London 2012 Olympics

What is the London 2012 Olympics?

The International Olympic Committee voted in July 2005 for London to hold the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, with the majority of facilities centred in the capital but many other locations hosting events, training villages and support facilities.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for the bid was seen as a major boost for London and a significant factor in it beating Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow, as was the support of former South African prime minister Nelson Mandela.

The key message behind the London 2012 bid was that the Games would provide Britain with a legacy: transforming people's lives through the regeneration one of the poorest areas of London; inspiring a new generation to greater sporting activity and achievement; and supporting the Olympic movement of the future.

A 500-acre Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, will form the centre of the Games. It will include the main 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held as well as the athletics events, and the Aquatics Centre, which will include two 50m swimming pools and a diving pool.

Existing facilities at Wimbledon and Lord's Cricket Ground, the lake at Eton Dorney and the historic Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich will all be used, as will the Dome in Greenwich.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), which is still in construction, promises to carry a high speed shuttle service between central London and the Olympic Park in just seven minutes. This will also link up to the Eurostar and carry on to continental Europe. When combined with improved underground services, the Olympic team intends to have a train arriving at the Olympic Park once every 15 seconds.

Tessa Jowell was appointed Olympics minister and will oversee the progress of the bid with London mayor Ken Livingstone, bid chairman Lord Sebastian Coe and the British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman, Craig Reedie.

Lord Coe will chair a 16-strong London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, while Home Secretary Charles Clarke will chair the Olympic Security Committee.

The £2.37 billion proposed cost of the Games will be funded by £1.5 billion from an Olympic lottery game; £250 million from the London Development Agency; and £625 million from a council tax increase, which will come into effect in April 2006.


The Olympic Games were last held in London in 1948. The only other time the games were held in London was in 1908.

The decision for London to bid for the 2012 Games follows the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and the Euro 96 football competition. These events reassured the UK's sporting authorities and the Government that the country could successfully stage major successful international sporting events.

Work on the 2012 London bid began as far back as 1997. In late 2000, the British Olympic Association delivered a report to Parliament, the Greater London Authority and Ken Livingstone outlining the proposed bid.

During 2002, the House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport committee conducted an in-depth report into the bid, published in January 2003. The Prime Minister indicated his backing for a London bid in April 2003, but it was not until May 2003 that the Government officially threw its weight behind the bid and allocated £2.375 billion to the costs of staging the Games.

The British Olympic Association formally notified the International Olympic Committee that London was bidding for the Games in July 2003 and the details of the bid were officially launched in the following January at a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden, London.


The cost of staging the Olympic Games is colossal, and many fear that - with memories of the Millennium Dome and Wembley Stadium as present as the success of the 2002 Commonwealth Games - it will not be well spent. In addition, there are fears that the proposed cost of £2.37 billion will spiral out of control.

Many people were, and still are, concerned that London's fragile and crowded transport infrastructure will be unable to cope with the added pressures of the Games. Although the Government is determined to complete major improvements before the Games, the record of British governments and their contractors in completing transport projects on time and to cost has not always been encouraging.

By the time of the IOC vote in July 2005, however, there was huge public support for the UK bid. Some of Britain's top athletes and sportsmen, including David Beckham, Denise Lewis and Kelly Holmes, also threw their weight behind the bid.

Prime Minister Tony Blair attracted controversy in late December 2003 when he was accused by the International Olympic Committee of violating a ban on engaging in promotional activities regarding the 2012 London bid. He brought up the "extraordinary success" of the Commonwealth Games hosted by Manchester in 2002 at a 'sports breakfast' in Abuja.

The IOC subsequently wrote to the nine cities bidding for the 2012 games warning them of their responsibilities.

In April 2005, the promoters of the London 2012 bid were forced to withdraw a £15 million package of incentives for athletes and sports' administrators only five days after it was proposed. It was feared the package, which included free flights, would constitute a breach of bidding regulations and the bid team decided to withdraw the offers before an investigation by the IOC's ethics committee reported back.

Other controversies are overshadowed by that of the Olympic logo, however. Taking ad agency Wolff Olins over a year to design and costing around £400,000, the unveiling of the logo at a specially convened press conference featuring Lord Sebastian Coe and Kelly Holmes was followed by near instantaneous criticism.

While figures connected to the project did their best to put a brave face on the reaction, objections to the logo remain widespread and vociferous. An online petition calling for the logo to be replaced received over 50,000 signatures.

Things went from bad to worse when it emerged an advert promoting the logo could trigger fits in people with photo-sensitive epilepsy. Epilepsy Action claimed 22 people had already contacted them to say the advert had triggered a fit and the Olympic Organising Committee quickly re-cut the video.

Ken Livingstone went on record saying the company who made the video should not be paid but later softened his stance in a belated attempt to downplay the controversy.


  • Just two months before the IOC decision, 79 per cent of Londoners were in favour of the capital hosting the Olympics, up 12 per cent on the previous October
  • In the same poll only seven per cent strongly opposed London being chosen for the Games
  • When asked why they wanted the Olympics in their city, 43 per cent said they would be good for London's economy and 19 per cent said they would be good for Britain generally
  • Others said the Games would increase employment (13 per cent), tourism (12 per cent) and national pride (11 per cent); and ten per cent said they would have a positive impact in sports across the UK

    Source: ICM poll for The Londoner April 22-23rd 2005


    "It is a logo. It is not the meaning of life or a secret code that will identify the bloodline of Mary Magdalene.It is a logo that will grow on you."
    Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, June 2007

    Winning the Olympics was "one of the best days London has ever had" as well as "one of the proudest days for Britain and for British sport".
    "Londoners themselves deserve thanks for the tremendous support they have shown for our bid. Without public support we could not have won."
    Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, July 2005

    "The British Government is delighted to give its full support to the London bid for 2012. Winning the Games would be good news for London and for all of the UK. I hope everyone in the country will get behind the campaign."
    Tony Blair, Prime Minister, 2003

    "It is clearly desirable in principle that London should host an Olympic and Paralympic Games. But it should not do so at any price. The Government must assure itself, before deciding to support a bid, that it understands what it is committing itself, London and the country as a whole, to spend and to deliver."
    Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee 3rd report, 2003

    "The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, just as in life the most important thing is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
    Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the Olympic Creed
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