For the first time in over 60 years London will be in the global spotlight as it hosts the 2012 Olympic Games. There has been a real drive to deliver the promises it made which has included ambitious plans to regenerate a large part of East London which is to be the home of the Olympic Village. With the Games coming ever closer, we spoke to Seb Coe, the Chair for The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) which is responsible for preparing and staging the London 2012 Games. Seb Coe, a British double Olympic Champion having won gold at both the 1980 and 1984 Games for the 1 500 metres, explains what impact he hopes the London Olympics will have on the UK.
As part of the London 2012 Olympics plans there has been significant regeneration of East London. What do you see as being the main achievements?
I hope the Games will leave the UK public with some fantastic memories of world class sport and of a country which stepped up to the plate to host and celebrate fantastic Olympic and Paralympic Games. In purely physical terms, a large area of London will be reborn, with new communities created and much needed state of the art sporting venues which will be available for elite and community use.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games have brought a generation’s worth of investment and regeneration in just a few years. World class sporting facilities, new housing, a new urban park, the new Westfield (shopping) development and improved transport links have combined to create almost a brand new community in the area. I’m proud that the Games have been the catalyst for this and on top of it all, there will be an extraordinary atmosphere – a real ‘I was there’ type summer.
The Olympic Games is a symbol for peace and cohesion. In the time of crisis, our cities are facing increased social tensions as seen during the riots in London last summer. Do you think London 2012 Olympics will bring local and regional cohesion? What efforts have been taken to encourage social inclusion and engage local communities within the event?
London is a fantastically diverse city and we are keen to showcase this to the rest of the world. We want to ensure that we fully and honestly represent the British culture and all its different communities in all aspects of the Games. And the Games offer a huge chance to bring people and cultures from around the world together. The practice of sport in the community can break down barriers to social isolation and participation, and provide greater social cohesion which can give people hope and better alternatives. It is the hidden social worker in all our communities.
Our London 2012 Community Relations programme works to ensure that London’s communities are excited, inspired and engaged in the Games. Given London’s diversity we aim to deliver a range of engagement opportunities in order to reach a breadth and depth of stakeholders. Through our Advocate and Host Borough community relations communications we aim to inform and engage with communities about many London 2012 opportunities including jobs, business, tickets and related events.
London and the rest of the UK will really come alive this summer and we’re thrilled we can show everyone what London and the rest of the UK are all about. It’s fantastic to see how many people in the UK and around the world are inspired by, benefiting from and delivering London 2012 and we look forward to having many more join the journey over the next few weeks.
Major sporting events, such as the Olympics, can bring significant social and economic benefits to a city, yet there are concerns about the long term economic impact. What financial benefits do you hope the 2012 Olympics will bring to the city? Do the economic benefits outweigh the negatives considering the current economic climate?
We strongly believe the Games will bring last economic benefits to London and the rest of the UK. Last year Visa, one of London 2012’s worldwide partners, issued a report stating that the UK economy was set to benefit from a record breaking spending injection during the London 2012 Games. Consumer spending is set to hit £750 million, the biggest ever consumer spend at an Olympic and Paralympic Games. The budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority, the organisation responsible for building the venues on the Olympic Park, is £9.3 billion. 75 pence in every £1 spent in that budget is being used on the regeneration of the area of east London where the Olympic Park is based, helping leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
We also wanted to make sure that we only build venues which would be needed in long-term legacy, which is why we are using a combination of newly-built, existing venues and temporary venues for the London 2012 Games. About four years ago, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (the OPLC) was set up to help manage the venues in legacy time. Our vision has always been to leave a lasting legacy and we wanted to ensure that we would only build permanent venues on the Park that would used long after the Games are over, by people across London and the rest of the UK. The OPLC recently announced that several venues on the Olympic Park had already found tenants in legacy-time. The area in east London where the Olympic Park has been completely regenerated and a whole new community has been created. The fantastic permanent venues on the Olympic Park will provide a great legacy to communities across London.
Finally, £6.5billion has been invested in improving and expanding transport capacity and reliability. Again, this is something which will benefit Londoners and others around the UK for generations to come.