News - Olympic Games

By Tom Degun at the Royal Opera House in London

Usain Bolt on the wall in the Olympic Museum. Photo: www.insidethegames.bizBP, the Official Oil and Gas Partner for the London 2012 Games, have today announced that they will be working with The Olympic Museum in Lausanne to create a ground-breaking free to view exhibition here at the Royal Opera House during the Games.

The exhibition, which will be titled "The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games," will be open to the public at the Royal Opera House for the duration of the 2012 Olympic Games next summer from July 27 to August 12, 2012.

It will include unique artefacts, graphics, film and audio loaned from The Olympic Museum being shown in London for the first time ever and BP believe the exhibition will be a highlight of the London 2012 Festival which is the finale of the Cultural Olympiad.

"BP is a longstanding supporter of arts and culture in the UK, partnering with leading institutions for over 30 years," said Peter Mather, BP's Regional vice- president for Europe and head of country UK.

"As an Official Partner of the London 2012 Games and a Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, it is fitting for BP to build upon our strong relationship with the Royal Opera House to bring this new exhibition to London for the Games.

"Behind the great spectacle of the Olympic Games lie powerful human stories.

"The purpose of this exhibition is to inspire visitors by highlighting some of the remarkable athletes and tales from the rich history of the Games.

"It will be a free, fun and popular destination and we are delighted to be collaborating with The Olympic Museum to put on a once in a lifetime experience for visitors from all over the world at the London 2012 Olympic Games next year."

Highlights of the exhibition include a display of all the Olympic Medals since the first Modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 as well as all the Olympic Torches since the Berlin 1936 Games which was the first Olympic Games where they features.

There will also be a "Hall of Champions" featuring the stories and inspirational achievements of great Olympians from the Modern Games, including triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, while visitors will be taken on a journey from ancient Greece, the original home of the Olympic Games, through the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the man behind the revival of the Games many centuries later.

The experience will continue with the stories of some of the iconic Olympic athletes and moments of the last hundred years of Olympic history and is being curated by The Olympic Museum in partnership with leading exhibition designers Metaphor.

"Arts and culture have an important role to play alongside the magnificent sporting competition next summer," said Tony Hall, chairman of the Cultural Olympiad Board and chief executive of the Royal Opera House.

"The London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, is already shaping up to be one of the finest of any Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Royal Opera House is delighted to be playing its part.

"We are looking forward to welcoming thousands of new visitors to the Royal Opera House in 2012."

Jonathan Edwards at Bp in the Olympic Museum. Photo: www.insidethegames.comAmong those attending the event were Jonathan Edwards, the 2000 Olympic triple jump champion and world record holder, who is a member of the London 2012 Board.

Francis Gabet, director of The Olympic Museum," said: "Exhibits from The Olympic Museum have been displayed in different Olympic host cities before, but this exhibition is particularly exciting; it is much more ambitious and will truly bring the Olympic spirit to London."

"By hosting this exhibition in one of the world's leading arts and culture institutions we hope that our collaboration for London 2012 will set a new benchmark for future Olympic host cities."

Deborah Bull, creative director of the Royal Opera House, added: "We are delighted to be working with The Olympic Museum and BP to create this unique Olympic experience.

"The Olympic and Paralympic Games are an example of the best of human spirit and physical endeavour.

"The Games in our city offer a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the inspirational talent of the world's greatest athletes, reminding us – like the artists who more usually perform on our stages – of the extraordinary achievements of which human beings are capable."

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By Duncan Mackay

Peter Vidmar. Photo: www.zimbio.comPeter Vidmar tonight resigned as Chef de Mission of the United States team for next year's Olympics in London only a week after being appointed following a series of damaging allegations over his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Vidmar's decision to step down follows reports in the Chicago Tribune that he participated in two anti-gay marriage demonstrations and donated $2,000 (£1,222) for the successful 2008 Proposition 8ballot initiative in California defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The proposition overturned a California Supreme Court ruling that permitted same-sex marriage.

Vidmar, who won two gymnastics gold medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, claimed his opposition to same-sex marriage comes from his religious beliefs as a Mormon.

"The Church wanted to take a stand on the issue, and they invited their members to take a stand," he told the Chicago Tribune.

"I chose to be involved."

Among those to criticise Vidmar's decision to support the opposition to same-sex marriage was Aimee Mullins, the Chef de Mission of the US Paralympic team for London 2012, who said she was "concerned and deeply saddened" about his past actions.

