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olympic athletes


Thousands of Olympic athletes and officials are to begin arriving in London, as questions remain about recruitment of security staff.

Preparations for London 2012 are intensifying with the opening ceremony just 11 days away.

The first priority “Games Lane” has begun operation on the M4 and the Olympic drug testing lab starts work.

Meanwhile, the chairman of G4S has refused to express support for his chief executive over the guards fiasco.

Heathrow Airport is standing by to process as many as 120,000 passengers on Monday, about 10,000 more than would be normal for this time of year.

Preparations for London 2012 are intensifying with the opening ceremony just 11 days away

Preparations for London 2012 are intensifying with the opening ceremony just 11 days away

Immigration Minister Damian Green has said that the UK Border Force would be in full “Olympic mode” as of Sunday and he promised all immigration desks at Heathrow would be manned at peak times.

Volunteers will be directing athletes to the coaches and trains that will take many of them to the Olympic Village in Stratford, east London.

The village will house 16,000 athletes and officials at its peak.

Those that travel by road will benefit from the first of the Games Lanes which at busy times will operate between Junction 3 and Junction 2 of the M4 motorway towards London.

The motorway has just reopened following emergency repairs on a damaged flyover near Junction 2.

The rest of the 30 miles of dedicated lanes in the Olympic Route Network (ORN) will be operational by the middle of next week, with heavy fines for those who misuse them.

All road users will be able to go into the lanes when they are not in use overnight.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said the authorities had plans to lift the restrictions if they were causing gridlock.

Kevin Delaney, from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the lanes could exacerbate traffic problems in the capital.

“If anything goes wrong with the central and inner London transport network, we tend to get a wholly disproportionate amount of congestion – and so the Games lanes themselves will actually impose serious constraints on this already stretched network,” he said.

The biggest anti-doping operation in the history of the Olympics also begins on Monday.

Drug testers are expecting to take the first of about 6,000 samples for testing at the London 2012 laboratory.

Half of the competitors will be tested including every medallist at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Ahead of the Games G4S chief executive Nick Buckles has been criticized over the private security firm’s failure to recruit enough security guards for the Olympics, after it emerged last Wednesday that 3,500 troops were being drafted in to plug gaps in staff provision.

G4S chairman John Connolly told the Financial Times: “We don’t want to do anything that smacks of short-term expediency, but it would be right to consider whether any members of the senior team are best placed to take the company forward.”

This comes after Nick Buckles told the Sunday Telegraph he plans to stay to help deliver the contract but that he had considered quitting over the issue.

Nick Buckles is due to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday to answers MPs’ questions after he apologized on Saturday and said then that he only began to know things were going wrong “eight or nine days ago”.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has summoned G4S, two government departments and Games organizer LOCOG to appear before it in September.

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said security for the Olympics had not been compromised by the failure of G4S to recruit enough security staff.

G4S said it stood to lose up to £50 million ($80 million) on the contract, worth a total of about £280 million ($445 million), after being unable to provide the 10,000 staff it had been contracted to deliver.


A new scandal has broken after the news the US athletes at the forthcoming London Olympics will wear stylish uniforms designed in the US – but made in China.

The news prompted a rare outbreak of bipartisan agreement, with Republican and Democratic leaders highly critical of the US Olympic Committee.

“I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid said.

The outfits – which cost close to $2,000 – were designed by US label Ralph Lauren.

“The classic navy blue blazers, white trousers and skirts, and red-accented ties and berets may have a distinctly American look, but the label inside reads “Made in China”, ABC News revealed.

The classic US Olympic uniform may have a distinctly American look, but the label inside reads Made in China

The classic US Olympic uniform may have a distinctly American look, but the label inside reads Made in China

That left a sour taste in the mouths of the nation’s top lawmakers when they were asked about the affair on Thursday.

House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi stressed the entire nation was behind its Olympic athletes.

“We take such pride and they work so hard. They represent the very best and they’re so excellent, it’s all so beautiful,” the California Democrat said.

“And they should be wearing uniforms made in America.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner kept his comments brief.

“You’d think they’d know better,” he said of the US Olympic Committee.

But the strongest remarks came from Harry Reid, the senior Democratic senator from Nevada – a state hard-hit by the lingering economic downturn and which has seen high levels of unemployment since the time of the last Olympics, held in China’s capital, Beijing.

“I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.

“I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them. And start all over again,” the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying.

“I hope they wear nothing but a single that says <<USA>> on it painted by hand. We have people in America working in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs,” he concluded.

In a statement, the US Olympic Committee said Team USA was privately funded and sponsored.

“We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company,” the committee added.

The US Olympic uniforms cost $1,945 for men and $1,473 for women, Ralph Lauren said.

Although this is not the first time Ralph Lauren has designed US Olympic garb, lawmakers said the Chinese involvement had a symbolic impact, as the US anxiously searches for clues of renewed economic competitiveness.

“Today there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China?” said Steve Israel, a House Democrat.

“That is not just outrageous, it’s just plain dumb. It is self-defeating.”



Dutch Olympic athletes are facing government fines because they delayed finishing their degrees.

About 50 of the athletes competing at the London 2012 Games are still at university or college.

For many of them, Olympic training commitments have interrupted their studies meaning they will be forced to pay thousands of euros in penalties.

Dutch law states that each student must pay standard tuition costs for the duration of their course.

Most courses last four years for most degrees, and slightly longer for subjects like medicine.

Among those facing fines is Wouter Brus, a 20-year-old member of the 4×100 m relay team, who is two years into a physiotherapy degree.

Dutch Olympic athletes are facing government fines because they delayed finishing their degrees

Dutch Olympic athletes are facing government fines because they delayed finishing their degrees

“It’s crazy. I don’t understand how they can say our country supports sport. Three thousand Euros [$3,741] is a lot of money. I don’t think it’s fair. I feel like I’m competing for my country but my country is not supporting me.”

On top of their allocated course of study, every student is given one additional year in which the normal tuition fees still apply.

If students exceed the deadlines, then they are charged.

“If I wanted to not get behind with my studies I would have to be in class every day. Sometimes we have training twice a day so it would be impossible. I have to choose between school and sport. I choose sport, so I get the fine.”

Freek Manche, a spokesman for the education ministry, says the government has already provided universities with the means to compensate students whose studies have been delayed by their Olympic training regimes.

“We provide institutions with 18 million Euros in <<profileringsfondsen>> [funds for making an institution stand out in chosen areas]. It’s up to them to compensate the Olympic students or choose to allocate the money elsewhere.”

But the majority of Dutch universities argue that the government should be providing extra cash to ensure that the potential of the country’s top sports stars is not hampered by the potential accumulation of massive debts caused by their sporting dedication.

Nienke Meijer, the vice-president at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, says: “We definitely think that a national government that pushes so hard on our Olympic ambitions should help athletes to finish their studies without fines.”

She believes the Dutch government is using the young athletes to boost the Netherlands’ bid for the 2028 Games but failing to support their academic responsibilities.

“Don’t only focus on the golden medals they can win today for our country, but also help them to finish their studies in the meantime so they also have a great future after their sporting careers.”

The extra funds provided by the government are limited. If that money is used to compensate the sports students then the universities argue that others will suffer.

And, in the short term, their fear is that the prospect of fines will affect athletes performance at London 2012.

But relay racer Wouter Brus says his mind is fully focused on the track and field.

“The Olympics are everything. I will not focus on a fine I will get in two years. I will focus on my execution and my team, they are the most important things right now.”