London

London 2012 venues are ready, but not Olympic spirit

Olympic rings in St Pancras station
Image caption Despite Olympic rings at St Pancras it still does not feel like an Olympic city

Just over three months before the 2004 Athens Olympics, I sneaked into the Olympic Park on my own to take a look at the progress. It wasn't great.

As the Greeks approached 100 days to go to their Opening Ceremony, the metro station to the park wasn't finished and the whole area was still a huge, scruffy building site.

Athens staged a successful Games in the end, of course, but it was a mad rush and the legacy wasn't planned properly.

I mention this because it is important to put London's preparations into the perspective of Olympic history.

With a year to go, the majority of 2012 venues are basically ready and they are going to be tested to the full in the next 12 months.

Meeting targets

Remember Wembley and all its delays? Britain has delivered this time and met all of the construction targets.

Although I am still concerned about the costs of security, the £9.3bn budget is certainly not going to be sunk by building problems.

Nobody believed construction would run so smoothly when London was bidding for the Games. But it has and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) deserves credit for it.

Even with all the controversy about tickets - and I've been one of the fiercest critics - we also have to say that 2012's marketing of the Games has been successful.

To sell out less glamorous events like canoe slalom, dressage and archery is a huge achievement. How many times have we seen banks of empty seats at previous Games?

London looks like being capable of matching or even beating the wonderful atmosphere in the stadiums in Sydney in 2000.

Having experienced the enthusiasm of spectators at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, I think it will be better.

Olympic spirit?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will love that and so will the TV networks who pay for the Games.

I still believe there are massive questions to be answered about legacy, which I discuss regularly on my blog, but London is well on course to put on a magnificent Games in the venues and in front of the TV cameras.

But will the capital be full of Olympic spirit? That's the big question for me.

Image caption Construction of the Olympic Park and venues is a credit to the Olympic Delivery Authority

Despite the huge rings at St Pancras International station, London doesn't feel like an Olympic city at the moment.

With the cuts everybody is facing, I wonder whether there's going to be enough money to dress up the city properly like previous Games have done.

I also wonder whether Londoners will really embrace the Games like Sydney's residents did.

The fact that so few households in London - one in 12 - have so far managed to get tickets for the Games, could dampen enthusiasm.

The London 2012 Organising Committee (Locog) hopes the torch relay will boost the spirit in the weeks and months before the Games.

Maybe they are right but the jury's still out for me.

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