By Tony Blair, the British prime minister (THE GUARDIAN, 23/01/07):
Exactly 2,012 days from today, the London Olympic games will get under way. I know that the opening ceremony on July 27 2012 will spark the same sense of excitement and joy that erupted across the country when we heard that, against all the odds, London’s bid had been successful. Everything leads to, and culminates in, a glorious festival of sport for Olympians and Paralympians. But it cannot end there. The enduring success of the games is measured in the years that follow, not in the time it takes for them to take place.
The 2012 games will be a catalyst for one of the most extensive urban and environmental regeneration programmes ever seen in the UK. The new Olympic Park under construction in the Lower Lea Valley will revive one of the most deprived areas in the country. Thousands of jobs will be created. Transport links will be transformed. Thousands of homes for key workers will be built. Parts of the landscape that have been wasteland will spring to life.
It is probably the case that the title of greenest games ever belongs to ancient Athens. But we can aspire to be the greenest games of the modern era. We will use sustainable building methods, renewable energy and low-emission transport, all with the purpose of reducing the carbon footprint.
We can be as confident about this as we can about the progress of the whole construction. London is further ahead at this stage in its preparations than any previous host city, as the International Olympic Committee itself said last year. In the nature of construction of this complexity, there will be obstacles that it is not yet possible to foresee. There will always be pessimists who claim every setback is a catastrophe. The same people no doubt said that even to bid was a waste of time. I am glad we ignored the doom-mongers then, and we will ignore them now.
That said, I fully understand the focus on the cost of the games. The Olympic Delivery Authority will be publishing its budget in the coming weeks. Financial planning remains ahead of Sydney, which submitted its budget two years before the games, and of Beijing, which waited four years after winning the bid to publish its budget.
The buildings will be there in time. The investment will be made. That is non-negotiable. With the focus shifting to the hard work of delivery, milestones like today provide a chance to reflect on just what the games will mean for Britain. London won a nail-biting contest because our bid was ambitious and inspirational. In particular, there was an unprecedented focus on the games’ legacy – the long-term benefits for local communities, the environment, the economy and sport.
What is also certain is that the games will focus the entire world’s attention on London and the UK. More countries will participate at the London games in 2012 than there are members of the UN. We will gain hugely from demonstrating to the world just what an outward-looking, dynamic, diverse and tolerant city and country London and Britain now are.
During the next 2,012 days we have the opportunity to send out a clear message to the world about British values. Staging the Olympic games in London, home to 200 different ethnic groups representing every faith and religion, will send a powerful message about tolerance and cultural understanding.
So the Olympic games are an extraordinary opportunity. We are privileged to have been given this chance and we must now strive together to make the most of it, for the benefit of future generations.