London working to finalize last 2 Olympic venues
London Olympic organizers are working to reduce the travel time for athletes in the two sports whose venue for the 2012 Games is being changed to save money. Paul Deighton, chief executive of London organizing committee LOCOG, said Tuesday he is confident a solution will be finalized by the end of the year for badminton and rhythmic gymnastics. LOCOG has proposed moving the two sports to Wembley Arena - adjacent to Wembley Stadium on the northern outskirts of London - rather than build a temporary venue near the main Olympic Park complex in east London. That means the athletes will have to travel much further from the Olympic Village than previously planned. The two international federations have to sign off on the change, which then has to be ratified by the International Olympic Committee. "I think (the sports) are perfectly happy with the arena as a venue," Deighton said. "The issue is a bit further travel. The thing we have to work on is how we're going to get them there and manage the travel time. ... It's just a question of how we configure the Olympic route network to make that work." Scrapping the temporary venue in east London would save organizers about 20 million pounds ($33 million). "In this economic environment it's not really acceptable to taxpayers to build a temporary venue when you've already got an acceptable one, if the tradeoff is another 20 minutes' travel time," Deighton told reporters at the Sports Event Management Conference in London. Deighton said organizers recently took representatives of the two sports to Wembley Arena from the athletes' village site, and the journey took 42 minutes. He said that travel time is acceptable under the IOC's technical guidelines. "They look at one hour as the break even before you need to put the athletes closer to the venue," he said. "So it's clearly comfortably doable within what's technically acceptable. Of course, it is further than it would have been initially." Deighton said LOCOG is also trying to ensure the Wembley facilities will allow athletes to prepare for their competition on site and wind down afterward so they don't have to rush back and forth from the village. LOCOG's sports director will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland, next week for further talks with the two sports federations. The IOC wants to finalize an agreement by its executive board meeting in early December. "Yes, that would be the ideal thing," Deighton said. The IOC coordination commission will be visiting London from Nov. 25-26 and will hope to have a proposal on the table by then. "They know these discussions are going on," Deighton said. "We're going through a very detailed process." On other issues, Deighton said organizers hope to bring in 400 million pounds ($670 million) in revenue by selling about 9 million tickets for the London Olympics and Paralympics. Tickets will go on sale in 2011. London has already raised about 550 millions pounds ($920 million) in domestic sponsorship out of its target of 700 million pounds ($1.1 billion), which Deighton described as a "gravity defying" achievement during the economic downturn. London is still working on plans to ensure full venues in 2012 and avoid the problem of empty seats that occurred in Beijing in 2008. Deighton said plans involve selling tickets to "people who really want to be there," making sure competition session lengths are "sensible" and using a Wimbledon-style "recycling" system where spectators can give their tickets to fans waiting outside when they leave the venue.