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London marks 1,000 days to 2012 Olympics

By Melissa Gray, CNN
London's 2012 Olympic Games venues under construction in the city's east.
London's 2012 Olympic Games venues under construction in the city's east.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Saturday marks 1,000 days until the London 2012 Olympic Games
  • Officials say event is on budget and on time
  • Date landmark celebrated with a pyrotechnic display in the British capital

London, England (CNN) -- Saturday marks 1,000 days until the London 2012 Olympic Games, and officials promise the event is on track and on budget.

A pyrotechnic display was planned in central London for Saturday night to mark the event, and the first licensed toy from the London Games -- a die-cast replica of a London bus -- was going on sale.

Sailors from the first 2012 venue to be completed, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy on England's southern coast, also planned to sail past the venue.

"We're on track, we're on budget, the venues are taking shape," London 2012 Chairman Sebastian Coe told reporters this week. "We are also in a very, very strong position in the organizing committee at the moment. We continue to raise the necessary funding to stage the Games."

The global economic downturn hasn't slowed the pace of fundraising, Coe said. The committee still aims to raise a total of £2 billion ($3.3 billion) from the private sector, Coe said.

"We haven't changed our vision because of changed circumstances in the global economy," he said.

LOCOG, as the organizing committee is known, has already raised £550 million ($905 million) in domestic sponsorships alone, Coe said. It needs to raise about £150 million ($247 million) more in order to reach its target.

LOCOG has weathered the global economic storm because it already had 60 percent of its venues in place when it won the Games in 2005, and because its "Tier One" sponsors were in place by the Beijing Games last year, Coe said.

That enabled organizers to lock in the sponsorship funding early on, Coe said.

The Olympic Park is taking shape and the undulating roof of the Aquatics Center, one of the main venues at the site, is set to be completed by the end of the year, but the focus of preparations will soon turn away from construction and toward planning and delivery.

"I don't think any of us thinks that 1,000 days is anything other than the blink of an eyelid," Coe said. "That will go very quickly. There is nothing that we should have done that we haven't done. We are absolutely where we want to be, but we also recognize that actually the last three years of this project are tough years of delivery."

Organizers recently decided to move badminton and rhythmic gymnastics to existing facilities at Wembley Arena rather than build a temporary venue for them at Greenwich, in southeast London. Coe said that decision was based on costs and efforts to build new venues only if they are likely to have a use after the Games.

The governing bodies of both sports as well as the International Olympic Committee must still approve the change, but Coe said he was confident it would go through.

"Fitting out" of the venues -- making them ready for competition -- will begin next year. Also on tap for 2010 is the launch of the volunteer program and the announcement of the Olympic mascot.

Tickets sales will begin in 2011, Coe said, after organizers figure out the competition schedule.

Saturday's milestone was also important for the athletes hoping to compete in less than three years.

"The Games are now becoming very real for many," said Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association. "Athletes now have 1,000 days left to train, to qualify, and ultimately to be selected" for their national Olympic teams.

 
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