Here we are then. Hours away from the start of what will be the greatest sporting event to be held in my home town in my lifetime, and possibly ever.
7 years ago when the London bid team were celebrating that fantastic victory of being given the opportunity to host the Olympic Games, I had been an MP for just two months and was as proud as ever to be a London MP that day. The next day celebration turned to devastation as tragedy struck with the London bombings. It marked one of the saddest days in London’s history, and one that none of us will ever forget.
The days weeks and years that followed showed what Londoners are made of and also proved why we live in the greatest city in the world. London did what it always does in times of adversity; it pulled together, cared for each other and has gone on to open itself up to the world for this Olympic Games.
This Olympic Games is important to me, not least because I’m a sports fan, but because it is an opportunity to reaffirm what London does best; and that is to welcome people from around the world with open arms and to show off the fantastic range of skill and expertise Londoners display in their everyday work – from nurses who work in our hospitals, to the construction workers who have created the wonderful Olympic Park.
As a young boy growing up in London I remember Daley Thompson winning his two gold medals in 1980 and 1984. This was an inspiration to me and Thompson was an example of an ordinary Londoner capable of extraordinary achievement.
We cannot underestimate the affect and inspiration members of Team GB will have on our young people now in 2012 when they win medals at this Olympics. Role models are important and they stay with you into adulthood. As we’ve seen with Bradley Wiggins (another Londoner) winning the Tour De France last week, when you have you have a home-grown champion, it can do wonders to publicise minority sports but also more generally it promotes hard work and gives young and aspiring athletes a very real and tangible example of something that they too could go on to do.
The winning of the games was the result of a large collective effort and has been lead with distinction by Lord Coe who should be proud of the work he has done in getting the site in Stratford ready for this day. I would also like to acknowledge the brilliant work by my Labour party colleagues Ken Livingstone and Dame Tessa Jowell, who along with Lord Coe and the rest of the bid team were integral in preparing London over the last 7 years.
The waiting is now over, and the stadia have been built on time. Now all remains for us to do is to enjoy the games and show the world that London can and will put on the greatest show on earth.
Sadiq Khan is the Shadow Justice Secretary, and MP for Tooting