IOC urges organizers to make sure Olympic opening ceremony finishes before midnight
LONDON - The opening ceremony of next year's London Olympics must finish by midnight so athletes will be encouraged to march and still get to bed at a reasonable hour, the IOC said Friday.
Denis Oswald, head of the International Olympic Committee's co-ordination commission for London, said arrangements should also be made to allow athletes to leave before the end of the ceremony.
Some athletes at recent Olympic opening ceremonies have complained they have to stand for hours as the show ran over the scheduled time. Thousands of athletes from more than 200 countries will be marching into London's Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012.
The London ceremony, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle, is expected to start around 9 p.m.
"We insisted the ceremony should not finish after midnight so the athletes can get to the Olympic village quickly," Oswald said at the close of a three-day visit to check on games' preparations. "They can even leave the opening ceremony before the end if they wish to do so."
The length of the ceremony will also affect the 80,000 spectators trying to get home before public transport closes at 1:30 a.m.
Many Olympic athletes choose not to take part in opening ceremonies, especially those competing on the following day.
"It's a choice that you make but we would like to have an opening ceremony with as many athletes as possible, and that's why we insisted that the ceremony would be over at midnight at the latest," Oswald said.
Paul Deighton, chief executive of London organizing committee LOCOG, said athletes should have little problem getting in and out of the stadium because the village is located within walking distance of the Olympic Park in east London.
"The timing and logistics work very much in our favour," he said.
The IOC commission made its next-to-last visit to London before the Olympics. The final inspection will take place from March 28-30.
"We have once again been impressed by the overall level of planning and by the results of the first group of test events that were held this summer," Oswald said.
It was the panel's first visit since the riots that swept London in August, violence that tarnished the international image of the host city less than a year before the games.
Oswald said the riots had been brought "under control very quickly."
"It's something you often find in large cities, but I don't think that this has put any negative image on London or the games," he said.
The IOC panel also received an update on transportation plans for the Games, a priority issue because of the huge stress that will be put on the city's already stretched public transit system.
"I can say that at this stage a lot of progress has been made and a lot of additional information has been given," Oswald said. "This is a situation we will have to follow very cautiously until the end."
On a separate issue, Oswald said the IOC supports the British Olympic Association's right to enforce a lifetime Olympic ban on British doping offenders. Among those covered by the rule are sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar.
"We fully understand that the BOA has that rule and has had it for a number of years," Oswald said. "We fully respect the autonomy of the BOA to establish this eligibility rule."
On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport threw out an IOC rule that would have banned any athlete with a doping sanction of more than six months from competing in London. The verdict cleared American 400-metre runner LaShawn Merritt to defend his Olympic title next year.
Oswald said the CAS ruling wouldn't weaken the anti-doping effort in London because the IOC rule was only adopted in 2008 and had not yet been applied at any summer games. More than 5,000 athletes will be tested during the London Games.
"There is no reason to fear any added difficulties as compared to previous competitions," he said. "We have done the best we can to have the cleanest possible games."