Coe has a cut at naysayers
Olympics:London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe has hit out at the negativity surrounding the build-up to the Olympic Games. The former athlete said people were “overwhelmingly very positive” about the event, despite concerns over security, transport and strict sponsorship rules.
“There are things we have done really well,” he insisted, highlighting praise he had received from athletes and the international media about the facilities built for the Games. But in an occasionally testy interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Coe defended the Games organisers from claims that there had been a heavy-handed approach to protecting sponsors’ rights.
Presenter Evan Davis challenged the Olympics supremo on whether he would be allowed to turn up to an event in a Pepsi T-shirt. Lord Coe told him: “No, you probably wouldn’t be walking in with a Pepsi T-shirt because Coca-Cola are our sponsors and they have put millions of pounds into this project but also millions of pounds into grassroots sport. It is important to protect those sponsors.”
Asked whether he could wear Nike trainers, Coe said: “I think you probably could...”
Pressed to give a definite answer, he told Davis: “Let’s put some reality in this. You probably would be able to walk through with Nike trainers. Does that satisfy you?”
He added: “Keep going, Evan, we’ll get there in the end.”
Coe also insisted the “Zil lanes” open only to Olympics traffic are vital for the smooth running of the Games. He added: “The famous Zil lane, as you call it, is actually something that takes people to work. There are 140 IOC (International Olympic Committee) members, let’s just put this into perspective, they will be using that lane, people going to work, many of them are presidents of international federations they will be in those venues early in the morning.
“There are, actually, using those lanes about 20,000 members of the media, of which about 700 will probably be BBC people.”
Asked whether a “negative narrative” was taking hold, Coe said: “I’m neither cavalier about this or overly sanguine. It comes with the territory. I’m talking to people who think they have come to a Games that has delivered in the areas that they need in a way that no Games has delivered before.
“I spent time in the village yesterday talking to athletes that were complimenting us about the Athletes’ Village we have presented. One Australian broadcaster came up to me — ‘I’ve been to four Games, this is by a distance the best broadcast facility’.
“Everywhere we go, the reality of it is people are overwhelmingly very positive about what we are doing.”
With the build-up to the Games overshadowed by the G4S guards row, Coe said: “Believe it or not, this is not a security event with a little bit of sporting overlay... the sport will start, the torch is arriving in London today, the sport will start literally hours after the opening ceremony.
“That’s what we have spent seven years delivering and I think the teams have done a pretty good job.”