Coe delivers last report before games to IOC
LONDON (AP) — Sebastian Coe delivered his final report to the IOC on Tuesday before the start of the London Olympics, declaring that organizers have lived up to the promises they made when they secured the games seven years ago.
The International Olympic Committee offered high praise for Coe and his team and said it expects the games to be a major success, despite continuing challenges with security and transportation ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.
"The preparation phase was definitely a great success — now comes the crucial delivery phase," IOC President Jacques Rogge said. "I remain very optimistic."
Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500 meters, led London's winning bid for the games in Singapore in 2005 and heads the organizing committee for the games.
"For me it's very simple," Coe said. "If the athletes are happy, I'm happy."
Coe was accompanied Tuesday by a delegation of 20 young people who had traveled to Singapore for the bid presentation. The group included Siphiwe Mbatha of Soweto, South Africa, who starred in the 2005 bid video as a young barefoot runner representing the hopes of the future. He's now 19 and an aspiring actor.
Coe said his organizing committee had delivered on promises of promoting youth, revitalizing east London, using a mix of existing, new and temporary venues, and providing the best conditions for the more than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries.
The project centered on the transformation of a derelict industrial site in east London into the Olympic Park featuring the Olympic Stadium, velodrome, aquatics center and other venues.
"We have built a new city inside an old city," Coe said.
While the opening ceremony takes place Friday, the competition begins Wednesday with a women's football match between Britain and New Zealand in Cardiff, Wales.
After seven years of preparations, Coe compared the final countdown to the experience of an athlete.
"We're probably not in the first of the call rooms, we're now in the last of the call rooms," he said. "We've gone from the training track to the warmup track to the stadium.
"The volunteers are in place," he added. "The city is dressed. The torch is on its way. Tomorrow the games of the 30th Olympiad begin in Cardiff."
Coe received a warm ovation from the delegates.
"This is not a report, this is a fantastic ode to Olympism," Rogge said.
Prince Albert of Monaco asked Coe whether the games could be hit by strikes. Britain's Home Office said Tuesday it would seek an injunction to halt a strike on the eve of the Olympics by immigration staff at U.K. airports.
"If there is a strike we have it covered," Coe said.
Albert and others also referred to the weather, noting that the sun was out after the wettest summer on record.
"On the weather I don't have a hotline," Coe said. "Sometimes I do wish we could have built a roof on the whole country. But the sun is shining today. Hopefully that's enough."
Denis Oswald, the Swiss official who headed the IOC's coordination commission for London, said the city had done more than other previous hosts to deliver on its bid pledges.
"The London Games remain an example of the vision not being changed," he said. "It wasn't just a sales pitch. It's a spectacular illustration of the power of the games to change peoples lives and change the face of a city.
"Of all recent host cites, London can claim to be the one that has done the most to ensure its venues and facilities do not turn into white elephants after the games."
Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director for the Olympics, said getting through the opening ceremony and first full day of competition are the big tests.
"Those are the two days that are tense," he told reporters. "We believe everything has been done and things will go smoothly. We trust they will deliver."