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Prime Minister's speech on the London 2012 Olympics

"For me, that vision is about buildings, about people, about sport and about the economy, about legacy and inspiration for the future - and I want us to break records on every one."

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Speech by Prime Minister David Cameron on the Olympics legacy, at Loughborough University on Thursday 5 July, 2012.


Well thank you very much for that introduction and it really is great to be here at this fabulous university that does a fantastic job as a university, but also is the headquarters for Team GB.  And I don’t know about all of you but I really feel that the pace is quickening, the sense of excitement is growing.  That sense of anticipation about what is going to come is really beginning to hit me. 

I think the whole country is beginning to really feel that sense of excitement and the next few weeks are going to be simply amazing.  We are going to remember them all of our lives and our children will certainly remember them too.  These are four weeks in a British summer that are going to be like no other four weeks in a British summer.  They will be about  making the most of our country, being everything it can be and being at the centre of the world’s attention.

I think there is a lot to be proud of when it comes to these Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The bidding team and the last Government did a great job winning them for Britain and a great job getting them off the ground.  The Government I lead picked up the baton and I think has kept up the pace.  But of course there is another team that matters far more right now.

Later today I’m going to be seeing members of Team GB.  Their dedication is humbling.  I’ve already had the privilege of seeing some of them train.  But what I think counts is not just their immense skill, but that incredible commitment: putting in the effort day in, day out, carrying the torch for Britain - and winning.  And before anything else I want to thank every one of them for their efforts.  I know they will do us proud.  I’ll be cheering Team GB on all the way and I know the whole country and everyone in this hall will be too.

Meeting the challenge

So, I think, we are all set for what should be an outstanding Games.  And along the way there have been all sorts of challenges to overcome.  When you think back to that moment in 2005 when we all cheered the success of London’s bid, there was that immense sense of pride.  But there was also some anxiety.  Would they be worth it?  Would the venues be completed on time?  Would the public really get onboard with the Games?  I think most of all, people were asking, would the Games bring the whole nation together and not just be a festival for London?

I’m not saying there are not big challenges to meet in the remaining days.  But predominantly the answer to all those questions I just posed, I think, is a resounding ‘yes’.

The Olympic Park is ready and it looks absolutely stunning.  The teams are arriving.  Our Games are on time and under budget and we are going to keep it that way.  And they are reaching all parts of our country with 37 Games venues and 200 training camps across every part of Britain.  And just look at the brilliant success of the Olympic Torch relay.  I think it really says something extraordinary about Britain.  Huge crowds, everywhere - like here in Loughborough, two days ago - already getting on for seven million people, more than anyone expected, have stood in the sun but mainly in the rain to cheer on their local heroes, the doers and the givers in society.

Think of that incredibly moving scene in Doncaster last week, when Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson defied his terrible injuries inflicted in conflict to carry the torch through the streets of his own hometown.  The Torch has shown the Games are not just about London, or England.  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all really embraced the torch relay and the Games.  There have been incredibly moving scenes and I think the whole United Kingdom has pulled together.

Of course, there’s still more to get right as the Games start.  There are going to be hiccups, there will be last minute worries and last minute challenges to overcome.  However well prepared we are, some things will come as a surprise.  For example, the crowds and strain on our transport system, for which we will all have to make allowances.  So we have got to be prepared for everything.

But now isn’t the moment to talk things down.  It’s a great trait in our national character that we can be quite self-deprecating but I think there’s no need to think that anyone - or any country - could have done these Games better.  We are doing these Games brilliantly and we are doing them in Britain and we should be proud of that.

So now we need to go beyond the question, ‘Can we stage an outstanding Olympics and Paralympics?’ because I believe we can and we will.  Instead we have to start answering the next question that matters just as much, which is, ‘How do we make the most of the Games?’  Not just in terms of medals won and visitors given a warm welcome, vital as those things are, but how much can we do in making the momentum of these Games last.  That, I think, is the biggest challenge ahead of us now.

For me, that vision is about buildings, it’s about people, it’s about sport, it’s about the economy, it’s about legacy, it’s about inspiration for the future - and frankly I want us to break records on every single one of them.

Olympic Park

So let’s start with the things we are building and the places that we are creating.  Our inspiration should be the Great Exhibition of 1851, when the personal drive of one man, Prince Albert, created South Kensington - a new quarter of our capital that became a home to art, to science and to technology.  London 2012 needs to match that - and I believe it will.

