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Olympic stadium tour with Lord Coe

by Emma-Jane Brown

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In the summer of 2012 we’ll welcome millions of people to London and the UK for an unforgettable experience.

The countdown to 2012 has begun

Emma-Jane Brown takes a look around the facilities that will take centre stage when the London 2012 Olympics open in July

As the clock struck midnight and welcomed in January 1, 2012, the London Olympics countdown began in earnest

You can’t help but notice that 2012 is Olympic year, the year when the UK will welcome millions of people to London for what is already being billed as a spectacular sporting and cultural event.

London 2012 is the most exciting sporting event to be staged in the UK for generations – some may argue for ever – but we Midlanders can look forward to playing our part in this historic event.

Every borough will have the chance to see the Olympic torch relay – it will be taken within ten miles of 95 per cent of people in the UK – and it is scheduled to arrive in Warwickshire, West Midlands and the Cotswolds on various dates in June and July.

The famous flame will set off from Land’s End, in Cornwall, on May 19, the day after it arrives from Greece, and will be carried by a total of 8,000 torchbearers through hundreds of towns and cities for 70 days. It will finally arrive at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London, for the opening ceremony on July 27.

Birmingham is playing host to the USA and Jamaica athletics teams, who will train in the city prior to heading to London for the event. And the City of Coventry stadium, home to Coventry City FC, will also play its part by hosting 12 football matches, including the women’s bronze medal match.

As our elite athletes compete for a place in their squads, the finishing touches are being made to welcome sportsmen and women from across the globe.

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I was lucky enough to be invited to see the work that has taken place at the Olympic Park with two of giants from the Great Britain athletics world, Lord Sebastian Coe, and Dame Kelly Holmes.

Dame Kelly is one of the most respected female athletes this country has ever seen. A retired middle distance runner, she specialised in the 800 and 1500 metres, winning gold medals in each discipline in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Lord Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, is another huge inspiration for any aspiring athlete. The four-times gold medal Olympic winner, who also set eight outdoor and three indoor world records in middle distance track events, was bursting with energy as he showed me around the

Olympic Park.

It’s impossible not to be enthusiastic about the Olympics and when you walk around the Olympic Park, I felt an enormous sense of pride.

The London 2012 Olympics stadium, which will host the Athletics and Paralympics events including the opening and closing ceremonies, is a breath-taking venue.

It’s also very environmentally-friendly.

Completed in just under three years, it has used low carbon concrete, which is made from industrial waste, and compared with other stadia, is 75 per cent lighter in terms of steel use. The top ring of the stadium is made from surplus gas pipes and architects reduced the need for steel and concrete by designing the lower section of the stadium to sit within a bowl in the ground.

The stadium will have a capacity of 80,000 during the games, with 25,000 permanent seats in its permanent lower tier and a temporary lightweight steel and concrete upper tier that holds a further 55,000 spectators. This can be removed after the games.

Facilities for the athletes within the stadium include changing rooms, medical support facilities and an 80 metre warm-up track.

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To hear the story of the build was fascinating – I hadn’t realised, for instance, that before construction began on the site of the Aquatic Centre, archaeological investigations uncovered evidence of an Iron Age settlement, including an ancient burial site with four skeletons.

The Aquatic Centre, which will host swimming, paralympics swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, was one of my favourite buildings. I love the architecture; it features a spectacular wave-like roof that is 160 metres long and up to 80 metres wide, giving it a longer span than Heathrow Terminal 5.

The Olympic Park will form one of the biggest legacies once the games have finished as it will be the largest urban park in Europe for 150 years. It will be connected to the tidal Thames Estuary to the south and the Hertfordshire countryside to the north and will be planted with native species, such as oak, ash, willow, birch, blackthorn and hawthorn.

But before the legacy, we have the sporting spectacular to look forward to. The 2012 Olympic games will feature 26 sports, which breaks down into 39 disciplines, from archery to wrestling – and for the first time, women’s boxing.

There are only five months to go, but I, for one, am very excited by the promise of seeing elite performers of athletics, gymnastics, equestrian sports, swimming and martial arts in my own country.

As I said my goodbyes to Dame Kelly and Lord Coe, there were butterflies in my stomach as I realised the next time I would be visiting would be for the opening ceremony.

I can’t wait for Olympics to begin.

 

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