London enters final countdown with a splash
Jul 27, 2011, 5:45 a.m.
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - The London Olympics entered its final year countdown on Wednesday with diver Tom Daley poised to make a splash in the newly-opened Aquatics Center before the call goes out to the world to come and join the party.
"With a year to go, we are inviting the athletes, spectators and visitors from around the world to come to the UK next summer. It's 'London Calling'," declared London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe.
The completion of the wave-shaped Aquatics Center, with Daley due to make the first dive in the evening, allowed organizers to congratulate themselves on delivering the Olympic Park's permanent venues with 12 months to go, on time and on budget.
"To have all... permanent venues complete with a year still to go to the Games is a great achievement, and a firm sign that we are well on track to deliver a truly spectacular show in 2012," London Mayor Boris Johnson declared.
"It's a pretty big moment for us," said Coe of entering the final stretch after years of hard work -- the most important milestone on the journey so far and marked by a '1' mown into the turf at the new Olympic Stadium.
London won the bid for the Games in 2005, and will be the first city to host the Olympics for a third time after previously doing so in 1948 and 1908.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge will formally invite the world's athletes to the Games at an evening event -- at 20.12 European time -- in Trafalgar Square that will give a taste of the excitement to come.
"One year to go is a special time for any host nation," he said in a statement.
"It is the moment... when Olympic dreams start to come into focus and when the world turns its attention in earnest to the city that will welcome it in only 365 days' time.
"London 2012 is now ideally placed not just to deliver top level Olympic competition but also to leave a great legacy to the British people." added Rogge, congratulating organizers for their work to date.
Johnson will also welcome the world while the design of the medals, an eagerly awaited secret, will be unveiled for the first time.
"There is much to do in the next 12 months but we can take huge comfort in the progress that has been made so far," said Coe.
"We are absolutely on track and determined to stage Olympic and Paralympic Games which will deliver on the promises we made in Singapore (in 2005), inspire the athletes and make the nation proud."
More than 3.5 million tickets have been sold so far, with all sports bar soccer sold out in the British offering, and a quarter of a million people have applied for 70,000 volunteer positions.
Some 15,000 athletes from more than 200 countries will compete at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with some 10,000 team officials and 20,000 accredited media also expected.
Britain, fourth in the gold medal table in Beijing in 2008, will have 550 athletes competing across the 26 sports and chasing an even greater tally.
"Knowing full well that we have gone from being the hunters to being the hunted, no detail is being overlooked and absolutely nothing is being left to chance," said British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Colin Moynihan.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)