When our bid won, we promised to use the Games to transform a derelict part of east London and to leave the city with better transport, new homes and busy venues.  Now, already, the benefits have been huge.  46,000 people worked on the Olympic Park during construction.  UK-based companies have won more than £6.5 billion worth of contracts.  And 75% of every pound spent on Olympic construction has gone towards regeneration. 

Unlike many past Games, there’s no last minute panic with the paintbrush and we can concentrate on what comes next.  I don’t think any other Games before has ever prepared for the future quite like this.  Thanks to the work of two governments, the Games organisers and the Mayors, six of the eight major venues have operators ready for after the Games and the other two will follow this year.

This is important; it is not some distant prospect.  The first venues, having been used for the Olympics, will open to the public in 2013, helping create an estimated 10,000 extra jobs at the Park alone.  Take one example, the Aquatic Centre, which I have been to see myself: incredibly impressive.  We expect that to be used by 800,000 people a year after the Games - everyone from local families to our best sporting talent.  It is an incredible piece of physical legacy that we will really benefit from as a country.  And with a mix of permanent and temporary facilities that we’ve chosen, we will only be left with what we can use.  We really meant it when we said no white elephants.


But I wouldn’t be happy if all the Games left us could be summed up in steel and concrete.  When I talk about what the Games can do for Britain, I don’t just mean the physical structures that can be left behind.  I also mean the chance to strengthen our society, to give people a way to help others.  And our inspiration for that should perhaps be the Olympics of 1948 and the Stoke Mandeville Games that were held alongside.  A moment when the world came together after war and those who had been wounded proved that disability was no barrier to success.  And which led to the Paralympics, the second-largest sporting event on earth and another incredible part of this summer. 

The lasting benefits of London 2012 can be just as great.  Already from Jubilee street parties to the Olympic Torch, this summer has unlocked a spirit of sharing that some thought might have gone for good.  When the organisers of London 2012 asked people to volunteer, an incredible number went ahead: almost a quarter of a million people put their names forward.  Of those 70,000 people - 70,000 people - have been chosen, contributing 8 million hours of volunteering.  On top of that, 8,000 Londoners have signed up to be Ambassadors welcoming visitors to the city and 15,000 local leaders are helping communities celebrate the Games.  That is people from right across the country, giving their time for free.  Without them London 2012 would simply not be possible.

And the point is this: if we can do this during the Games, why can’t we keep doing it for our society when they are over?  Not government telling people what to do - that won’t work - but the Games inspiring communities to do things to help themselves. 
It starts next month, the weekend after the Games end when the Join In Trust is aiming to get as many sports clubs as possible to open their doors to invite people to take part and volunteer.  Already, in just over a month, more than 1,000 events have signed up. 

School sport

And that leads to one area in particular where the Olympic spirit of taking part can make a real difference to young people.  And that is school sport and helping to drive participation in sport itself.  Sustaining the momentum of the Games means opening people’s eyes to the possibility of sport.  Getting young people to follow their heroes and to take part and to get schools to take part as well and to make sure that this includes local clubs.

Our inspiration here can be London’s first Olympics of 1908, which saw the Games blossom in their modern form as rules were written, teams competed in a purpose-built stadium and paraded under their national flags for the first time helping sport become something that could be shared by everyone.  Some of the barriers that hold young people back are in their minds, about imagined barriers of aspiration and confidence.  The Olympics are a chance to break them down.

I’m not claiming that one Olympics will turn every child into tomorrow’s Mo Farah or Victoria Pendleton.  But just look where our great athletes have come from.  Seb Coe started running with the Hallamshire Harriers.  Amir Khan started boxing at Bury ABC.  Sport can really change lives.

So why is it that in so many schools, sport has been squeezed out and facilities run down?  The result is that in too many cases it’s independent schools producing more than their fair share of medal winners and too many children thinking taking part in sport just isn’t for them.

We’ve got to change that.  So we’re putting £1 billion into youth sport, including a massive expansion of after-school clubs for children who don’t think sport is for them.  Already, we’ve got 3,000 secondary and 4,500 primary sports clubs underway and I want to see 13,500 by 2015.

It’s not just about helping young people develop a sporting habit for life.  We’ve got to nurture the best talents for the future too.  I think it’s fantastic that more than 14,000 schools signed up to the Olympic-style School Games programme in its first year - that was from a standing start to a huge number of schools, 14,000 - and that 1,600 of our best young athletes took part in the inaugural School Games finals at the Olympic Park a couple of months ago.  I want to see that competition grow, I want to see it become a fixture in the lives of young people in our country.


