IOC says final agreement certain on London venues

VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Final agreement is expected within weeks on a cost-saving change in venue for two sports at the 2012 London Games. London organizers proposed last year that badminton and rhythmic gymnastics be moved to Wembley Arena in northwest London rather than be held at a planned temporary venue near the Olympic Park […]

VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Final agreement is expected within weeks on a cost-saving change in venue for two sports at the 2012 London Games.

London organizers proposed last year that badminton and rhythmic gymnastics be moved to Wembley Arena in northwest London rather than be held at a planned temporary venue near the Olympic Park in east London.

Scrapping the temporary facility would save organizers tens of millions of dollars.

The badminton and gymnastics federations have expressed concern over the travel time between the athletes’ village and the Wembley venue.

In a presentation to the International Olympic Committee assembly Thursday, London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe said the executive boards of the two federations will discuss the move in February and March.

“We are very close to a final agreement,” said Denis Oswald, who leads the IOC’s coordination commission for the London Games. “It’s only a question of weeks.”

Oswald indicated the outcome was a virtual certainty.

“We express our gratitude to these two federations who have agreed to move some of their events,” he said. “This will lead to a saving of several millions. We thank them for their understanding in these challenging economic times.”

London organizers have offered to house the athletes in hotels within walking distance of Wembley and find ways of shortening the travel journey.

“We’ve pretty much agreed everything,” London chief executive Paul Deighton told The Associated Press.

The IOC also heard a final presentation from organizers of the Vancouver Olympics, a day before the opening ceremony, and a progress update on the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“If it’s ever possible to say that you are ready, we are ready,” Vancouver organizing committee leader John Furlong told the assembly. “When the flame will arrive in Vancouver tonight, life as we know it is going to change.”

Dmitry Chernyshenko, the CEO of Sochi’s organizing committee, said construction was well under way for Russia’s first Winter Games, where virtually all the venues are being built from scratch.

Chernyshenko said Sochi had exceeded $1 billion in revenue from top-level domestic sponsors, a record for a Winter Olympics, and soon would begin signing second- and third-tier partners.

Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games, said the Russians were on track overall.

“Our confidence is total, but the project is immense,” Fell said. “It’s the biggest project we’ve ever seen for the Winter Olympic Games. There is still a lot to do.”

On London, Oswald said city officials were considering reducing red lights to avoid traffic congestion for Olympic vehicles in 2012. Because of the city’s narrow roads, London will not have reserved “Olympic lanes” like other host cities.

Oswald said he was told by London Mayor Boris Johnson that the number of lights could be cut from 5,000 to 4,000 for the games, and the city could put up temporary pedestrian bridges over roads to keep traffic running.

Deighton said no final decisions had been made yet, and that London already has a system for regulating traffic lights to speed the flow of vehicles.

Oswald said the IOC was not “totally enthusiastic” about London’s proposal to use a single torch for the Olympic torch relay rather than the tradition of using several torches.

Deighton told the AP later that London agreed to drop the proposal and would stick with multiple torches.

International Association of Athletics Federations president Lamine Diack asked Coe _ who is an IAAF vice president _ whether the main Olympic Stadium will definitely remain a track and field facility after the games.

The 80,000-capacity stadium is designed to be reduced after the Olympics to a 25,000-seat venue, mainly for track and field. However, officials also are looking at the possibility of having a local soccer club as a tenant and using the stadium in England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Coe said there was no dispute over the stadium, and that a final decision will be up to a newly created legacy company.

“We have always made it very clear that this would be primarily a track and field facility,” Coe said. “But we also made it clear we would explore options to house other sports in there, as long as track and field was the primary purpose.”

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