London 2012: Interview with the British Ambassador
Why did London want to host the Olympics?
The Olympics are an outstanding advert for the UK - it’s not just about inspirational performances from the world’s greatest athletes but it’s about Britain welcoming the world and a unique opportunity for millions of people from across the globe to come together to share an unforgettable experience.
To quote PM Cameron in Trafalgar Square in July he said "the 2012 Games are about three things: Great Sport, Great Legacy and Great Britain."
Is London already prepared to host the Olympics? If not, when do you expect to finalise everything?
Since winning the bid a lot has been done to ensure the Olympics in London is a spectacular sporting, social and cultural event. The Olympic Park is on time and within budget with all the major venues on the Olympic Park complete.
What makes London 2012 unique compared to the previous Games?
The London 2012 bid was unique as for the first time the Olympics and Paralympics were integrated in one bid. Disability access was incorporated in the design and structure of the buildings, open space and public transport and the UK plans to host the most accessible and sustainable Games ever.
Have you attended any Olympics in the past? If more than one, which one did you enjoy most and why?
No, but I already have tickets for 2012 - for the handball tournament, a sport I’m not at all familiar with, so I’ll be learning something new as well as enjoying the Olympics atmosphere.
Britain’s know-how in environmentally friendly production, city-planning and efficient management is paramount. Could you tell us more about the approach you follow?
It is all about delivering the first truly "green" Games by pioneering new recycling and construction methods to reduce carbon footprint making London 2012 one of the greenest Games ever.
The London Games will be sustainable which means for instance using low carbon emissions building the Olympic Park and venues, producing little waste during the constructions stages and where possible recycling materials.
For instance five soil-washing machines have successfully been cleaning one million cubic metres of contaminated soil; more than 2.220 buildings were demolished with over 90% of the materials being recycled.
How do Olympic Games fit in the global economic environment?
We are very much looking forward to welcoming top athletes from around the globe but the Games will not just be the focal point for a short-live sporting event: the legacy left behind will stretch far beyond the last athlete packing up their shoes and heading home.
The park itself provides a lot of investment opportunities from new housing developments to incubator space for start-up companies to prime real estate locations. It’s a unique opportunity to highlight the rest of the UK’s investment potential and UK businesses to sell their expertise, innovation and professionalism to the world can’t be missed.
It’s a real opportunity to showcase the best of Britain to the rest of the world.
How do you judge the governmental expenditures on the Olympics?
Costs are estimated to be around £9 billion. Creating the Olympic venues and making sure the right infrastructures are in place for the Games will primarily be funded by public money - taxes.
The Games itself will be funded mainly by the private sector and our elite athletes are being supported by government and lottery funding. Given the huge impact on the local area - and the national legacy in terms of motivating young people to become more physically active, I think its money well spent.
How will London 2012 boost the British economy?
It’s a major boost to the economy and we have created a lot of jobs for people - 98% of all Olympic park contracts went to UK based companies. The Olympics and Paralympics have given British business access to £6 billion of contracts to building and supply the games.
The Olympics will help to boost our international reputation and will position Britain as a pioneer in sustainability and cutting edge design.
What will Britain look like after the Olympics?
I visit the UK frequently and I can already see lots of changes - all for the best. We are creating 250 acres of new parklands on former industrial land with 4.000 new semi-mature trees taking root in the Olympic Park and Olympic Village.
We are creating new habitats for species including otter, kingfisher, grey heron, bat, lizard, frogs, toads, water role, slow worm etc.
Some examples of infrastructure improvements are the extension of London Underground’s East London line and a number of upgrades to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) as well as improved access to public transport for the disabled.
How many additional jobs will have been created till the end of the London 2012?
The Games are delivering a major economic boost to the UK - 40.000 people and 1.500 compares have been hired creating thousands of jobs. The Games are expected to bring £2 billing in tourism and with global audiences of up to 4 billion expected.
It’s a real opportunity to promote UK trade and investment overseas.
How many visitors / tourists do you expect during the Olympics?
We will be welcoming millions of visitors to the UK during the Olympics. From the Netherlands about 1,7million Dutch visit UK every year - that is more than 10% of the Dutch population who travel to Britain - and I hope it’s going to be more during the Games.
How do Dutch and internationals in the Netherlands perceive London 2012?
I can’t answer that but what I can tell you is through my contacts with those involved in the Dutch bid to host the Olympics in the future as well as personal contacts that they are very enthusiastic about the Games.
The officials who are involved in the bid to get the Games to NL are interested to learn about the UK’s experience so they too can have a successful bid.