London’s Olympic Park got its first major test last week when nearly 150,000 fans came out to see competitions in several sports. They were part of the final stages of preparations for the Games, now fewer than 80 days away.
The Olympic Stadium was opened with a flight of balloons, flashes of light and the cheers of its first large crowd, .
Crowds of enthusiastic sports fans streamed into the park for a series of events in the stadium and other venues. They were treated to top level competition in several sports, ranging from water polo to field hockey.
But even as the events were going on, workers continued to put the finishing touches on the main stadium and other buildings in the Olympic Park.
One worker from Romania, who identified himself only as Vlad, says working on the Olympic Stadium is different from any other construction job he has had.
“The feeling is different. I don’t know. It’s something which I can’t explain. The feeling is great, especially now before the test event. Everyone is training. // It can be like a one-time opportunity, once in a lifetime,” he said.
In a few months, athletes from Vlad’s home country and from all over the world will be competing in the stadium, but for this “test” event there were only British university athletes.
Still, some hope to make the Olympic team, including runner David Bishop. "That was the whole reason why I came. I just wanted to get a feel of what it was like to run in here (to) give me the help and motivation for a couple more months to push on so I can get my time down and nail this trial," Bishop said.
For the London Organizing Committee Chairman and four-time British Olympic medalist Sebastian Coe, the “test” events were a chance to mingle with young athletes and to show off the fruits of seven years of work.
“We’re making sure that no stone is left unturned. And that testing is across everything from security, through to our venues, tickets, spectator flows, mobility, our ability to test some of our Park-wide operations, workforce, logistics, pretty important. So a big moment for us,” Coe said.
Saturday’s friendly competition and celebrations were marred somewhat on Sunday, when a tabloid newspaper revealed it had helped a construction worker smuggle a fake bomb into the Olympic Park. That provided evidence there is still work to be done, as officials hope to keep the focus during the Games on images like a military wives choir, which helped get the stadium’s opening ceremony going.