Source: www.insidethegames.biz

By Duncan Mackay

August 11 - Ireland today tried to help reassure countries attending the Chef de Missions seminar in London that next year's Olympics will be safe despite the riots that have swept across the country this week when Sonia O'Sullivan told the meeting that she had no doubts that the event would pass off peacefully and set a new standard for excellence.

The 2000 Olympic 5,000 metres silver medallist and former world champion, who will lead Ireland's team at London 2012 and has a house there, addressed more than 200 representatives from National Olympic Committess (NOCs) to back the capital.

"London is a great city," she told the delegates.

"The authorities will learn from the recent events and will strengthen their resolve to make London 2012 a new milestone in Olympic history – a very safe and happy time for all sports lovers.

"I've no doubt but that it will be a massive success"

More than 1,200 people have been arrested across Britain since the trouble started in Tottenham, in North London, last Saturday (August 6).

None of the facilities being built for the Games were targetted but the rioting did briefly erupt within less than a mile of the Olympic Park in East London.

Paul Deighton, the chief executive of London 2012, has addressed the seminar to reassure them about safety and security.

"We in Ireland fully understand and appreciate the immense security issues around major events," said Dermot Sherlock, the secretary general of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).

"We have no doubt that the British Government and the security authorities in the UK will deliver a perfectly safe and secure Games for everyone.

"We have absolutely no concerns for the Irish team or for its huge fan base in Ireland and Britain.

"We are all looking forward to a magnificent event."

The rioting which began in London spread to other English cities at the start of the week with Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool affected.

The trouble in London forced the postponement of England's international friendly with the Netherlands that was due to be played at Wembley last night.

But support for London 2012 officials has also come from Patrick Hickey, the President of the OCI and also the chief of the European Olympic Committee (EOC).

"I've also spoken to [London 2012 chairman] Sebastian Coe to assure him of our confidence in all the arrangements LOCOG and the British Government have in hand for a secure Olympics," he said.

"In particular, I've wished him safe journey on the Olympic Torch Relay in the UK and that we in Ireland were looking forward to welcoming the Olympic Torch to the Irish Republic as part of the historic peace process initiative with Northern Ireland."

Backing for London 2012 also came from other NOCs.

"The rioting was not a planned action, so it is not an act of terrorism," said Malaysia's Chef de Mission Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid.

"Just that the timing of the incident will tarnish the image of London as the organiser of the Olympics next year."

Dave Currie, New Zealand's Chef de Mission, added his words of support.

"We still have a high degree of confidence that they will have a process and a system that will give us a safe and secure environment next year," he said.

Coe, meanwhile, denied that the riots will tarnish London's image in the build-up to 2012.

"I have spoken to some of the world leaders of sport over the last couple of days, including the President of the IOC [Jacques Rogge], and that's not the view they take," said Coe, while visiting the World Badminton Championships at Wembley Arena, a test event for the Olympics.

"They know that things from time to time come out of left field in cities.

"And effectively within two days we had that under control.

"There are lessons to be learned and over the next year we will continue with our contingency plans, which will deal with all sorts of things including public disorder.

"I am neither sanguine nor cavalier about the disfiguring images which were beamed around the world.

"But we have 205 National Olympic Committee leaders here at the moment and they have been in a city which has had these challenges.

"I am happy that we are on time and on track.

"I say it without complacency - we shall absorb what we can from the test events to deliver at the business end of the seven years we will have had.


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