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London calling
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 03 - 03 - 2005

Following an inspection visit to London by an IOC delegation, two of Britain's top sports officials have started a tour of their own as part of London's quest to stage the 2012 Olympics. British Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell and Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London bid, paid Egypt a four-day visit and told Inas Mazhar how London views the Games
Lord Coe has said it is the athletes who make an Olympic Games memorable. "That's how I see it and that's why I am fully committed to making London 2012 the best-ever Games for the competitors."
"The memories of the Olympians they carry back home once the Games are over remains with them for the rest of their lives, whether they win an Olympic medal or not. These memories are special moments, the kind that only the Games can produce. I know how important these events are to the people taking part. That's why my conscience won't allow me to bring athletes to a London Games unless we've got the facilities for them to perform at their very best."
The 49-year-old former 1,500 metre Olympic champion, Lord Coe won two gold medals and two silver at the Olympic Games in Moscow and Los Angeles. He holds eight outdoor world records and three indoor .
During a glorious decade, the rivalry between Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram excited sports fans around the world. It was a golden age of British middle distance running, with each athlete pushing the other through a remarkable series of world record-breaking performances. And the Olympics produced some of the most memorable moments of them all. At the 1980 Moscow Games, Coe arrived as the world record holder for the 800 metres. However, he ran what he described as "the worst race of my life," finishing second to Ovett. Coe overcame the disappointment and six days later produced a stunning turn of speed off the final bend to take the 15,00m gold. In 1981, his effortless style brought him four world records -- his 1:41.73 for the 800m set in Florence stayed unbeaten for 16 years.
At the Los Angeles Games in 1984, Coe again took silver in the 800m. Team-mate Steve Cram was the favourite for the 1,500m, but Coe produced another devastating kick to retain his title.
Lord Coe recalled his experience as an athlete at both Games. "It's almost 20 years ago now, but I believe my experiences as an Olympic athlete are still valuable when applied to our plans for London 2012. I understand the issues that concern athletes. For me it was tougher in Moscow than in Los Angeles. In LA it was less pressure. I ran seven races in nine days and retaining my 1,500 metre title was a very proud moment for me.
"I have some fantastic memories of my time at the Olympic Games. I made friendships there that have remained solid ever since. The Olympic village is a great place to meet sports people from all over the world. So along with the best facilities for training and preparation, our plans also includes a cinema, theatre, displays of performing arts -- things to give athletes an appreciation of the city they're in.
"The Olympic Games proved so inspirational to me, and that's what I would like the London Games to be an inspiration to young people all around the world."
Since retiring from competitive athletics, Lord Coe has been to four Olympic Games as a council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations." I've seen for myself how each city has planned its Olympic village. Seoul in 1988 welcomed around 8,300 athletes. At the Athens Games, that had risen to 10,000. I saw a lot of the Athens village and I was really impressed."
According to Lord Coe, London's 2012 vision of the Olympic Games is concentrated in an athletes- centred Games. "We need to get the whole package right," adding, "that means a compact village with spacious accommodation that's well- connected and accessible. It means getting competitors speedily around the city and ensuring that all the things they need, from training facilities to day-to-day essentials are close at hand, too. Our design would reflect this; the village dinning hall, accommodation, cafes, shops and sports would be just a few minutes walk from one another."
Lord Coe said more effort was needed before the IOC votes in July. "We are working hard, touring the world to explain our vision to the world and we will be looking forward when the IOC takes its decision which we hope would be in our favour." He added that regardless of the result, London would go on with its plans as scheduled.
Lord Coe believed that Africa was capable of hosting the Olympic Games one day. "It's good for the Olympic movement. I don't see why the Olympic Games shouldn't get out of Europe, Asia and the Americas, to Africa or Latin America and I believe that by the time they are awarded, they would be capable in terms of facilities and money- wise to host such a big event as the Olympic Games."


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