Only a few curmudgeonly columnists are still reluctant to acknowledge the triumph of the London 2012 Games. Now it’s the legacy. As a former newspaper editor – and by necessity a professional sceptic – I would have been the first to say it’s taking too long, not enough of this or that. But I can’t. Something extraordinary is happening and will take people by surprise, just as the Games did last year.
Yes, it’s true that parts of the Olympic Park still look like a building site. But building sites are signs of progress. The Stadium, Zaha Hadid’s swooping Aquatic Centre and so much more are glowing under the eye of the Orbit. All eight Olympic venues have secure long-term futures. Which other host city achieved that within one year?
East London’s regeneration has been brought forward decades. From Stratford to Lower Lee Valley to the Royal Docks, we are building 11,000 homes, and creating 8,000 new jobs. London has secured billions of investment since 2012. Visitor numbers in 2012 were 5 per cent up and reports for 2013 are of even bigger increases.
Sport is flourishing, not just with new events like Prudential RideLondon, the Mayor’s weekend festival of cycling, but also more than 2.4 million Londoners are participating in sport every week, up 171,000 in the past 18 months. The Mayor’s Sports Legacy Programme has dished out £16.5m so far to 76 sports projects across London.
And then there are the volunteers. They did something great for their city. Even the genius at LOCOG who first had the idea of using volunteers to help make the Games happen could not have predicted that she would prompt a revolution. Future Olympic cities will be thanking her for years to come.
Polls show that those who did not volunteer wish they had. And those who did, are continuing to give their time and skills. Almost two-thirds of 2012 volunteers were motivated to carry on with voluntary work after the Games.
I have been living with the Olympics for nearly 10 years now. I still remember that day, second by second, in July 2005 when I was editor of the Evening Standard and London won the bid. So, slip away a little early from work tomorrow and come to the Olympic Park. The Mayor’s Team London, working with the national sports charity Join In, is hosting Go Local, the first major Legacy event.
Some of the magic of 2012 will be back, with Olympians, Paralympians, and acts from the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Summer 2013 will be just as special, in a different way. You too can be part of this amazing afternoon. And you might even be inspired and do something great for your city and your country.