Athletes arriving for the London 2012 Games are being told to keep out of the main Olympic Park because it is not yet ready.

With less than two weeks to go to the opening ceremony, the main park remains a construction site, and national teams, who begin arriving in London tomorrow, will have to stay away.

One team chief said yesterday: “We were told the Olympic Park won’t open until the 23rd. This is a week later than what we expected. We were told this is because of some construction issues in the park.

“We were assured they are relatively minor but it has come as a surprise because we had been told for some months now that the park was on time and ready, and it isn’t.’’

The disclosure came after a series of blows to organisers last week over the state of preparations, the most damaging being that troops are being called in after G4S, a private security firm, admitted it could not provide enough guards.

Yesterday its chief executive apologised for the fiasco, which will cost the firm up to £50 million, but admitted that he did not know if his security staff could even speak English.

About 30 teams, comprising about 1,000 athletes, are expected to take up residence in the athletes’ village, next to the Olympic Park, tomorrow with 5,000 expected by the end of the week.

More than 40 team bosses met on Friday at the athletes’ village and some were clearly taken by surprise by the admission that certain areas of the park would remain off limits. The Olympic Park, which hosts athletics, swimming, hockey, cycling and other sports, is still officially a construction site. Some contractors, who had passes valid up until Friday, are having to redo biometric tests to be able to gain access.

Venues, however, are finished, and athletes’ training programmes should not be disrupted.

Sources said the problems had been caused by the wet weather and security issues, but Locog, the London organising committee, said that work in the park was on schedule.

By Jacquelin Magnay and Robert Mendick


India's Sports Ministry has warned the country's National Olympic Committee not to help Suresh Kalmadi travel to London 2012 after the disgraced former head of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi was given permission to attend the event.

Kalmadi, currently at the centre of corruption allegations linked to Delhi 2010, was granted permission by a court in New Delhi to leave India and visit London as long as he lodged a bond in case he failed to return.

But India's Sports Minister Ajay Maken has contacted Randhir Singh, secretary general of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), claiming that Kalmadi does not deserve to be allowed to visit the Olympics.

The Ministry claimed that since Kalmadi is embroiled in corruption cases, IOA should not support Kalmadi's trip.

Kalmadi had been the President of the IOA since 1996 but was effectively sacked in April 2011 and replaced by V K Malhotra, the head of the country's archery federation, after a court ordered him to be held in custody on corruption charges.

Kalmadi has been been charged by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly "illegally" awarding contract to install timing, scoring and results system for the 2010 Commonwealth Games to Swiss Timing.

But he has since been released on bail and, in his his plea to Special CBI Judge Talwant Singh, Kalmadi had said that he is a member of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council and Asian Athletics Association and sought permission to come to the Olympics.

Among the evidence that Kalmadi presented as part of his evidence was an invitation from the IAAF Council and details of an airline sent to him by Essar Gabriel, the secretary general of the IAAF.

But the Ministry immediately tried to block the trip.

"Taking into consideration the serious charges levelled against Kalmadi in the matters relating to conduct of the Commonwealth Games 2010 and that the court is still seized of the matter, the Ministry requests that the IOA, on ethical grounds, should not facilitate or sponsor the visit of Kalmadi to London in any manner including air travel, lodging and boarding in London and giving tickets for witnessing the Opening and Closing ceremonies and sports competitions of the London Olympics, 2012," the Ministry said in a letter written by Onkar Kedia, its joint Secretary.

"The IOA should also take up this issue with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the IAAF, particularly, in the light of the fact that visit of Kalmadi to London Olympics, before corruption charges against him are cleared by the court, would defy the 'fundamental principles of Olympism'as enshrined in the 'Olympic Charter'."

By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London


Sebastian Coe claimed here today that he remained unconcerned by the late issues that are overshadowing the final countdown to London 2012 as he was given a boost by the main road from Heathrow Airport into the capital reopening ahead of schedule.

The M4 link reopened today to enable athletes and officials to travel into London less than 24 hours after officials had warned that they could not guarantee to carry out repair work so that it would be operational by Monday (July 16) when the first Olympic Route Network (ORN) is due to become operational.

It was some relief for the London 2012 chairman who has had to deal with the unexpected disruption along with concerns over security following the revelation that 3,500 troops were being drafted in because of a shortfall caused by contractor G4S failing to meet contractual requirements.

In addition O2, one of Britain's biggest mobile phone networks, has suffered severe connection problems and it has continued to rain in what is already the wettest summer on record.

"It's sort of what happens," Coe said of the last-minute issues with only two weeks left until the Opening Ceremony on July 27.

"We will get there.

"These will be fantastic Games.

