“The 2012 Games will bring hope, then euphoria”
In retrospect I think I made one false prophecy at the Beijing Olympic Games a year ago. I said that the euphoria would soon die down, and that the memory of Team GB's amazing success would start to fade. I predicted that public attitudes to the London Olympics would curdle, and the murmur of complaint would turn into a roar. I warned that the press would be seized by a fit of Olympo-scepticism which would last until the Games were about to begin.
And then suddenly, just as the eyes of the world were turning to London, the mood would turn again, and the nation would be gripped by optimism and enthusiasm in 2012, just as they were in the summer of 2008.
Well, I still think the last bit is right. But I reckon I overdid my anxiety. I don't see quite the Olympo-scepticism that I feared. In spite of all our worries about the recession, the British and especially the London public remain broadly behind the Games.
Of course we are right to be worried about the cost. We must remain frank and ruthless in keeping the budget within the £9.3 billion envelope. But Londoners overwhelmingly understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are going to put on the greatest show on earth, and to use the investment to transform parts of London that have been neglected for decades.
I am determined to use these Olympics to help generate jobs, and to improve the whole city. Huge numbers of people will be making their contribution to the success of the Games, from Heathrow baggage-handlers to West End hotel staff, to those who will be helping to clean the streets in Greenwich.
We sometimes forget that the Games are not just happening in Stratford. There will be Olympic events at Wimbledon, Wembley, the O2 Arena, ExCeL, Earl's Court and Broxbourne. There will be the triathlon and open-water swimming in Hyde Park, the marathons and road cycle races criss-crossing London and a kind of Baywatch-meets-Canaletto scene in Whitehall, as we stage the beach volleyball on Horseguards Parade. There will be people celebrating and watching the Games across London.
In fact, we expect there will be so many relaxing in central London that we have set up a City Operations team to plan the event, and make sure that we improve the “look and feel” of the city, both in Games time and beyond. We have much to learn here from the people of Sydney, and the exuberant welcome they offered the world in 2000. Sydneysiders grasped the opportunity of the Games. They knew it would take over their city for a short time. Rather than fearing it, or trying to forget it, they embraced it and milked it for all it was worth.
We are going to harness the Olympics in London, and use them to drive change: more cycling, more trees, urban realm projects, championing the use of low-carbon vehicles — and that is before we have even discussed the amazing legacy transformation we plan for the Olympic Park and surrounding areas.
But there is an even greater opportunity. It is not just a question of preparing the city, and investing in our physical capital. We need to get ready ourselves. When the next host city looks back at London in 2016, I want them to feel a mixture of affection and respect. I want them to say, “How did they do that, then?” And the answer has got to be not just that we laid on a great show, in fantastic venues. The genius of the 2012 Games will lie in the attitude of Londoners, and the welcome we lay on.
That is why we need so many volunteers. We need 70,000 to handle the Olympics directly in the venues themselves, and already we have more than three times as many applicants.
But we need to think about the city as a whole, and the visitor experience across London. That is why I am today announcing the creation of a separate corps of “Host City Volunteers”. This is a chance for anyone, young and old, who wants to be involved in the Olympics, to put themselves forward.
They will be in the frontline of London's welcome to the world. Positioned at airports, key stations and the capital's visitor attractions, these volunteers will provide friendly and accessible assistance of all kinds. They will be fully trained and equipped, and they will tell the visitor how to get to the beach volleyball, or where the toilets are, or the cashpoint, or where to get a cup of coffee.
We will recruit these volunteers though a fair and transparent system, open to everyone. The recruitment process will start next year. If you are interested, there are two things you can do now. First, you can register at www.London.2012.com, so that you can be informed of all the opportunities and when the application process begins.
Second, you can think about volunteering now. There are so many reasons to do so, whether because you want to give something back to the community or because you want to keep your skills sharpened during tough economic times. Check out www.London.gov.uk/volunteer and see some of the opportunities available.
If you are unemployed, and interested in getting new skills which could help you into volunteering and even into work, you may be eligible to join the groundbreaking Personal Best programme on w.personalbestprogramme.co.uk.
I cannot tell you what a privilege it is for me, as Mayor, to be involved in setting up these Games. You can be, too.
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