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Transcript: International Olympic Committee press conference

PM: "London will be ready on time and on budget; ready to welcome the greatest sporting events on the planet"

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

Prime Minister

Well good morning everyone.  It’s great to welcome Jacques, Sir Philip Craven and their teams to Downing Street today as the preparations for London 2012 enter what can only be described as the home straight.  Also, a very warm welcome to Seb, who has been an incredible driving force for this whole project since its inception.  This is the final inspection before the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  And I believe the message is clear: London will be ready on time and on budget; ready to welcome the greatest sporting events on the planet.  This is going to be an extraordinary summer for the whole country: possibly the most exciting of our lifetimes.  We’ve got the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics together offering three months of celebration of everything that’s great about Britain.

Now of course, there are vital preparations to be completed in the coming weeks, and there must be absolutely no complacency; there are still many things that need to be done.  So we’ve had some really important discussions this morning about three things in particular: about security; about transport; and about the legacy of the Games.  And I want to say a word about each. 

On security, our first priority as a host nation must be to keep people safe.  So we’ll be mobilising every aspect of our security infrastructure.  There will be more police in the streets; there will be boats in the Thames and helicopters in the sky; troops will be assisting us in securing the venues; our intelligent services will be working round the clock.  This will be the biggest and the most integrated security operation in mainland Britain in our peace-time history.  But it will also been done in a way that is sensitive to the spirit of the Games.  Let me be absolutely clear: I’m determined this will feel like a sporting event with a really serious security operation rather than a security operation with really serious sporting event.  This is a very important point. 

Second: transport.  Now we all know one of the big challenges of the Games will be the huge increase in the demand on our transport network.  That’s why we’ve increased London’s transport capacity: over 60 underground stations have been upgraded; 33% increase in the capacity on the Jubilee line; 50% increase in capacity on the Docklands Light Railway; refurbished and extended Overground services on the East London and North London lines; King’s Cross St. Pancras and Stratford stations transformed.  I was at King’s Cross a couple of days ago, it’s looking absolutely magnificent - step-free access and extra capacity.  And of course the special Javelin train service for fast access to the Olympic Park with extra late night trains and buses to help get people home afterwards.  Transport will be coordinated through a state‑of‑the-art transport coordination centre, with special information available about how people can best plan their journeys around London.  For the first time ever, our ambition is that all spectators will get to the venues by public transport, and we’ll do everything possible to ensure a first-class experience for athletes, for visitors and for spectators alike. 

Third: legacy.  Jacques, as you’ve said very kindly, in London the Olympic movement is finding a legacy blueprint for future games - we’re very proud of that.  Put frankly, I think it’s time to tear up any notion of the Olympics leaving behind white elephants.  Legacy planning is further ahead than I think for any previous Olympic host city.  Six out of the eight venues already have long‑term futures agreed.  For example, the Aquatic Centre will become a major community facility for local people and will hope to welcome an expected 800,000 people every year.  The Handball Arena - where we held the cabinet meeting - will become the capital’s third largest arena with a capacity to host concerts, shows, exhibitions and events, and is likely to welcome half a million people every year.  The Athletes’ Village will provide affordable private housing.  The main stadium itself will become the National Centre for Athletics and host the 2017 World Athletics Championships.  And a strong collection of tenancy bids last week mean that we remain on course to re-open the stadium as a multi‑purpose venue in 2014.

But today’s report shows how the legacy of these games goes far wider than the venues.  A new Olympic-inspired school Games has involved half the schools in the entire country, with every school including opportunities for disabled children in their competitions.  With a billion pounds invested in youth sport, 6000 new community sports clubs, a thousand local sports venues upgraded, the Olympics will revitalise local sport in Britain for generations to come. 

We’ve got 70,000 volunteers who will not only help make the Games happen but shape a new culture of volunteering across our country.  And our investment conferences will cement, I hope, an economic legacy from the Games that has already seen 40,000 people working on the biggest construction project in Europe.  With 3,500 business meetings at Lancaster House, an extra one billion pounds of new business for UK firms expected from Games-related trade campaigns, and a further 4.5 million extra tourists expected to visit Britain over the next four years, generating, we hope, 2.3 billion of extra spending and creating an extra 50,000 jobs.  So great sport, great culture, great business: a great legacy for Britain. 