"I've got complete confidence in our teams to deliver this.

"We will work on security, we will work on transport, as we [will] do on all the other projects...right up until there is no more time or place to go."

The decision to reopen the M4 could take a lot of the pressure off Coe (pictured) and London 2012 officials.

There had been initial fears that it would not be repaired in time and the Olympic rings had been painted on an alternative route in case it was not fixed in time.

But the six mile section between junctions two and three on M4 has now repaired sufficiently to allow Olympic athletes and officials to use it, although 7.5 tonne-plus vehicles are still banned.

"They will exclude articulated lorries and many coaches but Olympic family vehicles will be exempt to get the athletes and their equipment through," said Peter Hendy, the Commissioner of Transport for London.

London's preparations have been backed to come good by Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee.

"This is not peculiar to London, we have always had difficulties in the time leading up to the Games, this is something that does not worry us, it will be fine by the time of the Opening Ceremony," he said.

"We have been informed that the security will not be affected by this.

"It will have to be solved by [London 2012] and the Government but we are very optimistic that all the provisions will be taken."

But both Rogge and Coe admitted that there is nothing they can do about the weather.

"I don't have a hotline to the Almighty," said Coe.

"On occasions, over the last few months, I really wished I had, but clearly he hasn't been listening to me thus far."


By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London


Brazilian star Neymar insists they have what it takes to bring back Olympic football gold for the first time in history this summer.

The Santos forward (pictured top) will be the man most want to see this summer at the football tournament, after starring for his club team in recent years as they have won the Brazilian Championship and Copa Libertadores.

Unpredictable, skilful and two footed, with the kind of playground-style dribbling ability which is the hallmark of the game of Argentine star Leo Messi, London could be where Neymar announces his arrival on the world stage at last.

But he is insistent that he is not the star of Mano Menezes' team, and that others have an equally crucial role to play.

"I think we all are fundamental and have a role," said the Santos man to

"Everyone is important.

"Those who are called are the representatives of all who have participated and we need together to strengthen and unite."

Particularly key will be the experienced trio of Hulk (pictured above, in yellow), Thiago Silva and Marcelo, the three players over the age of 23 whom Menezes selected last week.

Menezes is under huge pressure this summer as the last competitive action Brazil will get before the World Cup they host in 2014.

Recent reports have suggested that Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, rejected the chance to take the reins of the national team, suggesting a lack of faith in Menezes on the part of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

That may have been exacerbated by recent friendly defeats to Mexico and Argentina.

Neymar says, though, that the team will go to London as the favourites for gold.

"I think Brazil, in any competition that comes in, is a favourite.

"It always does.

"And we have a very good selection, with lots of potential."

-David Gold


G4S has revealed tonight that it stands to lose up to £50 million ($78 million/€64 million) after 3,500 military personnel had to be drafted into provide security for London 2012 because the company failed to meet its contractual obligations.

The Crawley-based firm said that it accepted the additional cost of the extra military personnel, and would see a loss on the contract of between £35 million and £50 million ($55 million/€45 million and $78 million/€64 million).

Home Secretary Theresa May was this week forced to ask the Ministry of Defence to provide more troops after the contractor admitted it did not have enough staff.

The company has a £284 million ($442 million/€361 million) contract with London 2012 to provide 10,400 security guards for the Olympic Games, but only 4,000 guards are trained and ready.

"We are deeply disappointed that we have not been able to fully deliver against our contract with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and that it has been necessary to call upon the additional military personnel," said Nick Buckles (pictured), the chief executive of G4S.

"The company is entering the final stages of an extremely complex workforce supply contract which is on an unprecedented scale.

"We have recently encountered significant difficulties in processing applicants in sufficient numbers through the necessary training, vetting and accreditation procedures.

"As a result, we will be unable to deliver all of the necessary workforce numbers.

"We have worked very closely with LOCOG throughout the build up.

"At the point we felt that we could no longer assure the scale of the security workforce we had committed to, we advised them of the situation.

"In partnership with the military and LOCOG, we are working flat out around the clock to resolve the situation.

"We are determined that together we will deliver a successful and secure Games."

Shares in the company were down 1.5 per cent when markets closed today, meaning more than £150 million ($234 million/€191 million) has been wiped from its market value over the past two days.

G4S is the world's largest security company and employs more than 667,000 people in 125 countries.

But there is no sympathy for the situation the company finds itself in, especially as some of the military called into have had to cancel leave despite having only recently returned from active duty in Afghanistan.

"We do not underestimate the impact on the military personnel and their families and express our appreciation to them," said Buckles.

"G4S accepts its responsibility for the additional cost of the increased military deployment resulting from the shortfall in workforce delivery."

By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London


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