London 2012: Cardiff to stage Olympics' first event

A policeman stands in front of the entrance gate as spectators and members of the media wait to be checked by security at the Millennium Stadium

Related Stories

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe arrived in Cardiff to herald the start of the Olympics as the Welsh capital prepares to host the first event of the Games.

More than 40,000 fans are expected to watch the kick-off of the world's biggest sporting event as Great Britain take on New Zealand in women's football at the Millennium Stadium.

The match comes two days before the opening ceremony in London on Friday.

Lord Coe said it was important the Games was not uniquely a London story.

Start Quote

When I came in this morning I felt I was arriving in an Olympic city”

End Quote Lord Coe London 2012 chairman

Following his tour of the stadium, he said: "One of the commitments we made when we were bidding, and I felt strongly about this as somebody who was not brought up in London, was this had to be about the whole of the UK, and this is a really strong signal to our commitment to that concept.

"A lot of the Games are in London but this is not uniquely a London story.

"When I came in this morning I felt I was arriving in an Olympic city, I have been to Cardiff plenty of times but it had a different feel about it today."

The Welsh capital boasted a festival atmosphere with Olympic events being staged across the city centre for an expected crowd of 40,000 at Wednesday's first game.

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe visits Cardiff at the start of the Olympics as the Welsh capital prepares to host the first event of the Games.

At around 14:30 BST the Team GB women passed along Westgate Street by coach on the way to the stadium to cheering, flag-waving crowds.

Fans started going into the stadium just after 14:00 BST, with queues forming for people to have their bags searched.

As the game was about to kick off, fans were still queuing to get in.

One of the security staff monitoring bag searches said it was taking anything from 45 seconds to three minutes to search each bag.

He said the biggest cause of the delay was bottles of water and that he "felt sorry" for the searches who had received "some flak simply because they were sticking to the rules."

There were virtually no queues for people who didn't have bags.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Figures provided by the Welsh government show Welsh companies have won Olympic contracts worth in excess of £38m.

This has come partly from investment in sporting facilities which the government say helped attract teams from 20 countries to Wales for pre-Games training.

Jonathan Jones, the government's tourism marketing director, said the Business Minister Edwina Hart had hosted a reception for business people and diplomats in London looking at more investment in Wales and would be attending a global tourism investment conference in London on Thursday.

He rejected criticism that the government had not done more to help businesses gain Olympic contracts, saying they had spent years providing seminars throughout Wales on how to get involved.

"Only the main one and two tiers of (companies who gain) contracts are allowed to mention they've got contracts," he said.

"If you dig down into those supply chains you will find lots of small businesses have had contracts with those large contractors but are not allowed to say anything about it."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is among those attending the opening event of the Games.

It will be followed by Cameroon v Brazil at 18:45 BST - among 11 matches being held at the Millennium Stadium throughout the Games.

Meanwhile, the security operation around the city is being stepped up, while roads around the stadium have been closed.

South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Julian Kirby said the eyes of the world are on Cardiff .

"Wales is good at big events - the World Cup, FA Cup, football play-off finals and the Six Nations," he said.

"We've stepped up from that. Our ambition is that today's event goes off and the public don't notice us. At the moment everything is in place.

"It's an Olympic football match and what has brought it home to me this morning is on the national news that all eyes are on Cardiff.

"It's my job to make sure that Wales looks good."

In terms of organisation inside the stadium, manager Gerry Toms said everything was "ready to go".

"Let's get the show on the road," he said.

Olympics coverage online

Olympics images

"It reflects the recognition that both the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff is an ideal centre for a worldwide event."

The exact number of tickets sold for both matches is not yet known but there have been large queues at ticket booths around the stadium.

At one of the sales points there have been up to 60 people standing in line since it opened at 10:00 BST.

A last-minute surge of people queued for tickets at gate three of the stadium with an hour and a half to go until kick-off.

A Locog spokesperson said he was "chuffed" with the size of the crowd.

"The women's World Cup Final had 48,000 people and the record for women's club game in the Champions League was 35,000," he said.

"This is a massive crowd for a women's international. It's a great way to start the whole thing off."

Music and sport
A queue waiting to have bags searched outside the Millennium Stadium A queue of people waiting to have bags searched outside the Millennium Stadium

Should the crowd at the Millennium Stadium be higher than 48,000, it will eclipse the attendance for last year's Women's World Cup final in Germany, but still fall short of the 90,000 record set in the United States in 1999.

Because of the way football is scheduled with the number of games and rest periods, the tournament has to start before the opening ceremony of the Games.

Under International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules, no events can be held in the host city until after the ceremony takes place.

Roads in Cardiff city centre are closed on Wednesday for eight hours until 21:30 BST and there will be extra capacity on train services.

Music, comedy and sporting activities are taking place around the city centre until 19:00 BST, while fans without tickets will be able to watch the action on the big screen in the Hayes.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "In two days the eyes of the world will focus on the opening ceremony in London, but today Wales is in the spotlight and once again we have an opportunity to show people across the globe what a fantastic host we are for top sporting events."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Wales stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.