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IOC says London ready to welcome the world

By John Mehaffey

LONDON (Reuters) - London is fully prepared to welcome the world at this year's summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Friday following the 10th and final visit of its inspection commission.

"We still have 119 days to go but I can tell you that London is ready to welcome the world," IOC commission chairman Denis Oswald told a news conference in London. "Seven years ago in Singapore the London team presented a very strong Olympic and Paralympic bid.

"It was a vision and we are really pleased that this vision is becoming reality. We can feel that London is feeling the fever of the Games."

Oswald said seven recent test events had been successfully conducted.

"The preparations are going on, a lot of volunteers are in full training to help the athletes and the public and the different people involved in the Games," he said.

"The cultural program is also nearly ready. We are in no doubt that this summer will be a summer like no other in Britain."

Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of the London organizing committee (LOCOG), said approximately one million more Games tickets would go on sale after the draw for the soccer tournament had been made on April 24.

One-and-a-half million tickets would then be available for the soccer and a further 1.5 million for the Paralympics.

BHOPAL PROTEST

"As we finalize the seating plan more seats will become available during the Games," he said.

Deighton also said he was "strongly confident" that LOCOG would not request any more funding from the government.

Some two dozen activists gathered in the square outside the building where the news conference was hosted in protest against Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the Games.

Campaigners say 25,000 people died in the years following a gas leak at a pesticides factory in the Indian city of Bhopal in 1984. Dow bought the plant's owners Union Carbide and the campaigners have demanded they boost a compensation package for those affected by the disaster.

Responding to a question asking if he would meet with campaigners, LOCOG chairman Seb Coe said: "The answer is yes, actually there have been ongoing exchanges for some time."

Oswald said the IOC realized what a tragedy Bhopal had been.

"We have a lot of sympathy for what is happening but we know that Dow was not the owner at the time of this accident and we know that LOCOG is engaged with them," he said.

(Editing by Clare Fallon; john.mehaffey@reuters.com; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging john.mehaffey.reuters.com@reuters.net:))

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