- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

LONDON (AP) - International Olympic Committee officials began a three-day visit to London yesterday to inspect preparations for the 2012 Games, including plans for the athletes’ village.

The IOC coordination commission, headed by Denis Oswald, also plans to check progress on the Olympic Park site in the East End of the British capital. Meeting will be held with the organizing committee and new London mayor Boris Johnson, who was elected earlier this month.

The IOC panel is expected to visit the new Wembley Stadium, which will play host to the soccer finals.

While concerns in Britain have focused on the overall cost of the games, which have soared to $18.3 billion, the IOC is looking at the schedule for construction.

While work on the Olympic Stadium is set to begin three months ahead of schedule tomorrow, the athletes’ village has emerged as a potential issue of concern. Work is to begin on the village next month without a contract with the constructors.

“We expect to sign interim agreements shortly and aim to have financial arrangements in place before the main build later this year,” the Olympic Delivery Authority said. “The changing economic situation remains a challenge, but we remain on program.”

The village will have beds for 17,320 athletes and officials. After the Olympics, the village will become part of a regeneration of the local area, providing 4,000 homes and a shopping mall and office areas.

Nearly all of the Olympic Park’s square-mile site has been readied for construction, with work on the aquatics center to begin in the next few months.

The IOC team last visited London 11 months ago during its second visit.

Also, Johnson appointed businessman David Ross to be his representative on the Olympic Board - a role approved by London Olympic organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe.

“He is passionate about sport, and his interest in sport, combined with his strong commercial acumen, will make him an important part of the team,” Coe said.