Celebrating 1000 days to go until the London 2012 Games

Take your talent to the top – that’s the ethos of the Great Britons competition, a search for excellence launched to celebrate the London 2012 Games
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The Independent Online

In just 1000 days, the greatest sporting show on earth comes to town. The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will see 26 Olympic sports played in 34 venues by 10,500 athletes, and 20 Paralympic sports played in 21 venues by 4,200 athletes. The event will be relayed to the world by 20,000 members of the media and followed by billions of people around the globe on television and radio, with thousands watching in person. More than nine million tickets will be available for the venues in London and across the country.

Inspired by this celebration of sporting excellence, British Airways, the official airline partner of the London 2012 Games, has launched its own search for excellence, not just in sport but also in the areas of performing arts, music, fashion, art and design, innovation, and community. These six categories are the crux of BA’s nationwide search for Great Britons, talented individuals and groups who demonstrate the values associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and who strive to be the best in their chosen field. The judges are compiling a shortlist of people who are determined, competitive and courageous enough to follow their dreams and who have a burning desire to visit a place that could advance their career. But ultimately it’s the public who decide the winners for each round.

“British Airways’ Great Britons programme is a fantastic way to find and nurture the talent of the future,” says Sebastian Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). “It gives people of all ages and abilities the chance to fulfil their dreams, whether it’s a passionate cyclist who was inspired by Team GB in Beijing or a disabled person aiming to sail the Atlantic unassisted.

“London 2012’s vision is to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change and BA’s programme aligns itself perfectly with this vision.”

The Great Britons programme is open to everyone aged 16 and over and resident in the UK who needs support to develop their talent. The winners get free flights to BA destinations and use of its luxury Executive Club lounges, plus a winner’s pack, which includes a camcorder for recording their amazing journey.

There are few journeys more amazing than Denise Lewis’s. Lewis was a gold medallist in the Heptathlon at the Sydney 2000 Games, despite damaging her Achilles tendon just 12 weeks before.

“Before the injury, I was in the shape of my life,” she says. “Sydney felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I worked very hard for it.”

These days, Lewis is an ambassador for sport and one of the Great Britons judges. “I got involved in Great Britons because I’m an Olympian and I know what it takes to have a passion and to need someone’s support and help to realise your dream,” she explains.

“I want to be involved in inspiring not only sports people to get to the London 2012 Games, but also bringing the Olympic Games to regular people. If they can display Olympic values – goal setting and working hard towards these goals – then I want to be a part of that,” she adds.

A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP

“Thousands of people are already excited about the 2012 Games, and Great Britons is another brilliant way for them to get involved,” says Paul Deighton, chief executive of LOCOG. “We’re looking forward to hearing more inspiring stories of people striving to fulfill their dreams.”

“British Airways has a great heritage in supporting Britain during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Great Britons programme is just one of the fantastic ways in which BA is supporting the London 2012 Games,” adds Chris Townsend, Commercial Director of LOCOG.



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