Women's football to kick off Olympic schedule

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A women's football match in Wales will kick off the 2012 Olympics programme a full two days before the flame is lit in London for 'the greatest show on earth'.

The competition schedule with dates, times and prices for the 19-day sporting extravaganza was published online on Tuesday after years of planning and exactly a month before 6.6 million public tickets go on sale.

The very first event will be more around 200km away to the west at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which hosts a preliminary match for the women's football tournament on July 25.

While elite athletes around the world had their first look at the official timetable, ordinary citizens across Britain could start planning their own once-in-a-lifetime experience as spectators.

London's first glimpse of Olympic action will be the unticketed men's and women's archery individual ranking round at Lord's cricket ground on July 27, hours before the formal opening ceremony watched by an estimated global television audience of 4 billion.

The Games proper will start with a gunshot, if not heard around the world then at least opening the men's 10m air pistol and women's 10m air rifle shooting at the Royal Artillery Barracks on July 28.

Those events in south-east London are also set to provide the first of the Games' 302 medals.

Prices ranged from a symbolic but stratospheric £2,012 for the best seat at the opening ceremony to £20.12 for the cheapest on the night.

The schedule lists more than 670 sessions at 34 venues in 26 sports, with some 2.5 million tickets priced at £20 or less and children enjoying a "pay your age" scheme.

Other events, such as the two marathons and cycling's road races, will be free to watch.


"Publishing the Olympic sports competition schedule means that everyone - athletes, coaches, spectators, broadcasters and everybody who wants to be part of London 2012 can now start planning their Games," said London Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG) chairman Sebastian Coe.

"The Olympic Games is the greatest show on earth... the world's greatest athletes in every one of the 26 Olympic sports are now honing their preparation to a specific point of time on a specific date in July and August 2012.

"Families up and down the country can now plan their summer of 2012," added the former Olympic champion.

"Our message to the public is clear - the superstars of twenty six world sports are coming to the UK and you have the chance to say 'I was there'."

Cycling, with home medal hopes including 2008 triple champion Chris Hoy, athletics and aquatics look like being the most oversubscribed events.

Britain will hope to strike gold on the first weekend, with cyclists Mark Cavendish and 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke in the men's and women's road races on July 28 and 29.

The men's marathon, starting and finishing outside the Queen's residence of Buckingham Palace, will set off at 1100 local on the final day, August 12, after the women's event on the fifth.

The marathon route passes many of the capital's best-known landmarks, avoiding the main stadium in a deprived area of east London.

If Australia's most successful Olympian Ian Thorpe succeeds in his plans for a comeback, his first appearance poolside in the wave-shaped aquatics centre could be on July 29 for the initial 200 metres freestyle heats.

Swimming's medal races revert to the familiar evening schedule after being held controversially in the morning in Beijing four years ago to accommodate U.S. television audiences rewarded with Michael Phelps's record eight golds.

In athletics, towering Jamaican champion and world record holder Usain Bolt should be the big attraction in the 100 metres final in the early evening of August 5. Ticket prices for what promises to be an epic night in the Olympic Stadium range from £50 to £725.

Coventry, Glasgow's Hampden Park, Manchester United's Old Trafford and Newcastle's St. James' Park also host football preliminaries before the flame is lit at the Olympic Stadium, West Ham United's future home.

Tickets go on sale from March 15 to April 26, with those for oversubscribed sessions allocated via a ballot rather than a first come, first served basis.