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London's readiness on Olympic eve
Andrew Drummond
08:04 AEST Thu Jul 26 2012

Ready or not London, here it comes.

The tickets are sold, fences are up, traffic diversions are in place, and police have been told to smile ... Olympics fever has hit the English capital.

The fruit of more than seven years hard work will finally be realised on Friday with an opening ceremony spectacular marking the start of 16 days sport, drama, elation and heartache.

Despite several well-documented hurdles, London's Games performance to date has been given a tick of approval by the highest authority on such matters, International Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge.

"The preparation phase was definitely a great success now comes the crucial delivery phase," he said this week, adding: "I remain very optimistic".

However travelling around the redeveloped 200-hectare east London site, which remains littered with heavy machinery and frustrated tradesmen, there's a clear sense of incompletion.

Fear not, says LOCOG director of sport Debbie Jevans.

"The venues are ready to go. They have to be because the athletes are training on them.

"I think the last few days we have really seen everything come together by way of the look and final touches."

There are certainly thumbs up all round from athletes about their village.

"I'm pretty happy with the village," said Australian badminton player Ross Smith, a return Games athlete.

"Out of the Commonwealth Games and Olympics this is probably the most finished village that I've ever moved into. The others, there's always been one or two things that's not quite ready, but everything in this one so far seems spot on and running really well."

The same compliments cannot be paid to all elements of the Games.

Despite investing STG6.5 billion ($A9.92 billion) on improving London's public transport system, problems have already occurred and more are expected.

"Things will go wrong with the transport network during the Olympics," admits Transport For London boss Peter Hendy, who forecasts an extra one million passengers on the city's buses and trains each day during the Games.

"But I expect to get all the spectators and the athletes and everybody else to their events on time, and get them home again."

Olympic-only traffic lanes have come into force across London, causing long queues. Drivers who illegally stray into the Games lanes face a STG130 ($A198) fine and if caught twice, the demerit points are enough to cost a licence.

Those police who aren't out nabbing traffic offenders, have been told to beware of the unexpected.

"We don't know what's going to come around the corner," Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison said.

"This is without doubt the biggest peace-time policing operation we've ever had to deal with."

After years of repeatedly telling media that officers will do their best to ensure "a safe and secure Games", Allison now also guarantees his troops will do it with a smile.

"We will be friendly, I promise you, that's part and parcel of what we do, it's part and parcel of the briefing."

The many uniformed military personnel who have been put to work guarding Games venues are certainly smiling.

In total there are more than 18,000 military members assisting the Games security effort.

Almost 5000 of those have been called to duty only in the past fortnight, following a personnel shortfall on the part of private security contractors G4S. The situation sparked much bad publicity for LOCOG.

Asked of the need to call on so many members of the military, organising committee CEO Paul Deighton made his answer clear.

"This is the biggest, most important thing that has happened in our country during our lifetimes, why don't we just take every single piece of risk out of it?"

For millions of Londoners who failed to secure Games tickets in the much-criticised ballot allocation system, who are now left to battle their way to and from work on an overcrowded public transport network, the Olympics may not prove to be the lifetime highlight portrayed by Deighton.

"We would of course love to have started off in year zero and go through to year seven in delivering a games without a single hiccup," the LOCOG boss said.

"That is an unrealistic aspiration given the scale and complexity of this project.

"Anybody who's been involved in putting together one of these (Olympic) projects will tell you it is one of the hardest things anybody ever does anywhere in the world. It is incredibly difficult.

"I think the scale of problems with this project right through, whether it's been on the construction side, whatever part of things that haven't initially gone to plan, I think relative to any Games in history and relative to any other major project, I think we compare very favourably.

"And no changes we have made en the route have at any point damaged the quality of what will be a spectacular outcome."

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Opening Ceremony
Archery
Athletics
Badminton
Basketball
Beach Volleyball
Boxing
BMX
Cycling
Diving
Equestrian
Fencing
Football
Gymnastics
Handball
Hockey
Judo
Modern Pentathlon
Rowing/Canoe/Kayak
Sailing
Shooting
Swimming
Synchro
Table Tennis
Taekwondo
Tennis
Triathlon
Volleyball
Water Polo
Weightlifting
Wrestling
Closing ceremony
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