It may have escaped your attention, but today, after a seven-year journey the world’s most extraordinary show finally arrives in London.
As the first city to host the Olympics three times (1908, 1948 and 2012), we are particularly proud to welcome the world to our country to explore our history, heritage, diversity, countryside and cities, against a backdrop of cultural performances and world-class sport.
In recent weeks much attention has been focused on security arrangements. As David Cameron said this week, it’s the biggest security operation in Britain’s peacetime history.
The security is there to ensure the sportsmen and women of the world can pursue their excellence, individually and in teams at the Olympics and Paralympics.
The UK is the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and London 2012 is the first Games where the Olympics and Paralympics has been fully integrated from the outset, reflecting Britain’s determination that the Games will set new standards for services, facilities and opportunities for disabled people, and encourage more inclusive societies. When Paralympian runner, South African Oscar Pistorius, runs in the Olympics, it will be a very significant moment.
We are using the power of the Games to connect young people with sport – 12 million children in 20 countries are already participating in the International Inspirational Programme. As an example, in India, trained community coaches are using sport to tackle a range of social issues, such as forced marriage for girls and truancy, as well as encouraging more children to attend school by improving the provision of physical education and sport.
London 2012 is the first Games to be truly green. From the outset, the UK has been determined to ensure that environmental sustainability is reflected in every project, in design, construction, food, logistics, transport, waste disposal, technology, event management. The Olympic Park is the first and largest new parkland in Europe for more than 150 years. Construction has used the latest green technology with state-of-the-art building standards, and the Stadium is the lightest in Olympic history, containing less than 10,000 tonnes of steel. Access to the Park will be by public transport, walking and cycling. London is the first Summer Games to calculate its complete carbon footprint. Sustainability is also about mixing the old with the new – over two thirds of the arenas are “recycled” classic British sporting venues such as Wimbledon and Wembley.
The London 2012 Olympic Games will be a magnificent spectacle of sport. I wish Sweden’s athletes and other visitors to London and the other Games venues across the UK the best of luck!