"The Olympic Movement is about promoting equity for all," she said.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) claimed that they were unaware of Vidmar's views before they appointed him and initially supported his right to express his views on the controversial issue.

But they have now accepted his resignation.

"Peter is respected the world-over for his dedication and commitment to the Olympic movement and is rightly considered one of America's great Olympic champions," said USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun.

"I believe Peter would have served our athletes well, but given the nature of this issue, I certainly respect his decision to resign.

"As we look toward London 2012 and the selection of Peter's replacement, we'll do so with the sole intent of showcasing America's best and brightest stars and the inspirational story that each member of our Olympic team has to share."

Vidmar said he had decided to step down because he did not want to distract the athletes preparations in the build-up to London 2012.

"I have dedicated my life to the Olympic Movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect," he said.

"I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic Movement in the United States.

"I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the US Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take centre stage."

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By Tom Degun in London

London 2012 have today announced that over 150,000 tickets will go on sale for the test event programme, which is being branded as the "London Prepares" series, with prices set to vary from event to event but range between £5 to £35.

Tickets will be available on Ticketmaster from May 26 by using a Visa card.

Overall, around 10,000 volunteers and 8,000 athletes from more than 50 countries will be part of a 12 month rehearsal for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in a programme of test events that run from May 2011 to May 2012.

London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton said: "The London Prepares series is essentially about putting our plans into practice.

"Although our venues won't be dressed in their Games finery, a number of events will give the public a chance to see some world class sporting action ahead of next year.

"These events are our opportunity to try out our new venues, test new technology and equipment and walk our extended teams through their roles and responsibilities.

"We have learned a lot from previous Games which we will put to good use as we challenge ourselves over the next 12 months."

There are three different groupings of events.

Events which London 2012 is organising and ticketing, events run by London 2012 that are not ticketed and events which are not organised by London 2012, such as Wimbledon.

There will be four London 2012 events this summer that will be ticketed.

They will be the mountain bike event at Hadleigh Farm in Essex on July 31, beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade on August 9-14, basketball at the Basketball Arena on August 16-21 and BMX Track at the Olympic Park on August 19-20.

This means that basketball and BMX will be the first competitive sports ever to take place on the Olympic Park.

Other events that London 2012 are ticketing are gymnastics at the North Greenwich Arena next January, track cycling at the Velodrome and diving at the Aquatics Centre in February and synchronised swimming at the Aquatics Centre in April.

In addition, there will be another five London 2012 ticketed events that take place in May 2012 which will be hockey at the Hockey Centre, wheelchair tennis at Eton Manor, water polo at the Aquatics Centre and athletics and Paralympic athletics at the Olympic Stadium.

There are also a number free-to-view events such as the cycling road race event on August 14 which goes through London and Surrey.

The programme will primarily focus on testing the sporting field of play, including results, timing and scoring systems; how teams work together and how people move around venues.

The types of things that will be tested during the programme include a new platform for the equestrian events at Greenwich Park and the delivery of 3,000 tonnes of sand for beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade.

The beach volleyball event will also see ticket and media accreditation scanning in action and the same security checks that will be conducted during the Games.

The first official test event will be a 10 kilometres road race that will take place on the loop planned for the Olympic marathon on May 30 and which will be folowed by the UK Athletics 20km Race Walking Championships.

Deighton said: "This will not be like a mini-Olympics as these events will not take place over 19 days and they are more about planning.

"They are a key part of readiness mission and if the ticket sales for the Olympics were anything to go by, we expect them to be very popular.

"The venues will not look and feel like they will at Games-time as we still have a few surprises in store for then but there will be world class athletes in action so it will be a very special experience for fans."

Of the 42 events taking place across in 26 different venues, 17 are international federation events that are already on international calendars and 25 will be invitation.

London 2012 will not organise six of these while another six will be standalone Paralympic events.


By Duncan Mackay

London 2012 has contacted all 1.8 million people who have applied for tickets for next year's Olympics to remind them that they need to make sure that they have enough money available in their accounts to cover the cost of what they ordered or risk losing them.

An estimated 20 million London 2012 Olympics tickets had been applied for by the time the process officially closed last week, and the signs are that many people have booked more tickets than they can afford.

With the average ticket application exceeding 10 per person and an average ticket price of between £50 ($83) and £200 ($330), applicants are set to receive bills of hundreds or even thousands of pounds in the next few weeks.

