London begins countdown to the 2012 Olympics
With two years to go, Chris Hoy and Michael (and Boris) Johnson test the facilities
London mayor Boris Johnson and Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy tested out the London velodrome yesterday, one of a series of events staged to mark the two-year point till the 2012 Olympics get underway.
Hoy helped design the velodrome and the Scot, who won three gold medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing, tried to be modest in describing what it felt like to be the first person to test out the track. "I had goose bumps on my arm. To me now the Games are coming alive," he said, adding: "They have done an amazing job... I really believe it will be the best velodrome in the world. It's so exciting to be here and to me now, you can actually get a sense of what it is going to be like."
Also present at the celebrations yesterday was honorary Brit Michael Johnson, the greatest 400m runner in the history of track and field and now part of the BBC athletics commentary team. The American ran against a group of local schoolchildren in the Olympic Stadium and later declared: "It's great to be in the stadium and to envision what is going to be taking place in a couple of years... there is so much history behind the Olympics and people in London will get an opportunity to go to an event and say they have taken part in it. They will have that memory for the rest of their lives."
London won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics exactly five years ago, beating off competition from Madrid, New York and Paris, but that was before the world recession struck. The budget for hosting the Games has already quadrupled to an estimated £9.3 billion but Sebastian Coe, chairman of the organising committee, says the work to build the Olympic site is well ahead of schedule. "I am really pleased with how things are going," said Coe. "Here we have a stadium that is structurally pretty complete. The seats are going in and it will be finished by next year which gives us a chance to start fitting it out and turning it into a stadium. This is fantastic progress."
And Lord Coe, who won the Olympic 1500m title in 1980 and 1984, wants Londoners to volunteer in their thousands for the Games, describing the opportunity be part of the Olympics as a "once in a lifetime experience". Calling for 70,000 volunteers to come forward, Coe said: "Whether it's buying a ticket, becoming a volunteer, being part of our education or culture programmes - there are hundreds of ways you can get involved. Don't wait - to ensure you don't miss out, start planning your Games now."
London Mayor Boris Johnson was on hand to offer his unique take on how things were going. Indeed, he was so impressed with the progress of the work that he called for London to call a "snap Olympics" in 2011 to catch their opponents off-guard. ·
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