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London Hails 2012 Olympic Legacy Benefits

Updated:
LONDON (AP) _ The 2012 London Olympics is expected to produce the greatest long-term benefits of any host city since the 1992 Barcelona Games.

After the games, 9,000 houses will be built in or around the Olympic Park in east London as part of a 20-year program to bring in 40,000 new homes.

``London will be the most successful Olympic Games since Barcelona in 1992 in terms of its regeneration legacy,'' Mayor Ken Livingstone said Tuesday at the start of an IOC inspection visit. ``As the next three Olympic Games follow London, we will still be getting the legacy benefits in terms of housing and employment.''

The Olympic Park will provide five major sports venues _ the main stadium, which will be reduced in seating capacity from 90,000 to 25,000 after the games; an aquatics center, velodrome and an indoor multi-sport center. The site will be the one of the largest urban parks in Europe in 150 years.

It's the first visit by the IOC's full 16-member commission since April 2006, and the second overall since London was awarded the games in 2005.

``Everything is being done on time,'' Culture Secretary and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said. ``We are actually, believe it or not, doing pretty well and we have got a good story to tell the IOC inspectors this week.''

The meetings come in the wake of last week's unveiling by London organizers of a jigsaw-style logo featuring four block-style jagged pieces combining to form the numbers 2012 in a variety of pink, blue, green and orange colors.

The logo has drawn sharp public criticism, with 30,000 people signing an online petition calling for the $78,930 design to be scrapped. Organizers were forced to withdraw part of a promotional video using the logo after claims it had caused some viewers to suffer epileptic seizures.

Jowell acknowledged Tuesday that the logo had ``caused a storm'' but stressed that it was here to stay.

``Call me unusual, but I think it's terrific,'' she told BBC television. ``One thing you can say for this logo is that it has got people talking. It has got people talking about the Olympics. It has got people talking about what they like and what they don't like.''

The IOC signed off on the logo in February, and London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe said there were no plans to change it. London will soon announce ways the brand can be used for community use.

``The shape will not change,'' said Coe, adding the logo would be discussed in the commercial presentation to the IOC on Wednesday.

However, he stressed the IOC commission was not looking at any single issue.

``This is a complex, challenging project,'' Coe said. ``There are 17 themes and the conversation will more often vary between any one of those themes. There's no one focus.''

In March, Jowell announced the overall cost of building the venues and regenerating east London had increased to $18.35 billion. During the bid process, the cost was estimated at $5.9 billion.

Jowell said Tuesday it was necessary to differentiate between the costs directly attributable to the games and those incurred as a result of the regeneration.

``The additional costs represent the scale of our ambition to regenerate the poorest part of London, one of the poorest parts of this country,'' she said.

Also Tuesday, the IOC panel members were scheduled to ride the first train on the new 7-minute rail ride between Stratford, the 500-acre East End site that will host the Olympic Park, and St. Pancras station in central London.
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