Tuesday, October 9

Olympic Fever

Montreal's Olympic Stadium

The 2008 Summer Olympics open in Beijing in exactly ten months time. Fourteen days later the world’s gaze will shift to London as it prepares to host the games in 2012. I can’t believe I’m once again living in a future Olympic city.

I still recall joining NSW's State Minister for the Olympic Bid for drinks in his office the day that Sydney formally announced its host city bid. I was sharing a house with his official chauffeur at the time. Sydney was subsequently awarded the 2000 Summer Games in 1993. As the years passed I watched a new Olympic Stadium emerge from a peaceful field of cows, while the city progressively upgraded its infrastructure - opening new a rail link and underground motorway.

During the actual games the festive atmosphere around the city was contagious. I secured tickets to the Water Polo, Platform Diving, Beach Volleyball, Gymnastics and the spectacular Closing Ceremony at Homebush Stadium. I still marvel at the experience of watching the start of the women’s marathon on television, then wandering across a local park to photograph its competitors run by. It’s not often a world event unfolds outside your front door.

Two years ago, on July 6 2005, Garry and I were in London to witness the announcement of this city’s winning bid. Now, in recent months we’ve watched Olympic fever starting to build – after all there’s only 1753 days to go. Last week formal planning permission was granted for the construction of venues within the new Olympic Park at Stratford, on the east side of London. In support of its planning application the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) submitted two volumes of supporting data, totaling an astonishing 10,000 pages.

The first construction project is already completed. Two 6km underground tunnels have been built across the stadium site - on time and on budget. These will bury cables from 52 electricity pylons currently blighting the area. Ground clearance work has also started for the 80,000 seat stadium’s construction platform. Ground levels vary across the site, requiring the removal 600,000 tonnes of soil over the next few months. Other venue plans are announced, almost every week now. I wonder if we’ll still be here during the Opening Ceremony in 2012?

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