Special Report: With just one week to go until it all begins are the people of Norfolk excited about the Olympic Games?

Seven years of planning, waiting, anticipation, expectation and preparation will come to an end next week when the greatest sporting show on earth gets under way in London.

The eyes of the world will be on Great Britain when the London 2012 Olympic Games officially begin with the opening ceremony next Friday evening.

Years of hard work and dedication will come to fruition as athletes from around the globe shed blood, sweat and tears over the two weeks.

There will be moments of glory, heartache, joy and fury as medals are won and lost.

Aside from the sporting action, businesses which have been involved in the project will see the fruits of their labour, thousands of volunteers will work like Trojans to ensure the event runs smoothly and ticket- holders will have the chance to see the action live.


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It is an exciting time not only for the athletes but for all those involved in making the Games happen – and for the nation as a whole as the Olympics are held in this country for the first time in 64 years.

A buzz of excitement has been felt across Norfolk in the build-up to the spectacle.

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More than a quarter of a million people lined the streets of the county to see the Olympic torch, schools have hosted their own opening ceremonies, traditional sports days have been turned into mini summer Olympics Games and people have been inspired to get out and be active.

British flags can be spotted flying proudly outside people's homes ahead of the much-anticipated event and people have made plans for meeting up with friends and family to watch some of the action.

But, there are some people who 'cannot wait' for it all to be over. There have been complaints from those who missed out on tickets, controversy over elements of the sponsorship deals associated with the Olympic park and people have complained it has been a 'major spend'.

Britain's summer weather has done little to lift spirits and the fiasco over GS4's failure to recruit enough security staff failed to improve some people's attitude towards the Games.

Even so, the people of Norfolk seem ready to embrace the Games and get behind our Olympians.

Simon Wright, Norwich South MP, said: 'Despite the fact that I won't be going, I'm excited about the event and will be keeping an eye on what's going on.

'It's an incredibly exciting moment for the whole country and it's really putting Britain in the global spotlight and giving everyone a real boost, whether you are involved directly or indirectly, whether you've got children who have been taking part in school activities or if you are a business that's been fortunate enough to have won some of the business that's gone along with staging the event.'

Ralph Gayton, Lord Mayor of Norwich, said he will be watching the athletics but would like to see Team GB do well in all sports.

'It's a spectacle,' he said. 'I normally watch as much as I can and I hope we will do well. I'm looking forward to it.

'I think the torch relay captured people's imagination and brought the Games to people individually and personally. I think the torch demonstrated that people are interested and I think it will be good for the country if it is successful.'

Norfolk and north Suffolk have some strong contenders for the Olympics in the form of Norwich-born windsurfer Nick Dempsey, Pott Row's steeplechaser Barbara Parker, Norwich cyclist Emma Pooley, Diss judoka Colin Oates, Lowestoft boxer Anthony Agogo and former Norwich schoolgirl and fencer Anna Bentley. A host of companies have also been fortunate enough to have won Olympic contracts, including coach firm Simonds of Botesdale, Trade Electricals Direct (Ted), which is part of the Hughes Electrical Group, and Salix River and Wetland Services in Croxton, near Thetford.

And there are people across the county who have individual and personal reasons for getting excited about the Games, including Fakenham grandmother Jennifer Wright who is volunteering, Hayley Gerrard, from Norwich, who has tickets for the 50-kilometre race walk – the event in which her grandfather won gold in 1936 – and Hainford's Gina Atherton who is set to perform in the opening ceremony.

And in Norwich, people will be able to watch all the action on the live screen in Chapelfield Plain – one of just a handful of live sites in the country.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, who will be watching the badminton and cycling as well as other sports, said she thought the Olympics will provide a 'great opportunity' for the county.

She said: 'I'm excited about the Olympic and Paralympic Games and I've got the chance to watch one event at both.

'It's a great chance to show off what we've got and crucially to get things moving in the economy. A lot of people will be coming into the country, buying things and using British companies and that means there's a lot of economic opportunity which is very important.

'In Norfolk and Norwich we also stand to benefit from the Olympics because of our rail link to Stratford. Having led the campaign for improved services, we want to see a good performance on that line during the Olympic Games.'

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP, added: 'As you get the train into London you can see this fantastic site which has been developing week by week and month by month, and it's now the most amazing place. It will be fantastic for the country to be hosting it and I am totally positive about it.

'I'm also very hopeful the Games will act as a spur for people to get active and involved in sport – that will be a very positive legacy for it as well.

'I'm very disappointed David Beckham isn't playing, as I think that after what he did to bring the Games here, he would really have raised the profile of the football.

'But I'm looking forward to the whole mixture. It's a rich tapestry of so many different sports, but as a cyclist myself I will be looking forward to that. However, I think they will be going a little faster than me.'

kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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