People had to select tickets through the online bidding system and pay for them on a Visa card but were not told at the time whether their applications were successful, so many have potentially committed thousands of pounds to make sure they get tickets to something.

But if they do not have enough money to cover the cost then they face the propsect of losing them.

"This is a reminder email from the London 2012 Ticketing team," said the e-mail.

"Please ensure you have sufficient funds available on your Visa card to cover the total cost of your application between 10 May and 10 June 2011.

"Please be aware that your application may be withdrawn if you do not have sufficient funds available.

"The latest date by which you will be told whether you have been allocated tickets is 24 June 2011."

Those who have acquired tickets to events they might not be able to attend, or have bought more than they can afford, will be able to sell back tickets through an official re-selling platform but that will not be available until early next year.


LaShawn Meritt.Photo: zimbio.comThe Court of Arbitration for Sport is to sit in judgment on the IOC's Rule 45 as one high-profile athlete branded a drug cheat leads race to gain entry into the London 2012 Games.

One man's lily-livered leniency is another man's common sense, not least when it comes to the debate over penalties imposed on athletes found to have broken anti-doping rules.

The absolutists argue no punishment is sufficient for "cheats" except a lifetime ban, while the "libertarians" (for the want of a better word) would rather there were no punishment or indeed no rules, not least because the policing of steroid abuse has proved so difficult through the years. Let them all "cheat", goes this mantra – at least we would have a level playing field.

And then there is the real sporting world, where difficult and complex concepts like natural justice, proportionality and fairness must be applied. It is into this world that the case of the American Olympian LaShawn Merritt arrived this week.

Merritt, the reigning world and Olympic 400m champion, was banned from the sport for two years – backdated to October 2009 – after he was found to have tested positive three times for a steroid found in a "male enhancement" supplement called ExtenZe. His punishment was subsequently reduced to 21 months by the American Arbitration Association, which ruled he had not taken the steroid with the aim of gaining a competitive advantage and therefore deserved a degree of leniency.

In making its ruling the AAA went further, challenging the International Olympic Committee's Rule 45, which states that any athlete who receives a drugs sanction greater than six months is automatically banned from competing at the next Olympics. In Merritt's case, this would mean he would not be able to take part in London 2012. According to AAA, this IOC sanction is out of kilter with the concepts of justice laid out in the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules on sanctions for drug offenders, being both disproportionately harsh and, in effect, double jeopardy because it punishes an athlete twice for the same "crime".

(The IOC has previously argued the ban imposed under Rule 45 is not a "penalty" but an "eligibility rule" – a piece of legal sophistry dismissed in the AAA's fascinating 50-page ruling as "mere skulduggery".)
The US Olympic Committee would obviously like to take the strongest team possible to the 2012 Games, but it is also keen to avoid expensive legal costs that might be incurred if an athlete, such as Merritt, sought to challenge any Olympic ban arising from Rule 45. In other words, with London looming so did the prospect of a rash of high-profile and potentially damaging legal actions as drugs "cheats" like Merritt sought to gain entry to the Olympics through the courts.

Against this backdrop it was no surprise last week when the IOC and the USOC announced they have asked the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration of Sport to sit in judgment on Rule 45.

Both organisations are looking for clarity, albeit a different kind of clarity, with the IOC seeking to uphold its current policy while the USOC, though not publicly stating a preference, would rather see it set aside.

Hardliners view the USOC's approach as typically self-serving (this is the organisation, after all, which stood accused of covering up the fact that more than 100 US athletes failed drug tests from 1988-2000 and so allowed them to continue competing), and note the contrast with British Olympic Association, which goes beyond Rule 45 and imposes a lifetime ban from the Olympics on athletes who have failed a drugs test.
Famously, Dwain Chambers's challenge to the BOA's rule in the run-up to the Beijing games in 2008 was thrown out by the high court, albeit that the judge suggested at the time that a stronger case than the one put forward by the sprinter's legal team might have had a chance of success.

Responding to the news that Merritt's case was to go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the BOA reiterated its backing for a lifetime Olympics ban , although was it possible to detect a softening of approach in these words from its spokesman? "We agree it is important to find the right balance in a rigorous anti-doping system that protects the health and well-being of the overwhelming majority of athletes who choose to compete clean while also introducing meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules," he said.
No one, not LaShawn Merritt and not even Dwain Chambers, could find fault with this statement of the obvious.
The difficulty comes, and the controversy will follow, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides where this balance falls.

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