London is ready for the July 27 start of the Olympic Games and will deliver an “outstanding event,” an International Olympic Committee official said, even as questions remain about sponsorships and transportation.
The IOC’s coordination commission today concluded its 10th and final visit to British capital.
“We have 119 days to go, but I can tell you that London is ready to welcome the world,” Denis Oswald, chairman of the coordination commission, said at a press conference today in central London.
The London 2012 organizing committee is “preparing an outstanding event,” Oswald said. “We have no doubt that this summer will be a summer like no other in Britain.”
The press conference had been preceded by a small group of protesters standing outside asking for an end to the Dow Chemical Co.’s sponsorship of the Olympics.
The London games, which start in July, are the first for Midland, Michigan-based Dow under a 10-year sponsorship agreement with the IOC. Indian Olympic Association President Vijay Malhotra said in December he would lodge a protest with the IOC and the U.K. government, and 20,000 people have signed a petition asking British authorities to drop Dow.
An accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant on Dec. 3, 1984, released methyl isocyanate gas into the streets of Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state in central India. Union Carbide estimated that 3,800 people were killed by the leak. Amnesty International, a human-rights group, commissioned a study that showed 7,000 perished within days and another 15,000 died later from exposure to the gas.
Dow acquired Union Carbide Corp. in 2001, about 16 years after the accident and 10 years after the Indian Supreme Court approved a $470 million settlement paid by Union Carbide and Union Carbide India.
Oswald said the Dow sponsorship won’t upset the buildup of the London Games.
“We realize the tragedy that Bhopal was and we have a lot of sympathy,” Oswald said. “But Dow was not the owner.”
Oswald also dismissed worries about getting athletes, officials and spectators around the city’s Tube, train and bus systems.
Inrix Inc., a traffic services provider, estimated in January that the Games will increase vehicles on London’s roads by about 33 percent.
Core routes will slow to 12 miles (19 kilometers) per hour in late July and early August, it said. The weekend of July 27 will be especially difficult as the Olympic opening ceremony will clash with the busiest holiday getaway weekend of the summer.
On busy days there will be an additional 3 million journeys on London’s roads and on the underground, Transport for London said in a December report. At Bank and Canada Water tube stations, commuters should expect to wait for longer than an hour at peak times, according to the agency.
There will be 200 extra buses available, Transport for London said. Around 11 million spectators are expected to visit London and 300,000 athletes, media and Olympic officials, it said. It advised commuters to visit entertainment set up on the South Bank, eat a meal out or have a beer with friends or colleagues to avoid peak times.
“All efforts have been made to organize transport in the best possible way,” Oswald said.
He added he would be taking public transport instead of using Olympic lanes designated for officials, athletes and media, “depending on my program and duties,” during the event.
The Olympic flame that will burn in the Olympic stadium during the London Games will arrive in Britain from Greece on May 17, before going on a 70-day torch relay across the nation. The flame will be lit May 10 at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, among the historic ruins of the home of the ancient Olympic Games.
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