Now there’s a further reason why the Games have got to be great for Britain, too.  They should be great for our economy.  We shouldn’t see them - and this is really vital - we shouldn’t see them as some sort of expensive luxury in tough times.  Because in my view it’s precisely because times are tough that we have got to get everything we can out of these Games to support jobs and to support growth in the economy.

And that is my personal mission for London 2012.  Because we have built the solid foundations for a successful Games, we are able to focus our efforts on making sure they’re a real boost for Britain.  That is what I’m going to be devoting my energy to: making sure that we turn these Games into gold for Britain.  Our inspiration here perhaps should be the Festival of Britain 1951, which was a showcase of national enterprise and innovation.  Now, as then, we really need to drum up business for Britain.  We need to sell Britain to the world on the back of British success.

No other country in the world has the chance to put on this show and to profit from it in the next few years like we do.  That’s why during the Games I’m hosting a Global Investment Conference and 17 Global Business Summits.  They will bring British businesses together with potential investors and trading partners from around the world.  I expect to see benefits to the British economy of over £1 billion.  I am confident that we can derive over £13 billion of benefit to the UK economy over the next four years as a result of hosting these Games.

I am certain that when you add in the benefits from construction the total gain will be even greater.  For instance, a study by Lloyds Bank published this week found the Games will contribute £16.5 billion to the economy by 2017.  Put that another way, that is more than the cost of holding the Games in the first place.  Already firms here in the East Midlands have won contracts for £360 million.

It’s great to see Sir John Armitt here today, and I’d like to personally congratulate him for all the work that he’s done to deliver such a superb set of stadia and Games.  Thank you very much.  As you say, John, in your report today, it is vital that we don’t allow the rules on Olympic marketing to block companies from making the most of that success.  So we’re working with the British Olympic Association and the IOC to make sure that Olympic marketing rules don’t get in the way.

It’s through things like this that the Games can help to ignite that vital spark of enterprise, helped too by things like StartUp Loans, nurturing the next generation of British business and today backed by Regus, who are offering help to 30,000 young entrepreneurs by giving them office space for free to help start their businesses.

We’ve already said that we can expect the Games to boost tourism to the UK, bringing in more than 4.5 million extra visitors and that’s £2.3 billion worth of spending over the next four years.  That alone will contribute to the creation of an extra 70,000 new jobs.

It will also, I believe, lead to a better reputation for Britain.  As part of the run-in to London 2012, we launched the GREAT campaign and I hope you’ve all seen the posters and the advertisements not just here, but being broadcast from all over the world.  From the sides of buses in Berlin to skyscrapers in Sydney, we’ve been pushing the message that Britain is a great place to visit, a great place to come and do business.  I believe it is working, and there’s no reason to stop so we’re going to keep it going after the Games have finished.


So this summer is going to be obviously a magnificent sporting event.  We’re going to be celebrating the medals, the heroes, the heroines.  It will be inspirational.  But we’ve got to make sure that these are the inspirational Games for the future.  Really making the most of them, we have got to make sure this inspiration is about more than a one-off, one summer wonder.

It can be so much more.  It can be one of those really special moments in our national story.  A time that caught the mood.  A time that lifted us.  A time that created something amazing.

So yes, there is an opportunity to regenerate communities, to bring people together as volunteers, to revive school sport and to bring prosperity and jobs to our country.  But the first prize is even more valuable: a national boost to our energy and inspiration, a chance to realise how great we can be and how much we can go on to achieve as a country.  These are Britain’s Games, Britain’s opportunity and Britain’s moment.  We’ve got to make the most of them and I believe that we will.  Thank you.

Thank you very much.  We’ve got time for some questions. 

Prime Minister, thank you for acknowledging the benefits that tourism can bring through the way in which the Olympics can move forward.  We’re thrilled that last year we had an increase in spending which increased the number of jobs by 5% and we’re delighted that the Regional Growth Fund has given funds not only to VisitEngland but to other tourism projects.

It would be hugely appreciated if you could actively encourage all those departments who have a part to play in tourism, including the Treasury and Transport, to understand the benefits as you outline them.

