Londoners waking tomorrow with blurred vision and throbbing heads will not have to wait long for their next party, as the city enters its Olympic year and prepares to host the sporting show of a lifetime.
Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, marking 60 years of her reign, will be celebrated in June followed by England’s appearance at the European soccer championships before the Olympics open on July 27.
Sebastian Coe, the double Olympic 1,500m gold medalist who is now head of London 2012 organizers LOCOG, this week likened the sequence of events to the appearance of Halley’s comet which flashes across the night sky roughly every 75 years.
London will be the only city to have hosted the summer Olympics three times, after 1908 and 1948, and the latest will easily be the biggest sporting event Britain has ever staged.
With a budget of ￡9.3 billion (US$14.31 billion), fears of transport chaos and more British troops assigned to protect the Games than are currently serving in Afghanistan, there are plenty of potential clouds to darken the horizon.
Coe, who said he would wake up on New Year’s Day with the same excitement he had as an Olympic athlete, prefers to see the Games as a chance to show Britain at its best, while also raising spirits both at home and abroad at a time of financial hardship.
“Waking up just 200 days away from the biggest thing this nation will have delivered in living memory is a massive responsibility,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
“And at a time when the world is a pretty difficult place for a lot of people, I think we also know we have a responsibility to try and help lift people’s spirits,” he said.
With just over 200 days to go, Britain is confident its athletes are on track to hit the stated target of winning more medals from more sports in more than a century.
Britain finished fourth in the medals table in Beijing in 2008 with 47 from 11 sports, including 19 golds.
“We have recently reviewed the data for 2011 across all World Championship and other relevant world events and rankings in every Olympic discipline for 2011,” British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Hunt said on Thursday. “This shows Team GB finishing in sixth position with 59 medals across 13 different sports in what would be a relative Olympic medals table.”
However, Hunt was mindful that some major nations do not always send top athletes to championships in the year before a Games and that London promises to be the most competitive Olympics yet.
The building of venues and infrastructure is 90 percent finished with the formal hand-over of the Olympic Park in east London to LOCOG expected early next year.
“In 2012, we will complete our task — finishing the Olympic Village, water polo arena, shooting venue at Woolwich and parklands — as we work alongside the organizing committee to prepare for next summer,” said John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority.