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S I M P LY A B U DH A B I
L
ondon is a place where history seeps from every street
corner and every building - but even in this
exceptional city, 2012 will be a very special year. Not
only will Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II be celebrating her
Diamond Jubilee at BuckinghamPalace, but for the first time
in over half a century, London will be hosting the ‘Greatest
Show on Earth’: the Olympic Games.
The British may be known for their reserved character, but
their capital erupted with joy when they found they had been
awarded the honour of hosting the Games. London has been
a powerful force on the global stage for centuries, and is still
at the heart of world affairs. But since it last hosted the
Olympics in 1948, the city has utterly transformed its
character. London is now more exciting than ever: a diverse
global hub which is a centre of finance, business and culture,
sometimes chaotic, often confusing, but always fascinating
and thrilling. What better place could there be to bring the
Games?
The city has been hard at work in preparation for years: the
Games will use a total workforce of around 200,000 people,
including 6,000 staff; 70,000 volunteers and 100,000
contractors. The Olympic Park, the centre of sporting action,
has been constructed in the historic eastern part of the City:
a continually evolving melting pot which will now become
the focal point for phenomenally talented competitors from
across the world to gather. In total at London 2012 there will
be 10,500 athletes competing in 26 sports and 39 different
disciplines at 34 different venues, many of which have been
built completely from scratch for the Games.
A spectacle like no other
One of the most striking new competitive arenas is the
Aquatics Centre, designed by internationally-acclaimed
architect Zaha Hadid. It has a spectacular wave-like roof
which is 160m long and about 80m wide – which gives it a
longer single span than Heathrow Terminal 5. And in the
hope he can replicate the three gold medals he claimed at the
Beijing Games in 2008, Brits will also be cheering on star
cyclist Sir Chris Hoy at the new velodrome. The arena has
500 seats located around the track and a further 2,500
suspended in two upper tiers in the roof, with a glass wall
that gives spectators a 360-degree view across the Olympic
Park - and allows people outside to see the sporting action
inside.
The Olympics will be graced by many more massive global
stars including the Jamaican 100m world record holder
Usain Bolt, but every country will have its own heroes to
support - hoping to celebrate their triumphs but ready to
commiserate disappointments. The classic Olympic
moments are remembered for generations, gripping dramas
that become woven into the fabric of history. On the
Olympic stage there is nowhere to hide: the whole world is
watching this ultimate test of mental and physical strength,
where hours, weeks and months of training will be distilled
into a single moment. And following the Olympics will be
the Paralympic Games, where 4,200 athletes with physical
disabilities will compete in 20 sports and 21 disciplines, with
a total of 503 medal events.
Unsurprisingly, a huge number of tickets have been sold: in
total there will be 10.8 million ticketholders (8.8mOlympic,
2m Paralympic). But the Games themselves are only the
start. A variety of engaging and often spectacular events
taking place alongside the sporting challenges will take
London’s vibrant spirit to new heights. There
will be over 1,000 different events around the
UK as part of the Cultural Olympiad, with
10 million free opportunities as well as 3
million paid-for tickets. In fact, 14 million
people have already participated in Cultural
Olympiad events, including four Open
Weekends and BT National Portrait Gallery
exhibitions. Over 155,000 people have
attendedmore than 8,000 Cultural Olympiad
workshops.
A spirit of generosity
Despite the intensity of the athletic
competition, the Olympics are ultimately
rooted in a spirit of generosity and
understanding across borders: which is why
it’s fitting that the London 2012 organisers
have been working with local communities in
the city and beyond to capitalise on sport’s
power to inspire and to transform lives.
200,000 Ticketshare tickets have been made
available for schools, colleges, and troops, and
24,000 schools and colleges are participating
in the Get Set programme, which involves
children and young people in the inspiration
of the Olympics. In turn, many citizens are
contributing themselves to the London
Olympics: by putting in 1 million hours of
training and 8 million volunteer hours, up to
70,000 ‘Games Maker’ volunteers will be
absolutely fundamental to the expected
success of the Games.
Many believe that the Olympic Spirit is best
symbolised through the tradition of the
Olympic Torch, which links the modern
Games to their forerunner in Ancient Greece
at the sacred site of Olympia. A flame burned
throughout the ancient Olympic Games, as it
also does at the modern Olympics, and ever
since 1936, a torch has been lit in Olympia
and carried by a series of relay runners to the
city hosting the Games. This year within the
UK alone there will be a total of 8,000
inspiring Torchbearers, who will travel 8,000
miles through over 1,000 communities,
villages, towns and cities over 70 days. On
average, 110 Torchbearers will take part each
day and the Flame will travel 110 miles. 50%
of the Torchbearers will be aged between 12 and 24, and the
route they take will mean that 95% of the UK population will
be within 10 miles of the Flame.
The Olympic Torch tradition has led to some truly
memorable occasions - such as when boxing legend
Muhammad Ali, who was by then suffering fromParkinson’s
disease, lit the flame in Atlanta in 1996. Bill Clinton, then
US President, said to Ali “They didn’t tell me who would
light the flame, but when I saw it was you, I cried.”
Occasions like these underline the fact that the Olympics are
not just for the host city: they are for everyone. That’s why
people from across the world are set to visit the London this
summer, determined not to miss this once in a lifetime
experience.