Work begins on London's Olympic Park

Work began Thursday to turn an industrial wasteland into the centerpiece of the London 2012 Olympics.

Cranes began removing 52 electricity pylons across the 202-hectare (500-acre) site in Stratford, a run-down area in east London. The area will be converted into a park housing the main 80,000-seat Olympic stadium, a velodrome, aquatics center, various other venues and the athletes' village.

The pylons support 13 kilometers (8 miles) of overhead electricity lines, which will be relocated to underground tunnels. The project is scheduled to finish in 2009.

"This marks the start of something big," Britain's Olympic Minister Tessa Jowell said. "The tunneling work we are setting in motion today marks the first stage of the transformation of the Olympic Park to make it a home fit for the 2012 games."

This week also marks the formal establishment of the Olympic Delivery Authority, the body responsible for building the infrastructure for the games.

ODA chief executive David Higgins said officials are determined to avoid the delays involved in the construction of the new Wembley Stadium. Wembley was scheduled to be finished by late 2005, but officials announced last week that the venue will not be ready until next year.

"The ODA has a big challenge ahead to deliver the infrastructure required for the games," Higgins said. "I am confident we can do the job and _ as importantly _ that we can leave a lasting legacy that will improve people's lives for decades to come."