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London 2012 Olympics, Open Features: The London Olympics

"As a veteran of six Olympic Games, which have stretched over four continents, it seems surreal that London 2012 is so close to home,'' writes sports journalist Tony Bugby in this exclusive report for Open Writing.

A short hop on a Virgin train to the capital is a far cry to the usual long-haul flights to the Olympic destination.

It is also unique in that I have seen the project evolve over the last seven years rather than simply arriving at the host city for the first time days before the spectacle, arguably the greatest show on earth has begun.

I have often caught the train to Stratford International and then made the one stop on the Docklands Light Railway to Pudding Lane where from the platform gives you a terrific vantage point over the Olympic Park.

A public footpath also dissected the site so it was possible to get up close and see how it was evolving.

I was also fortunate to attend the World Press Briefings which are held annually in the four years leading up to the games.

In 2009 and 2011 I was again able to see the progress being made and see how efficiently the project has been managed by LOCOG, the body which has delivered the Olympic Games.

Whereas in Athens, for example, major building works was still taking place days before the event, here there were no such difficulties. Venues and facilities were
handed over ahead of schedule as was the case with the Olympic Stadium.

Having visited the area, which was one of the most deprived in Britain, many times previously while covering football match at nearby Leyton Orient, it has been great to see how it has been transformed.

The Olympic Park and its surrounds have breathed new life into an area which had been in desperate need of regeneration.

It has also been done sympathetically making it one of the most attractive Olympic Parks and far more intimate than Beijing where there were vast expanses between venues in their Park and it lacked character.

Here the River Lea criss-crosses the Olympic Park - indeed the Olympic Stadium is virtually on an island - and water provides an aura of tranquillity.

It is also claimed to be the most eco-friendly Olympic Park with the most bird boxes to the found - an interesting piece of trivia.

And rather than having vast expanses of concrete, tarmac or grass, there are many areas which have been cultivated as meadows with a colourful array of flowers.

While the Olympic Stadium can never match Beijingís Birds Nest for its stunning design, it is functional and its looks have been enhanced by it being covered in drapes.

There are eye-catching venues such as the state-of-the art Aquatics Centre which was designed by female architect Zaha Hadid and the Velodrome which can be seen in its splendour by motorists on the A12.

And speaking of travel and transport, there have been concerns about how London will cope with the massive influx of visitors on already congested route.

While a colleague took a snailís-pace 1hrs 40min to travel by bus from Russell Square, Bloomsbury, to the Olympic Park earlier in the week, the best option appears to be the high-speed rail link.

The Javelin, as it is known, runs from St Pancras to Stratford International. It is reported to take eight minutes, but yesterday the journey was six and it takes you from the centre of London before you have barely settled in your seat.

And so to the official start - the football has already been under way a couple of days - and the opening ceremony has already attracted much publicity.

Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, whose creations have includes Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, had directed the lavish £27million production.

It can no way match Beijing which was breathtaking but Boyle has tried to create a vision of the quintessential Britain encompassing the countryside and the nationís
culture.

Boyle incorporated 120 real animals - 30 sheep, 12 horses, ten chicken, nine geese, three cows, three sheepdogs and two goats.

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