself," he said. "We shouldn't confuse our efforts for being an easy process. I don't think in terms of how high we could drive this." The Olympic Park venues have taken shape this year, with construction under way of the main stadium, velodrome, aquatics center, basketball arena, media center and athletes' village. According to the Olympic Delivery Authority, 7,270 people are working on the park and village projects, and the figure will reach 10,000 early next year. IOC president Jacques Rogge offered his endorsement of London's progress. "We are absolutely happy with the developments and the preparations," he told Britain's domestic news agency Press Association. "London are progressing according to their master plan, they stay within budget and it is a very strong team. But there is always a need to be vigilant until the very last day because unexpected things do happen." Coe said next year's milestones for London include launching the volunteer program, fitting out the sports venues, developing the ticketing program, finalizing the competition schedule and unveiling the games mascot. Saturday's countdown will be marked by various activities across the capital. The BT Tower in central London will be lit up by a fireworks display and a giant screen will flash the 1,000-day notice.

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