Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 19 News List

London Games may surpass Sydney, AOC president says

AFP and AP, SYDNEY and LONDON

The 2000 Sydney Olympics are widely regarded as the best ever, but Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates believes they could be surpassed by London.

As the one-year countdown to next year’s Games got under way yesterday, Coates said that from what he had seen so far, London was on track to provide a memorable event.

“I think we’re all pretty proud of Sydney [2000] and many people say that Sydney remains the benchmark,” Coates said at a ceremony marking the countdown at Circular Quay in Sydney. “But from where I’ve been sitting, London has been six months to a year ahead of us in their preparations all the way through since they were awarded the Games six years ago.”

However, Coates was quick to point out the heavy involvement Australians have had in the London Games organization.

“We can take some pride from the fact that a lot of Australians were enlisted by them to help in their master planning, help in their bid planning and there’s a lot of Australians dotted throughout the organizing committee,” Coates said. “But these Games now have the very British stamp to them and I think there’s every prospect of them surpassing our Games.”

London was marking the one-year countdown yesterday with the completion of the last of the Olympic Park’s permanent venues and a Trafalgar Square ceremony.

Ahead of an evening concert at the world-renowned London landmark, the £269 million (US$442 million) aquatics center was to open on a former industrial wasteland that has been transformed by one of Britain’s biggest-ever building projects.

“It’s a pretty big moment for us,” London Games organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe said. “Though a mountain of work is still needed to prepare [the venues], we have an extraordinary platform to build on.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacque Rogge was in London to formally invite the world’s athletes to the games with few of the distractions that overshadowed the one-year countdowns to the previous two Summer Games.

Beijing was battered for its record on Tibet and human rights before the 2008 Olympics, while Athens struggled to the last minute to finish venues in 2004.

Even the worst global recession for more than 70 years failed to significantly derail London’s plans, with test events already underway and the IOC relaxed about the final 12 months before the games returns to London after 64 years.

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