Thank you.  I take a personal interest in this.  I think I’m the first prime minister to make a full speech dedicated to tourism and putting in place a proper tourism strategy, which I did in my first year in office.  Also I think I’m probably the first prime minister to appoint a tourism minister and keep him there for a serious amount of time.

So I think this is a great opportunity for us.  I took a personal interest in the GREAT campaign and saw all of the creative presentations.  I think it’s a really good campaign because it’s incredibly flexible: you can talk about sport being great; Loughborough being great; our universities being great.  Every part of the United Kingdom can use it and anyone who has any enthusiasm for any part of the United Kingdom can find a way to adapt it.

So I think this is a big opportunity for us.  We had a discussion in Cabinet this week - just to prove that I’m making sure every minister is behind this - we had a discussion in Cabinet this week about the issue of how we get a larger share of Chinese tourism; how do we make our visas simpler; how do we make it more cost-effective; how do we make sure that we compete with all the Schengen countries who offer one visa for more countries than we can offer.

We’re really on this, recognising this is an important industry for Britain.  It’s a very quick industry for turning jobs on and for getting young people trained.  We’re really alert to the opportunities and I think all government ministers, as you say, need to be behind this and they will be.

Everything’s inspirational at the minute, everybody’s got a really good feel factor.  We’ve had the Jubilee, we’ve got Andy Murray, we’ve got the Olympics.

Formula One.

Formula One, absolutely (we’ll be there Saturday, Silverstone’s my area).  And everything is really good.  When you’re having all your summits, please could you keep at the heart - and I know that it’s at the top of your agenda - but really keep at heart the small businesses.

Tourism obviously is a major part of the Federation of Small Businesses but we have an awful lot of really good growing businesses out there that need help just to push them forward.  If you could, keep that really at the centre of things to move the economy on.

I think you’re absolutely right.  Because the truth is everyone knows we need to rebalance our country and our economy.  The public sector’s become too big and the private sector is too small and we need to have a growth of enterprise, business and investment.

I think everybody also knows that, while some of our big companies are absolute world-beaters doing fantastic things, the jobs growth is going to come from the small- and the medium-sized enterprises.  Just two figures for you.  One is that actually last year, 2011, was a record year for the starting of new businesses and we need to get behind them and help them so that they can grow and expand, making it easier for them to take people on.

The other fact is that I think it’s one in five of our SMEs that export.  If we can make that one in four we’d eradicate our trade deficit.  So the agenda of helping SMEs is not just part of the economic strategy, it really is a mainstay of it.  Because without that we won’t get the growth, the jobs, the investment and the rebalanced trading system that we want to see.

You mentioned earlier Sebastian Coe’s time with the Hallamshire Harriers and one of his favourite runs was around Chatsworth in the Peak District National Park.  We’re very keen this year to make our contribution to the GREAT campaign and to the long-term ways of encouraging people to take part in outdoor activities.  Great opportunities in Britain across Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Cairngorms and of course the Peak District.  Walking, climbing, cycling and a lot of other quite low-cost activities, again, for our times.  So we’re very keen to work with all of the departments on that agenda.  Thank you.

Well you’ve got Penny Cobham from VisitEngland here.  I’ve long believed that we undersell our country in terms of tourism.  I think if you asked Americans, Japanese, Canadians they’d know that Scotland has got beautiful wilderness to go and walk in and enjoy but I don’t think they do know about the Peak District National Park, the South West Coast Path or some of the other incredible pieces of natural England that we have.  And also natural Wales and natural Northern Ireland, so I’m not accused of any bias here.

The strength of the GREAT campaign is that it enables every part of the country to use what it thinks is great about its part of the country to market to others.  So it’s very, very flexible but with a really good, clear message.

Prime Minister, I just wanted to say a personal thank you to the Olympic Delivery Authority and Sir John Armitt who came to visit our factory.  All I can confirm is that it did make a difference.  It maintained a level of workforce - and we’re a very small company in Derby - it made a great difference to us during the times of recession.  And our legacy is that we’re going to get the chance when the Games are finished to use our products and use the Games’ facilities as a wonderful showcase for what I consider to be breathtaking construction.

Fantastic.  Well, as I say, I think it’s unfair to single someone out but when you’re Prime Minister the thing you worry about most is whether it is going to be ready: the swimming pool is not going to be full of water, and the stadium won’t be finished.  And I think it’s been a remarkable construction and organisational feat.

