Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

100 days to go: Is London ready for the 2012 Olympics?

By Caroline Cheese, for CNN
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Wed April 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wednesday marks 100 days to go until the opening ceremony of the London Olympics
  • London will become the first city to host the Olympics three times in the modern era
  • Venues are on schedule and within budget; tickets sales have been strong
  • London's aging transport system and security are two of the major issues remaining

London (CNN) -- Seven years after upsetting favorite Paris to win the right to host the 2012 Olympics, London is in the final straight of a long and often bumpy run-up to stage the sporting showpiece.

As the city marks 100 days to go until the opening ceremony on Wednesday, venues are on schedule and within budget, tickets are selling out as quickly as they become available and sponsorship revenue has exceeded expectation.

"It's a big day for us, 100 days to go," said Sebastian Coe, the head of the London organizing committee. "This is the moment when we really do start getting ready for celebrating and welcoming the world."

The UK capital will become the first city to host the Olympics three times in the modern era when the flame is lit on July 27.

There is an unprecedented appetite among elite level competitors around the world to get to London
Sebastian Coe

In 1948, when London last staged the Games in the wake of World War Two, no new venues were built and athletes were put up in army camps or colleges and even asked to bring their own towels.

Although nowhere near the scale of those "Austerity Games," London 2012 has faced its own challenges amid the global financial crisis which began after it won the bid in 2005.

Still, an organizing committee led by two-time former Olympic champion Coe remains hopeful of delivering the games within the £9.3 billion ($14.8 billion) budget -- albeit a budget that more than doubled from an initial estimate of £4 billion ($6.5 billion).

The permanent venues, including the £468 million ($746 million) Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Center and the Velodrome, are complete, and test events are already under way.

"I think the one thing I'm confident in saying is that those things that are within our control are under control," Coe said. "And we're in shape to deal with those things that inevitably come at you that you don't always see."

Countdown to the London Olympics
Olympic rings on the river
Stella McCartney unveils UK Olympic kits

During the International Olympic Committee's final visit to London last month, president Jacques Rogge said: "London has raised the bar on how to deliver a lasting legacy. We can already see tangible results in the remarkable regeneration of east London. This great historical city has created a legacy blueprint for future Games hosts."

The regeneration of a rundown area of east London was one of the cornerstones of the city's winning bid, yet its delivery hasn't been problem-free.

As recently as last week, six protesters were evicted from a patch of parkland where a temporary basketball practice facility will be constructed. They claim the land has protected status and is for the enjoyment of all; Olympic organizers insist they will return the land to its original state once the Games are over.

The athletes' village has been sold in a joint deal to the investment arm of the Qatari ruling family and a private British company, although 1,379 of the 2,818 homes will be set aside for affordable housing.

A major question mark hangs over the future of the games' centerpiece: the Olympic Stadium.

The process has been fraught with problems. Football club West Ham was originally awarded the venue, but that deal fell through after complaints from rival bidders. As it stands, West Ham remains one of four parties interested in becoming tenants from 2014. A decision is expected next month.

Transport and security concerns

The most immediate concerns for London surround transport and security.

Ask any Londoner the worst thing about their city and they will almost certainly reply: getting around. The city's aging subway system already barely copes with the daily demand. During the Olympics, an additional 325,000 people are expected in the city each day.

Police test London 2012 security
How will Olympic security work?

Add in the regular strikes by underground workers that cripple the network -- another of which was called on Monday -- and the potential for chaos only increases.

London businesses are being advised to encourage staff to work from home if possible, change their working hours, or use different travel routes.

Athletes, officials and VIPs shouldn't be affected. They will have access to special road lanes to get them to the venues with the minimum of fuss. That plan hasn't met with universal approval though, with critics insisting it will leave the rest of the roads gridlocked.

Security issues were brought into sharp focus by an incident at the recent Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race when a protester managed to swim across the River Thames and bring a temporary halt to one of the Britain's oldest sporting events. Last year's riots are also still fresh in the memory.

While preventing every breach may be impossible, London has a security budget of £553 million ($881 million) dedicated to minimize the risks, which includes the deployment of 35,000 security guards and police at the games venues. There are, however, concerns that budget could increase.

Protest fears

Even before the Games begin, there are fears that the 70-day torch relay beginning May 19 could be targeted by protesters.

A group known as "Greenwash Gold 2012" this week unveiled plans to target three major Olympic sponsors -- Dow Chemical, BP and Rio Tinto -- who the activists accuse of human rights or environmental abuses.

Will London profit from the Olympics?
The greatest Olympic achievements?

The group is led by Meredith Alexander, who resigned from the London 2012 sustainability watchdog after Dow, which has links to a deadly gas leak at the Bhopal plant in India in 1984, was announced as sponsor of the proposed "wrap" around the Olympic Stadium.

"We live in a democracy but we always balance protest with the rights of other people as well," Coe said Tuesday. "We have to remember that one man's protest is the destruction of somebody else's dream. I'm sure we will get this in balance."

But the start of the torch relay is also expected to finally spark enthusiasm among a characteristically cynical British public.

A recent survey by a foreign exchange company suggested a quarter of those Britons traveling abroad this summer are doing so specifically to avoid the Olympics.

As they leave, more than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will arrive, and the tantalizing prospect of international stars such as Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps competing alongside British hopes like Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah should go some way to appeasing those Britons who choose to stay behind.

"There is an unprecedented appetite among elite-level competitors around the world to get to London, that's the one thing I've learned," Coe said. "On top of domestic engagement, I don't think any Games has ever had that level of excitement."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
updated 5:44 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
updated 9:52 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
updated 11:05 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
updated 8:40 PM EDT, Thu August 9, 2012
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
updated 8:46 PM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
updated 3:30 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Sat August 4, 2012
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?
ADVERTISEMENT