A women’s soccer match in Wales will kick off next year’s Olympics program a full two days before the flame is lit in London for “the greatest show on Earth.”
The competition schedule with dates, times and prices for the 19-day sporting extravaganza was published online (www.tickets.london2012.com) yesterday after years of planning and exactly a month before 6.6 million public tickets go on sale.
The very first event will be more about 200km away to the west at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, which hosts a preliminary match for the women’s soccer tournament on July 25.
While elite athletes around the world had their first look at the official timetable, ordinary citizens across the UK could start planning their own once-in-a-lifetime experience as spectators.
London’s first glimpse of Olympic action will be the unticketed men’s and women’s archery individual ranking round at Lord’s cricket ground on July 27, hours before the formal opening ceremony watched by an estimated global television audience of 4 billion.
The Games proper will start with a gunshot, if not heard around the world then at least opening the men’s 10m air pistol and women’s 10m air rifle shooting at the Royal Artillery Barracks on July 28.
Those events in southeast London are also set to provide the first of the Games’ 302 medals.
Prices ranged from a symbolic, but stratospheric ￡2,012 (US$3,233) for the best seat at the opening ceremony to ￡20.12 for the cheapest on the night.
The schedule lists more than 670 sessions at 34 venues in 26 sports, with about 2.5 million tickets priced at ￡20 or less and children enjoying a “pay your age” scheme.
Other events, such as the two marathons and cycling’s road races, will be free to watch.
“Publishing the Olympic sports competition schedule means that everyone — athletes, coaches, spectators, broadcasters and everybody who wants to be part of London 2012 can now start planning their Games,” said London Olympic Organising Committee chairman Sebastian Coe.
“Families up and down the country can now plan their summer of 2012,” the former Olympic champion said. “Our message to the public is clear — the superstars of 26 world sports are coming to the UK and you have the chance to say ‘I was there.’”
Cycling, with home medal hopes including 2008 triple champion Chris Hoy, athletics and aquatics look like being the most oversubscribed events.
The UK will hope to strike gold on the first weekend, with cyclists Mark Cavendish and 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke in the men’s and women’s road races on July 28 and 29.
The men’s marathon, starting and finishing outside Queen Elizabeth II’s residence of Buckingham Palace, will set off on the final day, Aug. 12, after the women’s event on Aug. 5.
The marathon route passes many of the capital’s best-known landmarks, avoiding the main stadium in a deprived area of east London.
If Australia’s most successful Olympian Ian Thorpe succeeds in his plans for a comeback, his first appearance poolside in the wave-shaped aquatics center could be on July 29 for the initial 200m freestyle heats.
In athletics, towering Jamaican champion and world record holder Usain Bolt should be the big attraction in the 100m final in the early evening of Aug. 5.
Tickets go on sale from March 15 to April 26.