#London2012: 100 days until ‘greatest show on Earth’

Agence France-Presse
Expats around the globe join in the 100-day countdown to the London Olympics.

OLYMPIC FEVER. Measuring 11 meters high by 25 meters wide, a set of giant Olympic Rings travel on a barge past Tower Bridge in London, February 28, 2012. Photo courtesy of London 2012

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – London Olympic organizers will on Wednesday, April 18, hold a series of events to kick off the Games’ 100-day countdown as preparations for the showpiece event enter the final straight.

The milestone will be marked across the country and internationally with a host of ceremonial activities and an array of test events to iron out any operational problems before the flame is lit on July 27.

London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton insisted that preparations were on course with dress rehearsals for Wheelchair Rugby, Synchronized Swimming and Shooting all set to begin on Wednesday.

Olympic fever will spread beyond Britain’s borders as expats around the globe join in the countdown.

In the United States, former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis will lead one hundred cyclists and an open top London double decker bus on a ride down Miami’s South Beach.

One hundred British Embassies and High Commissions will hold events with Turkey, Venezuela and New Zealand all entering into the Olympic spirit, Britain’s Foreign Office revealed on Tuesday, April 17.

There will also be a series of 100 meter races at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the 1984 Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo and in the Palace Square in St Petersburg.

“I’m delighted that British Embassies around the world have come together to mark 100 days to go to the opening ceremony of the greatest show on earth,” said Foreign Office Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Jeremy Browne.

Organizer Deighton insisted the British capital was well-prepared to become the world’s focal point.

“We are absolutely where we want to be with 100 days to go – we are ready to welcome the world to London,” he said.

“Millions of people around the UK are getting ready to celebrate the biggest event in sport.”

Queen Elizabeth II will open the Games, giving London the honor of being the first city in the modern era to host the Olympics three times, having already held them in 1908 and 1948.

The event is set to give Britain’s ailing economy a much needed boost, but the general mood of austerity will be reflected in the Games, albeit to a far lesser extent than in 1948, when competitors were housed in military barracks and university dormitories.

Organizers conceded long ago that, despite a budget of £9.3 billion ($14.8 billion, 11.2 billion euros), they would be unable to compete with the spectacle provided by the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Instead, the opening and closing ceremonies will bring to together the country’s most creative minds to produce a celebration of Britishness.

Responsibility for the opening ceremony lies with “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle, who has promised a fitting curtain-raiser before 10,500 competitors from 204 countries do battle.

However, two substantial hurdles still loom.

Doubts remain about how London’s already stretched transport system will cope with ferrying spectators and athletes around the congested city.

Also, there are fears over whether Britain’s security services will be able to prevent incidents such as the bloody hostage-taking of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the bombing of the 2004 Atlanta Games.

Some £6.5 billion has been spent on modernizing the transport system, including the world’s oldest underground train system, and 48 kilometers (30 miles) of Olympic road lanes should help speed the travel of VIPs.

Security has cast a shadow since the day after London was awarded the Games, when suicide bombers killed 52 people on the transport system.

Security expert David Hunt, from the Exclusive Analysis think-tank, warned that the main threat by jihadist militants was likely to come from domestic, lone wolf actors.

A combined force of more than 40,000 soldiers, police and private security guards will be mobilised for what Prime Minister David Cameron called the “biggest and most integrated security operation in mainland Britain in our peacetime history”. – James Pheby, Agence France-Presse

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