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  • London Latest -- Coe Busts Myth on Transport Chaos, Defends Ticketing Strategy


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    LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe refutes claims that London's strained transportation network will be unable to cope with the Olympics.

    In his update on London's Olympic preparations to the IOC Session in Durban, South Africa, Coe said he was keen to bust a myth or two about transportation problems around the Games.
    LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe. (ATR)

    The IOC has identified transport as one of its chief concerns with little more than one year to the opening ceremony.

    The double Olympic champion offered assurances to IOC members that $10.4 billion had been spent on upgrades and expansion of the public transport network and preparations for the Games were coming together well.

    Speaking to reporters as a briefing later Thursday, Coe said an "extraordinary amount of detailed work now taking place to secure the transport plan".

    "I don't think we have ever been naive or coy about the challenges that London like a lot of cities throw up for an Olympic Games," he told reporters.

    "We are not Beijing, you do not go three miles in one direction, hang a right and go three miles in another direction with an Olympic lane. London is not built like that."

    "There are 12 million public transport journeys made every day in London and the granularity of detail that is now taking place, literally junction by junction in London, to put mitigating actions in place to make this work is really important."

    He dismissed concerns raised in some quarters of the British media that the Olympic Road Network would cause serious problems for Londoners at Games-time.

    Traffic jams are an infamous part of London life. (Getty Images)
    "The dedicated [Olympic] lane in London is less than one percent of the route network. The lane runs from Westminster to the Olympic Park and back. That's it," Coe said.

    "There is no ambiguity about that, we know this has to work. Not just because athletes need to be there on time. But also we know as a city the reputational damage of getting this wrong is profound, it is way way beyond sport."

    "Any journalistic discussion about chaos or closing down London for 100 days around the Games [of Olympics and Paralympics] is frankly wide of the mark."

    "We are across this."

    London Not Yet in Final Straight

    Coe told IOC members that construction on the Olympic Park was 88 percent complete. The aquatics center, billed as the "Gateway to the Games", opens in August. He said rapid progress was being made on the Olympic village, which is next to the hub of the competition venues in east London.

    Using the analogy of competing in an 800m race, the former middle distance runner insisted London 2012 organizers were not in the finishing straight in their preparations.

    "This is what I call the 550-650 meters. That's referred to in 800m as the killing zone," he told reporters.

    "And how you come out of that period often determines the order in the finishing straight and how you get across the line."

    Coe added: "This period for us is a very, very tough period. It's real granular detail, it is operational planning, it is testing, testing, testing.

    A total of 42 test events across the 26 Olympic sports and all Games venues are underway. He said 1,000 LOCOG staff and 10,000 volunteers were involved in the events that will involve 8,000 athletes competing in front of 250,000 spectators packing 2012 arenas in the build-up to the Games.

    LOCOG is scaling up its workforce, which currently numbers 1,700, at a rate of 100 per month, he said.

    Coe said he has told his LOCOG teams and client groups working in different areas "you have a responsibility to make sure everything you do is aimed at one thing and that is getting the athletes across the line."

    Hugh Robertson (left) and Coe.
    Olympics minister Hugh Robertson confirmed to the media briefing that construction on the Olympic Park was "ahead of where it ought to be and under budget".

    Asked if London's security planning for the Games had been impacted by the assassination of Al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden, Robertson said: "I am sure as I possibly can be that we can deliver a safe and secure Games.

    "All the planning is being done on the basis that the security state will remain at severe which it was before the death of Osama bin Laden."

    He noted that the British government had set-up a National Security Council and following a review of Olympics security arrangements last year now had the Olympic Security Directorate in place to coordinate planning.

    Coe Defends Ticketing Sales Strategy

    Coe told IOC members that domestically and internationally the demand for 2012 tickets was unprecedented. A total of 1.9 million people applied for 22 million tickets in the first phase of sales - only 6.6m were available. The first phase of "second chance" sales shifted more than 750,000 tickets. In total, over 3.5 million Olympic tickets have now been sold.

    Following disappointment for many British people in the opening sales phases, Coe told the IOC Session, whose members include representatives from NOCs and international federations: “My message is very clear: If you have tickets you have not yet sold then please send them back to us. I know people who would like them."

    A new sales phase opened on Friday for the 700,000 applicants who were successful in getting tickets in the first round ballot. It closes on July 17.

    Around 1.5 million tickets are available for football, 40,000 for volleyball and 8,000 for freestyle wrestling

    British Team for European Youth Olympic Festival

    The British Olympic Association today announced it will send a delegation of 64 athletes to compete at the 11th EYOF taking place in Trabzon, Turkey July 23-30. Team GB athletes, aged between 13-17, will participate in six sports: athletics, cycling, gymnastics, judo, swimming and tennis.

    More than 3000 athletes from 48 European countries are competing in the EYOF. Nine sports are on the program, the other ones being basketball, handball and volleyball.

    Written by Mark Bisson

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