Today is a significant milestone. The Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park is complete and Jacque Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), will officially invite athletes from around the world to compete in London.
On this date next year, 27 July 2012, all eyes from around the world will be on Stratford as the Opening Ceremony takes place in the Olympic Stadium at the start of the London 2012 Games. This is when the UK and particularly the capital will be in the spotlight and all those years of hard work – from the bid to the construction of the venues and the planning of the Games – will have paid off as the Games get underway.
A year out from the Games, London 2012 is in good shape. At the recent International Olympic Committee session in Durban, both the IOC President and the Chairman of the Co-ordination Commission were very complimentary of the progress London has made. Much credit must go to the Olympic Delivery Authority for what has been a great success story for the British construction industry. The area around Stratford has been totally transformed which will benefit local residents for years to come.
As the construction phase for London 2012 draws to a close, attention will turn to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG). I totally understand and sympathise with those fans that were left disappointed by missing out on securing a ticket. The simple facts are that demand far outstripped supply but there will be further opportunities to experience the London 2012 magic when the Paralympic tickets go on sale in September and the final tranche of Olympic tickets reach the market next year.
The expectations for our athletes to deliver will be high on the back of some outstanding performances at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. For those athletes fortunate enough to be selected for next summer’s Games, this will be the pinnacle of their sporting careers. It’s one thing representing your country at an Olympic and Paralympic Games, but to be doing it in front of a home crowd will be something special and I know the fans will play a big part in making sure that home advantage counts.
I have tried to get round to as many sports as possible and will continue to do so in the build up to London 2012. I am confident that we will have the best prepared Team GB in history. Repeating the success of 47 medals in Beijing will be a huge challenge but much credit has to go to UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and the governing bodies for their work in supporting the athletes then and in the run up to London 2012.
The Government has played its part too. Despite the tough economic climate, Jeremy Hunt and myself ensured that public funding for elite athletes would be untouched in the Spending Review last autumn. Our reform of the Lottery also means more money will go to sport. This will mean that funding for elite athletes will not fall off a cliff edge post-London 2012. It will be maintained, leave a legacy for elite sport and help us field a strong, competitive Team GB in Rio in 2016.
I think it is also important for me to take this opportunity to thank my parliamentary colleagues involved in the bid and especially my predecessor, Tessa Jowell. The cross-party political consensus, forged at the time of the bid, has been a constant factor throughout the delivery of the London 2012 project.
Next year will be a momentous one for the country. The Olympics is the greatest sporting show on earth and I am confident we will put on a Games of which this country, and the Olympic movement, can be proud.
A Question of Sports Minister
To mark One Year to Go, Hugh Robertson has answered your questions about the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in our feature A Question of Sports Minister.