London stages final test events ahead of Olympics

By BARBARA SURK,Associated Press Updated at 2012-05-05 15:26:45 +0000


LONDON (AP) — Thousands of sports fans braved the rain and cold at the Olympic Park in London on Saturday as organizers staged the final test events ahead of the Summer Games.

Student athletes competed in water polo, wheelchair tennis, field hockey and track and field events, watched by about 75,000 spectators.

It marked the first time the main stadium in the heart of the Olympic Park in east London was open to the public for a track and field competition. Organizers said about 40,000 people are expected to attend the official opening of the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium on Saturday night.

The final days of test events come after the British military performed a series of operations to test Olympic security, including flights over London by fighter jets and helicopters this week.

"This is the one big opportunity, particularly with the number of people we've got in the park, to test our venues, to test the park management, the security and tickets," said Sebastian Coe, who heads the local organizing committee.

With about 140,000 people attending test events over the past six days, the organizers also assessed the movement of spectators across the sprawling Olympic Park.

"We are actually in a very good shape, but with a mountain of work still to do," Coe said.

With just over 80 days before Olympic competition begins, the organizers' main focus is the athletes, Coe said. Test events are used to gauge reaction from participants to fine tune any changes ahead of the Olympics.

"The thing that we will always take very seriously is the feedback from the athletes because they are the most important group of people that we have to deliver for," Coe said. "Every time you see an athlete going into those venues they've probably given up half their lives for that moment, so that's clearly important."

The Olympics run from July 27 to Aug. 12, while the Paralympics take place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.