Tom Degun: London 2012 must learn from Guadalajara's Achilles Heel

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altAfter 17 days of intense competition in Mexico, it was rather sad watching the Closing Ceremony last night bring proceedings at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games to a conclusion.

In keeping with everything that has embodied the competition, the Ceremony at the Omnilife Stadium was full of the passion, colour and excitement that made it a spectacle to remember.

In addition, it even featured a brilliantly surreal performance from Puerto Rican pop singer Ricky Martin who bought the house down with the iconic 1999 single "Livin' la Vida Loca".

But for me, the telling moment came when Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, the President of the Guadalajara 2011 Organising Committee and Governor of Jalisco, took to the microphone and roared to the people of Guadalajara that, "Now we go for the Olympics."

By all accounts, his statement was not just an exaggerated war cry designed to fire up the 50,000 crowd but actually a major strategic goal for Guadalajara following the near $1 billion (£620 million/€718 million) invested to improve sports infrastructure, build the Athletes' Village and actually stage the Pan American Games in the city.

Having just missed the deadline to put forward a bid for the 2020 Olympics, 2024 now seems like the likely bet for a Guadalajara Olympic bid.

So could they do it?

Well certainly not tomorrow. But 2024 would perhaps be a realistic timeframe to get things ready in the city and prove to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that they could stage its blue-ribbon competition.

After all, a bid is one thing, a winning bid is a whole different story.

But Guadalajara will draw strength from Rio de Janeiro, who used their impressive staging of the 2007 Pan American Games as the platform for their successful 2016 Olympic and Paralympic bid in Copenhagen in October 2009.

Certainly the foundations for a great Olympics are in Guadalajara.

altIt features superb sports facilities, hundreds of hotels, designer shops, a huge range of restaurants, great weather and a very charming Mexican 'look and feel' that is a very welcoming for any visitor.

But they do have one obvious Achilles Heel.

It doesn't appear to be security, which ran extremely smoothly despite prior concerns, and it isn't contaminated meat in Mexico containing the illegal drug clenbuterol as so far not one athlete at the Pan American Games has tested positive for the substance - although admittedly every precaution was taken by the 42 nations in order to avoid the occurrence and the meat was escorted into the Athletes' Village by armed police guard.

No; it is that dreaded "T" word again. Traffic.

Crossing the busy road in Guadalajara is an achievement in itself and getting a bus to and from a venue is a long, gruelling process that will take up a minimum of half your day if you are lucky to miss the congested areas – which appear to be everywhere.

There is no respite at night either, when the volume of cars on the road somehow manages to increase.

It is the problem of traffic that London are becoming increasing concerned about with the 2012 Games looming ever closer and I was not at all surprised to see numerous representative of the London Organising Committee out and about in Mexico.

After all, the 2011 Pan American Games provided the last chance for London 2012 to see a major multi-sport event in action and learn from its mistakes.

Well, there is the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympics in January but is debatable how much London will learn, operationally, from staging a winter sport event for 14-to-18-year-olds.

So any accurate report heading back from Guadalajara to the London 2012 HQ in Canary Wharf will highlight the traffic problem at the event and suggest yet again that the English capital continue their commendable efforts to minimise disruption next year.

The IOC have for a long time highlighted the issue as London's bid hurdle and it is becoming a much more prominent feature in the media as the 2012 Countdown Clock in Trafalgar Square keeps ticking towards D-Day.

London actually has major advantages over Guadalajara when it comes to transport in terms of a tube system they promise will be uninterrupted during the Games, the Javelin Train - which will get from central London to the Olympic Park in seven minutes - and walk and cycle ways across the city that are being heavily invested in before next summer.

However, doubts remain over how successful the controversial Olympic Route Network (ORN) will be in full operation complete with the controversial, designated lanes for athletes, the media and VIP officials.

Given that London's roads are already full to the brim, closing off large parts of the capital's existing roads spells disaster on paper.

Undoubtedly huge thought and planning has already gone into the plan but the issue can never be investigated too much and right until the last possible second, organisers must continue to address the topic to ensure that the problem does not unfairly dominate the headlines.

After all, Guadalajara 2011 showed exactly how irritatingly disappointing it can be when a huge major sporting celebration has the dampeners put on it simply due to the fact that getting from A to B is a major hassle.

Source: www.insidethegames.biz

By Tom Degun

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