London Mayor Boris Johnson insisted on Sunday that the city was ready to host the Olympics, despite a national outbreak of pre-match nerves before the biggest show on Earth gets under way.
Johnson said Britain was feeling the necessary tension before a big performance, as the clock ticks down to Friday’s opening ceremony on the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
He said the venues were safe and the transport system was bearing up, despite a week dominated in Britain by fears over travel chaos and gaps in security.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge is in London and “he thinks that our city is as well-prepared as any city has ever been in the history of the Games,” Johnson told BBC television. “So far the traffic system and transport networks generally are holding up well. Possibly what we’re going though at the moment as a nation, as a city, is that necessary, pre-curtain-up moment of psychological self-depression, before the excitement begins on Friday when the curtain goes up. It is only natural that people should be tense, that they should be expectant.”
He also said the Olympics would bring economic benefits for the capital of recession-hit Britain, saying London was about to sell itself at the “gigantic schmoozathon” between top world business chiefs on the margins.
Three-time Olympic gold medal winner Bradley Wiggins on Sunday delivered a huge boost to national self-confidence when he became the first ever British cyclist to win the Tour de France.
Wiggins will spearhead Britain’s hopes for cycling gold in his home city when he takes to the streets of London for the men’s road race, which takes place on Saturday.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who was in charge when London won the right to host the Games in 2005, backed the view that the Olympics would boost Britain and promote it to the world.
“This is the global sporting event. The reason why people compete so hotly to get it is because of what it does for a country,” he told Sky News television.
British Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt told the same program that the Games would be “showing the world what we’re really capable of” by “putting on the world’s biggest sport event in the calm, professional, disciplined way.”
Athletes have been getting used to their new surroundings and taking time to relax before the Games begin.
Usain Bolt, who took a trip to the cinema, insisted he was ready to defend his Olympic 100m and 200m titles after recovering from a mystery problem.
The Jamaican star withdrew from the Monaco Diamond League meeting citing a “slight problem,” but said he “got it checked out and it’s alright.”
The Olympic flame, making a seven-day tour around the capital that culminates at the opening ceremony, was given a trip on the London Eye observation wheel.
The flame was being carried through east London on Sunday, before being taken across the River Thames, with former world heavyweight champion boxer Lennox Lewis and Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang among the torchbearers.
In his Sunday address, Pope Benedict XVI blessed the Games and said he hoped the Olympic spirit would encourage peace in the world.
Some critics have derided the Olympic Stadium as plain and dull, but the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced that it was among the six nominees for this year’s Stirling Prize, Britain’s top architecture award.