18th April 2012 Ottawa, Canada

100 days to go

Today we begin the 100 day countdown to the Opening Ceremony of the Games of the 30th Olympiad – in London, on 27 July 2012.

There will be events at many other sites around the United Kingdom. But eyes will turn to London: the only city to host the Games three times. It’ll be a little different to 1908, when we won most of the medals, and live pigeon shooting was a medal sport; or 1948, when competitors had to bring their own rations! But London’s ready, and so is Olympic Park: the largest park built in Europe for 100 years, and an engine of growth for London’s five poorest boroughs, its nearest neighbours. With sustainability – economic, infrastructural, environmental – built into it, the Park’s legacy will be to serve sport and the community for decades to come.

I had the pleasure a couple of weeks ago to see Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic swimming teams completing their trials at the Stade Olympique in Montreal – home of the 1976 Games. I told them that what lay in their immediate future was Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre: already tested and praised – for its architectural daring and state of the art competition and warm-up facilities. All the other elements of Olympic Park – the main stadium, the Velodrome, supporting infrastructure and housing facilities – will also be ready, on time and within budget.

So, much excitement, but a huge challenge for young athletes from across the world. Spare a thought too, for the small army of volunteers, officials and professionals whose task it to make all this run on rails, and not just the myriad sporting events of this most complex of operations. All the rest too – from catering to security, ticketing to transport, cleaning to directing visitors. They’ll deserve medals too, for making all these moving parts mesh, but will probably be content with the Order of the Warm Handshake, or the Grateful Smile.

The Olympics are followed by the 14th Paralympiad, which is a matter of special pride for London. This great movement grew out of games staged for wounded veterans of World War Two at the hospital of Stoke Mandeville, during London’s 1948 Olympics. So we feel the Paralympics are genuinely coming home.

You can see it all on TV, but why not come on down? There’s a Cultural Olympiad, and the manifold attractions, historic and modern, of London and the country as a whole. It’s summer in Britain, so the weather is guaranteed to be glorious. See you there.