I think it’s very important you’re able to market your success here elsewhere.  We want you out in Sochi, we want you out in Rio.  It’s not just Olympics:  there are so many sporting events around the world that I think will now need British help and expertise.

I also believe it’s been a good learning experience for us as a country.  One of the things I saw recently was what’s happening at Crossrail which, now the Olympics is done, is the biggest construction project anywhere in Europe.  And I think Crossrail has really learned from seeing how the Olympics got going with the training providers to make sure we could get more British people trained and working on the construction site.  Crossrail wanted to do that from the off, and I think they are doing that.

So, there is a lot for us to learn nationally and a lot for us to sell internationally.

Thank you Prime Minister, an inspirational speech particularly around tourism.  How do you feel the Olympic legacy can specifically support driving improved levels of youth employment and apprenticeships in this country?

As I was saying, I think that part of the learning experience of the Olympics was how do you do more when you have big construction projects to make sure that you do not just immediately suck in labour from everywhere else but work with the training providers.

If you have a big project and you have a lot of work underway, you should be able to predict a bit more what skills you are going to need and at what stages you will need them at.  You can use that to work with the training providers and with local colleges to make sure you have a good passage of young people coming through and working on the site.

I have met some of the apprentices on the Olympics site and some of them have now been there for two, three or four years.  I think that is a really important part of what we do and what we have learnt.

I think the Government has to take lessons from that forward to think about how we get businesses to work even more closely with local colleges; how we make sure that the qualifications that we provide are really worthwhile and what young people want.

I think another big lesson is what we teach in schools.  I think, frankly, we have not been very good as a country in explaining the different pathways and options to young people in schools. 

There is a very clear pathway to university: you take your A-levels, you fill in your UCAS form, and you go to university.  Everyone understands that.  The pathway for vocational training and apprenticeships has been much more confusing. 

I have been struck by how many times over the last two years I have met people who have done a university course or part of a university course and then have gone into an apprenticeship.  When I have asked them, ‘What information did you get at school?’ they say, ‘Well we didn’t really get the proper guidance about what was available’.

So I think there is a culture change that needs to happen in the country and that needs to be helped by better explanation in our schools about what is available.

Of course the point we need to make is that an apprenticeship can lead to a university degree.  If you look at the board of Rolls Royce, half the people on it were apprentices.  So, this idea that one is high-grade and the other one is not is completely wrong.

Prime Minister, a sporting question: athletes across sport have improved immensely in their professionalisation, as we have enjoyed the support of your government and the previous government in supporting high performance athletes.  Do you see that continuing into Rio and beyond?  I should add that the support that we have had from many agencies, UK Sport and your government ministers has been quite outstanding and for which we are very grateful indeed.

Well, thank you.  It was one of the early decisions I recall we had to make.  I am not blaming the last government, but they started off a very strong programme of funding elite sport but they had not, as it were, filled in the numbers for the years 2011 and 2012.  We had to find the money and fill in those years. 

It would have been terrible to have stopped high funding levels for elite sport before the Olympics.  All I can say is that you have a very talented team of ministers in that department; they fight extremely hard for the funding that they need for sport as an important part of their department.

We are obviously going to go through a spending review all over again for the next spending period but I know that they will stand up and fight very hard for a good share.  What I hope the Olympics will show is that this is a very good investment; it not only, we hope, helps us to bring medals and brings us a sense of national pride; it inspires young people; it means more sport at school; it has all sorts of pull through effects.

It is often said when we do well at cycling, we sell more bicycles; when we do well at swimming, suddenly the swimwear is all sold out.  There is no doubt that what happens on the screen has an enormous effect on young people.

I often say this, politicians want to change the world; we have certain tools at our disposal: we make laws, we spend money, we issue press releases, we announce policies, and we make regulations.  But so often if you want to change the world, role models and inspiration can change far more than governments are able to change.

That is what we must hope about this Olympics, that the things people are going to see are going to inspire people to do great things.  Not only in sport, but as I have argued also in volunteering and playing a bigger role in society.  That is what it is about.

I think, without prejudging the spending review, the ministers in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport,  The Treasury will suck on their pencils and the First Lord of the Treasury eventually will have to step in and decide.  But I think they have a good argument to make.

Can I thank you all very much for coming?  Can I thank Loughborough for this wonderful setting?  I can see you have planned for both sorts of weather here, but it is immensely impressive and I am now very much looking forward to meeting some members of Team GB.

Thank you very much indeed.


Published 5 July 2012