* Torch nearing end of 8,000 mile journey
* Officials preach positivity after negative headlines
* Confusion over sponsorship rules
By Mike Collett-White and Toby Davis
LONDON, July 20 The Olympic torch arrives in
London on Friday a week before the Games begin, and organisers
hope the media's focus will shift from security fiascos, travel
disruptions, strike threats and poor weather to the thrill of
the sporting contest.
Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Olympic organising
committee (LOCOG) and a gold medal winner, said people were
"overwhelmingly positive" about the buildup to the greatest show
on earth, while London Mayor Boris Johnson told critics to "put
a sock in it, fast".
Their comments were unlikely to make the controversies go
away, however, with industrial action by passport officials on
the eve of the July 27 opening on the minds of thousands of
visitors and athletes arriving in Britain at the last minute.
"This is a challenge, this is a very, very tough project,"
Coe told BBC radio in an occasionally tetchy interview.
"No city is challenged in the way a city is challenged when
it delivers an Olympic Games."
Asked whether a "negative narrative" was taking hold, Coe
said: "I'm neither cavalier about this or overly sanguine. It
comes with the territory."
The biggest single problem in the runup to the Games has
been the shortage of guards to secure venues, after the company
G4S failed to meet its staffing targets and thousands of
extra soldiers were recruited to fill the gaps.
Transport delays also loom over the event, with border
officials going on strike on July 26 and train drivers in
central England walking out from Aug. 6-8 during the final week
of the Games.
Athletes as well as visitors could be caught up in the
disruptions, with Australia's cycling team due to arrive in
Britain on July 26.
"We are in discussions with LOCOG and they are aware of it,"
said Nick Green, Australian chef de mission. "If it does
eventuate I am sure LOCOG will have some plans in place to
ensure the athletes have a safe passage through."
Mayor Johnson was typically blunt in his appeal to the
public and media to concentrate on the positives.
"Oh come off it, everybody - enough whimpering," he wrote in
the Sun tabloid.
"Cut out the whining. And as for you whingers, put a sock in
it, fast. We are about to stage the greatest show on earth in
the greatest city on earth, and if you believe much of the media
we are all in the grip of paralysing stage fright."
Coe said he was looking forward to the sport, as more than
16,000 athletes from 204 countries descend on London and seek to
turn four years of hard training into medals.
The Olympic torch nears the end of its 8,000 mile journey
later on Friday when it arrives in the capital.
"The torch is arriving in London today, the sport will start
literally hours after the opening ceremony," he said. "That's
what we have spent seven years delivering and I think the teams
have done a pretty good job."
The emotion of competition will be matched by the human
drama behind many athletes contesting medals in 2012.
Some of the biggest names in sport are already in Britain
preparing for their big day, including Jamaican Usain Bolt, the
sprinter who stole the show in Beijing in 2008 by destroying the
world 100 and 200 metres records.
Less recognisable but with a story no less compelling,
Libya's small team will compete in judo, swimming, athletics and
weight-lifting despite the country's Olympic committee president
being kidnapped by gunmen in Tripoli on Sunday.
On Friday, French athlete Nour-Eddine Gezzar, who had been
selected to represent France in the steeplechase, was
provisionally suspended after failing a dope test.
Headlines about the sometimes bumpy road to the opening
ceremony have been concentrated largely in the local press, but
they have also spread further afield.
German weekly Der Spiegel, in its latest edition published
earlier this week, was highly critical of everything from the
rain to infrastructure. "London and the Olympic Games are not
made for each other," it opined.
In Britain on Friday, attention turned to the issue of
sponsorship when Coe was asked whether people would be allowed
to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with insignia for Pepsi, even
though its rival Coca-Cola is a sponsor.
Coe said he thought it probably would not be permitted, but
LOCOG later clarified his remarks.
"Any individual coming into our venues can wear any item of
clothing, branded or otherwise," said a spokesman. "The only
issue is if large groups come in together wearing clearly