Ten years ago, London hadn’t been selected as host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It didn’t even look like we would be – in late 2004, Paris and Madrid were still leading the running. Our capital was all set to fill the “plucky loser” role played by so many British Olympians throughout history.
Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine that such doubts ever existed. In 2012 London staged what were, without doubt, the greatest Games in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movement.
But the bid was always going to be about more than a fantastic summer of sport. Right from the starting gun we were clear that the Games must bring a great legacy for London. And as I toured the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Wednesday, it was clear that we have delivered.
A decade on, this once run-down corner of East London has been transformed. The final homes are now on sale in what was the Olympic Village, creating a thriving, vibrant and affordable new community. New shops and business are creating dozens of jobs for local people. Organisations from BT Sport to University College London have based themselves in studios and offices.
And that’s before I even mention the sport. Professional athletes like Tom Daley are using the Aquatics Centre alongside thousands of local adults and schoolchildren. The London Lions basketball team are playing to sell-out crowds in the Copper Box. This weekend, some of the world’s top track cyclists will be taking to the velodrome for the first races of the Revolution series. And next year the stadium will host the Rugby World Cup, with top-flight football set to arrive in 2016.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about Olympic-sized white elephants. We’ve all seen the pictures of abandoned villages, empty stadiums and boarded-up venues. But not in London.
Great Britain won more than 60 Olympic and Paralympic gold medals in 2012. And when it comes to delivering a lasting legacy, we’ve shown ourselves to be champions once again.