London 2012: 500 days to go

London 2012: 500 days to go
Image: London 2012/British Embassy Stockholm
Next year's Olympic Games in London will be an occasion to remind ourselves of our humanity, writes Andrew Mitchell, British Ambassador to Sweden and FCO Director for the London 2012 Games.

Today’s a landmark day. In just 500 days the 2012 Olympic Games will open in London. And London will host the Games exactly a hundred years after Stockholm. Our nations are bound together by many things, not least a passion for sport and a commitment to the Olympic spirit.

Thousands of Swedes will come to London to watch the spectacle and the values that brought the athletes together a century ago – the quest for excellence, the sense that sport was a way to bring people together – will bring Swedes, Britons and people from many nations together in London in 500 days.

The modern world needs sport as much as the world of 1912. A hundred years ago Europe was on the verge of war. Today modern technology brings images of natural disasters and political conflict direct to our homes, from Japan, New Zealand and Libya, from China to Iran.

So the Olympics and Paralympics are an important opportunity for the global community to get together to remind ourselves of our humanity. The Games are a space for celebrating the indomitable human spirit and the diversity of people and nations. The Games can’t solve the world’s problems but they can offer hope, and confidence that in acting together the world can overcome the challenges it faces.

One of these challenges is the threat of disastrous climate change. That is why it is so important that London 2012 sets the example. These Olympics will be a platform for sustainability and green technology. The 2012 Olympic park design has energy efficiency at its core, providing a blue print for sustainable living. 90% of the material from buildings demolished to prepare the site has been channelled back into construction and we have planted 20,000 trees providing a new lung for the city of London, a new habitat for wildlife and a new haven of relaxation for Londoners. Our preparations are well under way, with our stunning new parkland development, the largest in Europe, already three quarters complete.

Accessibility and diversity have been vital to the design and construction of the buildings, open spaces and public transport; ensuring all can fully enjoy the spectacle of the Games. I am pleased to say that we expect 2 million spectators for the Paralympic games in 2012, a 16 fold increase since its inception in 1960. The Paralympics will be a fantastic opportunity to transform global attitudes of disabled people through a showcase of unrivalled disability sport.

The Games also provide the opportunity to connect with young people across the globe through the power of sport. In Singapore we made a pledge to do so and have launched the International Inspiration programme to give 12 million children in 20 countries access to high quality and inclusive physical education, sport and play. It has already reached more than 7 million children globally and over 300 schools in the UK have built partnerships with counterparts around the world as part of the programme.

This will not be the first time that London has been selected to host the Olympics and, in fact, has done so more times than any other city and on each occasion has sought to make a lasting contribution to the Olympic movement. In was in London in 1908 that games athletes paraded for the first time under their national flag and events held to coincide with the 1948 London Games would later give birth to the Paralympic movement. In 2012 we intend to honour this tradition of innovation by organising games that are more environmentally sustainable, accessible and inclusive than ever.

So whether you are a sports fan, a business person or simply someone with an interest in making the world a bit better, I look forward to seeing you in London in 500 days.

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