With the Olympic year officially counting down, London is on track for a successful Games. The venues are being tested, almost all of the tickets have been sold, more than $1 billion has been raised from sponsors, and the organizers figure to meet their $3 billion-plus operating budget despite a brutal economy.
“I really can’t think of a Games that has been delivered in a more difficult climate since Montreal,’’ said committee chief Sebastian Coe.
The biggest concern is security, and the English, who are spending more than $1.6 billion on it, will have a massive presence: 23,700 venue guards, 12,000 policemen, and 13,500 military personnel backed by ships, jets, and missiles.
Nobody has forgotten the suicide bombers who killed 52 citizens on the transport system the day after the city was awarded the Games in 2005, so the government is expected to set the terror threat level at “severe,’’ meaning that an attack is considered highly likely.
That’s a dramatic difference from the way the world was in 1976, when a boycott was Montreal’s biggest international problem.
Look for the US men’s and women’s Olympic marathon trials records to fall a week from Saturday in Houston. “I will say that the top three guys will all be under 2:10,’’ predicted Ryan Hall, who set the 2:09:02 mark in New York last time. Hall, Beijing teammate Dathan Ritzenhein, and 2004 medalist Meb Keflezighi are favored to claim the three men’s spots, while the women’s race shapes up as a mad scramble among Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Amy Hastings, and Athens medalist Deena Kastor, who is a long shot to make her fourth team . . . Great Britain’s Mo Farah, who just missed hitting the 5,000/10,000-meter double at last summer’s world outdoor track championships, will be at the top of the marquee for the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Feb. 4 at Roxbury’s Reggie Lewis Center. Also on the card are Jenny Simpson, who became the first American woman to win the 1,500 since Mary Decker, fellow world medalist Matt Centrowitz, who will be making his pro debut after skipping his final year at Oregon, and pole vaulter Jenn Suhr. Tickets can be obtained at nbindoorgrandprix.com or by calling 1-877-849-8722 . . . If Alissa Czisny wins her third title at this month’s US figure skating championships in San Jose, she’ll be the first woman to retain her crown since Michelle Kwan in 2005. Jeremy Abbott, who missed the men’s podium last year, also will be looking for his third victory, while dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White are favored to win their fourth straight. If Abbott isn’t up to the mark, Watertown resident Ross Miner of the Skating Club of Boston could claim the top spot . . . Kwan, the only new inductee for the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, was the most obvious choice since Dick Button. Besides her two Olympic medals and five world titles, she also earned a record-tying nine American crowns and set an international standard for both grace and graciousness. She’ll be enshrined during the nationals in San Jose, where she won her first domestic title in 1996.
Lindsey Vonn figures to expand her overall World Cup cushion over Marlies Schild at this weekend’s stop in Austria, where she will race in both downhill and super G, her two best disciplines. Vonn, who is ahead by 101 points after Schild’s slalom victory yesterday, leads both speed categories. The US males also are in top form, with Ted Ligety and Bode Miller, who are third and fifth overall, topping the giant slalom and downhill standings. If Miller takes the downhill crown, he’ll be the first American to manage it . . . Angela Ruggiero, who recently retired from the US women’s ice hockey team after 16 years, 256 games, and 208 points, likely never will have an equal when it comes to both longevity and global hardware. Besides four Olympic medals (a gold, two silvers, and a bronze), the 31-year-old Harvard grad also earned 10 world medals, four of them gold. You’ll still see her around Olympus; she’s an IOC member and is on the coordination commission for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang . . . With the World Cup bobsled circuit resuming this week on the demanding Altenberg track in Germany, US pilot Steve Holcomb is within striking distance of German overall leader Thomas Florschuetz despite having made only one four-man podium. His two medal finishes in the two-man - traditionally Holcomb’s weaker event - have kept him in contention. Elana Meyers and Katie Eberling, who have posted two top-four finishes in three races, also are well-positioned . . . The German lugers, who already were dominating the World Cup standings, start three weekends of home ice in Koenigssee, Oberhof, and Winterberg in advance of next month’s global championships on their Altenberg track. Felix Loch and three teammates head the men’s standings, while the frauleins, led by Tatjana Huefner, own four of the top six. No medals yet for the Yanks, who are in transition between Olympics. The latest retiree is Westborough native Ashley Walden, who called it a career after 15 years. “I leave with no regrets, only amazing memories,’’ said the 30-year-old former Olympian, whose husband Bengt retired last summer and now is coaching the Norwegians.
The US speedskaters, who spent the first half of the World Cup season in Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Netherlands, will get a taste of familiar surroundings this month when the circuit stops at the Olympic oval in Salt Lake City before the world sprint championships in Calgary. That figures to help Shani Davis and Heather Richardson, who have been off the pace so far . . . Going into this week’s fourth biathlon World Cup in Germany, Lowell Bailey is impressively situated in ninth place in the individual standings, just 1 point behind Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. His US teammates also are doing well enough to be sitting in eighth place in the nations list . . . Katie Uhlaender slid right back into contention after taking time off to tend to her qualifying duties for the Olympic weightlifting team. The two-time World Cup skeleton champion won the bronze behind teammate Annie O’Shea at last month’s stop in La Plagne . . . The US women’s soccer team is back in camp in Carson, Calif., prepping for the Olympic regional qualifying tournament in Vancouver this month, where the two finalists will earn tickets to London. That’s no longer a gimme for the Americans, who were upset by Mexico in World Cup qualifying and had to win a playoff. Their southern neighbors are in their preliminary group, along with the Dominican Republic and Guatemala . . . The US sailors accomplished their double mission at the recent world championships in Perth. Besides winning a gold medal in women’s Elliott 6-meter with Anna Tunnicliffe, Deborah Capozzi, and Molly Vandemoer and bronzes in women’s Laser Radial (Paige Railey) and men’s Star (Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih), the Americans earned Olympic berths in nine of the 10 classes, missing only in women’s windsurfing, where Farrah Hall will get another chance in March. Making the squad in men’s 470 were Boston’s Stuart McNay along with Graham Biehl.
Bob Anderson, the former Olympic fencer for Great Britain who died on New Year’s Day at 89, was the man wielding the light saber in the Darth Vader regalia in two “Stars Wars’’ movies - “The Empire Strikes Back’’ and “Return of the Jedi.’’ Anderson, who coached the British team and was technical director for the Canadians after he competed in the 1952 Games, was a sexagenarian when he pulled on the dark visor the second time . . . After looking at more than 10,000 would-be performers for the opening and closing ceremonies, the London organizers concluded that they need more men, “particularly if you have rhythm.’’ That means anyone who can dance, drum, or do anything involving “keeping to time.’’John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.