Having been a spectator at the Athens Olympics watching the drama unfold like the myths and philosophies of ancient Greeks I can only congratulate Athens – the birthplace of the Olympics – for giving us two magnificent weeks of sport. Athens achieved more than people thought it capable of and surpassed the expectations of the fans from aboard in their smooth and faultless organisation that contributed to the excitement of the many sports on display.
Along with almost 20,000 other British fans that went from one venue to another in support of our British athletes we waited in vein in the magnificent Panathinaiko stadium to cheer on Paula Radcliffe’s marathon attempt. We were soon rewarded by seeing our magnificent Kelly Holmes not set a foot wrong both on and off the track winning gold in the 800 and 1500 metres and the emergence of 17 year old Amir Khan through the preliminary rounds of the boxing to win a silver medal.
The real enthusiasm among British sporting fans along with the Japanese, Dutch and Swedish were in contrast to the poor French presence during the games. This is something to highlight with the International Olympic Committee when we illustrate the extent of support for the London 2012 bid.
The attempt by the London Assembly UKIP party to undermine London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics by backing the Paris bid clearly back-fired. It’s one thing a party dripping with anti-European sentiments to oppose London’s bid, but quite another to back a rival bid from Paris.
The empty seats during the day-time for the preliminary rounds (except for the beach volleyball) was a result of the locals not being keen to sit in the mid day heat – unlike mad dogs and Englishmen. We quickly picked up the advice that when in Athens do as the Greeks do. What was impressive were the global TV viewing figures – up by 15 per cent from the very successful Sydney Olympics and they were always going to be hard for Athens to surpass.
The air quality and pollution levels in Athens were so much better than when I was last there in 1987. It signified the switch to public transport being made by the Greek public as they increasingly leave their cars to get into the city centre. The installation of recycling bins and laws to ban the dropping of cigarette ends and chewing gum assisted in giving the city an immaculate appearance. No doubt we can do something similar to the urban environment and transport infrastructure of London on the back of hosting the Olympics in 2012.
l look forward to seeing a similar sporting spectacle in London 2012 and Londoners like Bradley Higgins, the cyclist, winning more Olympic medals. This will be London’s chance to take centre stage and hold the world’s greatest sporting event. We’re up against New York, Paris, Moscow and Madrid and the Games will be awarded to the City that wants it the most.
I will be working with my Labour colleagues on the London Assembly and the Mayor to make sure our bid is the very best.
Cllr Murad Qureshi AM
3rd Sept 2004