On Wednesday, Britain’s young champion Tom Daley will dive into the waters of our stunning new aquatics centre and the ripples will be felt across the world. That same day, from Trafalgar Square in the heart of London, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee will address nations around the globe and invite the world’s top athletes to form teams to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Our countdown will begin. It is six years since Britain first won the privilege to host the Games in Singapore, and it’s been a remarkable journey since. Everything is on track. Construction of the major venues is complete — a year ahead of the Games’ time. We are on budget, on time and set to deliver a great summer of sport and culture.
This is going to be a show to remember — and not just for the sport. Of course the Games are about sporting excellence and extraordinary personal triumphs. No one knows this better than my friend Lord Sebastian Coe whose remarkable achievements make him uniquely qualified to put athletes at the heart of planning for 2012. But they are also about so much more. For me, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are about one word above all others: legacy — about the real difference they can make to people’s lives. That’s not just in the host city or the host country, but around the world. This vision of an enduring legacy is woven into every aspect of the 2012 Games.
For example, East London has already been transformed before our eyes. Some of the greatest architects and engineers in their fields have designed sports venues that our communities and visitors will enjoy for years to come. And they have achieved this with a remarkable commitment to putting sustainability at the heart of the build, making London the first truly ‘green’ Games in history.
But legacy is also about inspiration — about giving young men and women hope and ambition. Through our International Inspiration programme we have used sports to reach out to over 12 million children in 17 countries across the world. Finally, it is about bringing people together under the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence. Over 3.5 million tickets have already been sold. Thousands of people have signed up to volunteer. Hundreds more have been nominated to bear the Olympic flame as it travels the highlands, lowlands and islands on its 70-day journey across the nation. For the two months of Olympic and Paralympic sport next summer, in every home and on every radio and television, the Games will be shared and enjoyed by the world.
That’s why, as president Rogge invites top athletes to Britain in 2012, and as shooter Abhinav Bindra, wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxers Vijender Kumar and Mary Kom start training for glory at the Olympics, I want to invite the people of India to be a part of this momentous occasion too.
Today, and for the next 12 months, we want to welcome the world to Britain to share in the Olympic and Paralympic experience and discover what makes Britain a great place to live, work, visit, invest and do business. With one year to go, we are ready to host an outstanding Games that will live on in the difference it makes to millions of lives — and we want everyone to be a part of it.
William Hague is the British foreign minister. The views expressed by the author are personal.