London Stadium ready to welcome the world

LONDON - The London Olympic stadium, all set to become the beating heart of the Games when the world comes to town in 83 days’ time, opens formally on Saturday.

One lucky youngster will be chosen to do the honours in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at a special test event celebrating 2,012 hours to go until the Games begin.

Paralympic gold medal-winning archer Danielle Brown will shoot arrows at a series of spinning targets to select the stadium opener from 100 pre-selected eight to 14-year-olds.

The stadium has already witnessed its first races and winners, with the event coming at the end of the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) outdoor championships which started on a damp and cold Friday evening.

In what may not be the best omen for Team GB, seeking to trigger a gold rush when the Games start on July 27, the first athlete to win a race on the gleaming new track was an Irish hurdler.

“I feel like I’ve just won a major championships or something,” declared Justine Kinney, a 24-year-old psychology masters student at Loughborough University - alma mater of London 2012 chairman Seb Coe.

“It feels amazing to know that all these world class athletes are going to be running down this track in just a few months,” she told reporters after winning her 400m heat on Friday.

“The track feels amazing, it feels like you could fly down it,” she added.

Some of those world-class athletes will also be in attendance on Saturday, with retired five-times rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave and swimmer Mark Foster among celebrities involved in the proceedings.

British Olympic track hopeful Perri Shakes-Drayton and pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale will be competing.

“This crowd will not only be starting their Olympic journey just weeks ahead of the Games, they will also play a vital role in helping us test the venue and earn our licence to operate the Stadium,” said Coe.

The 500 million pound (S$1 billion) stadium, at the centre of the Olympic Park in a formerly rundown part of east London, will go into lockdown from May 12 as organisers put the final touches to the facility.

Become a fan on Facebook