Now, we’ve already had a sense of the excitement and sporting passion we can expect this summer with world-class performances with the like of Ellie Simmonds in the Aquatic Centre and Sir Chris Hoy in the Velodrome.  Britain is embracing the Olympic spirit and is preparing to welcome the world’s greatest athletes.  In just over 50 days, the Olympic torch will arrive on these shores and will travel the length and breadth of the country as London becomes the first city ever to host the Games for a third time.  It’s an extraordinary honour for the United Kingdom, and we intend to repay that honour by showing why the Games is more relevant today than ever for the values it represents, the lives it can touch, and the unique opportunity it provides to encourage more young people to play sport.  The London Olympics and Paralympics will, I believe, be the greatest show on earth and we look forward to welcoming you all.  Jacques, over to you. 

Jacques Rogge

Thank you very much Prime Minister; ladies and gentlemen, good morning.  In exactly 44 days we will be in Ancient Olympia in Greece for the lighting of the Olympic flame.  And as the Prime Minister has said, the torch relay will start in Land’s End on 19th May in 50 days time.  And this torch relay will ignite the enthusiasm of the British public, but also of the public around the world.  And this will be the final straight of a seven-year long wait. 

The IOC is extremely grateful to all the partners who have helped us in this very complicated enterprise.  Thank you to the government and the Prime Minister for its support; thank you to the city and the mayor; thank you to the local excellent work being done by LOCOG and Paul Deighton.  I’d like to thank also the British Olympic Association, because BOA will have a special responsibility to secure many gold medals upfront which is also very important for the spirit of these Games.  Good luck, Colin, for this endeavour.  I would also like of course to thank very warmly Denis Oswald and the team of the International Olympic Committee who has coordinated with our British friends. 

We are confident that we will have great Games, but of course, we all know the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and that the final judgement of the Games will only be rendered at the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games and not before.  However, I am very glad to say that already we have positive results in terms of the legacy.  There is already, before the Games even begin, a great legacy in East London, a great legacy of the sports venues, and there is the tangible legacy that there is a great economic return also.  Tourism will get a boost, and definitely there will be also a soft legacy: the enthusiasm of young kids to participate in sport; the enthusiasm for the heroes and the role models that they will watch on television or in the venues. 

To conclude, Prime Minister, we are a happy International Olympic Committee.  Thank you very much.             

Prime Minister

Well if you’re happy, I’m happy.  Seb, are you happy?

Lord Coe

I’m delirious, Prime Minister.  Thank you. 

Prime Minister

Not quite the same thing. 

Lord Coe

Thank you, thank you so much for hosting this this morning and welcome.  Present seven years ago, we made a promise in Singapore to connect young people with the inspirational extraordinary power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  We promised to place athletes at the heart of the project: we’ve done that.  We’ve promised to build new venues - as you quite rightly said, Prime Minister - that really had a strong and solid community use afterwards.  In doing so, I think we’ve created an extraordinary mix of iconic, new, existing and temporary venues.  We promised that the Games would regenerate East London, and I think anybody that’s been to the Olympic Park would recognise the extraordinary work that has been done there.  We promised a magical atmosphere, stadiums full of people that looked like they wanted to be there, and I don’t think there can be any question about the level of demand - both domestically and around the world - for our tickets.  We also promised to inspire young people, but not just in the United Kingdom, and we continue to do that. 

There is a lot of work still to do, but I’ve seen extraordinary examples of new sports initiatives taking hold everywhere in this country: new clubs springing to life; the re-invigorated sports facilities; more coaching opportunities; more athletes visiting schools; more sport and certainly values being driven off the back of sport.  I’m immensely proud that it is sport that has kicked off this whole process.  We wanted to use the Games to leave a lasting legacy in sports participation in the lives of East Londoners, in challenging attitudes towards disability through the extraordinary power of the Paralympic Games; we are well on our way to achieving that.  When great athletes come to a great city for great sport, you will get great sport - but we want more than that.  We want inspiration; and that inspiration has to be nurtured and we can’t lose an ounce of the inspiration off the back of the Games.  From the very outset, we wanted to inspire young people.  I’ve been seeing sports participation at every level and at every age, and I’ve seen it in a way that I know has taken place and would have not have taken place if we had come back empty handed from Singapore.  The foundations, I believe, are in place.  We need to come back in 10 or 15 or 20 years time and be able to say that this was the moment that we captured the imagination of young people and challenged them to fashion their futures through sport.  Thank you.

Published 29 March 2012