13 Aug 2006
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We are now in the Olympic year, with the much-anticipated London Games just eight months away. However, there is still a healthy dose of sceptics who have not brought into the fever that is building, especially in areas away from the capital like Lincolnshire. The Echo’s sports editor John Pakey talked to LOCOG board member Jonathan Edwards on why we should embrace the Olympics this summer...
You cannot escape the Olympics. Whether you like it or not, it is the biggest thing to happen in this country this year and we will never see the like of it again for a long time.
However, it is clear the jubilation which saw the announcement of London as the winning bid back in 2005 has evaporated.
Complaints about the system to bid for tickets, the cost of the Games and a concern that the focus is solely on the British capital city has tarnished the event.
Battling through all of this is the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
They are the body tasked with making sure the massive project is delivered on time and without a hitch.
One of the members of the LOCOG board is former Olympic gold medal winner Jonathan Edwards.
The triple-jump athlete is a legend with his sporting heroics. He is still the world record holder for the event, with his leap of 18.29m from the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, yet to be bettered.
The determination he showed in the athletics arena is now being further tested outside of it as he fights against a growing scepticism surrounding the Games.
When I talked to him about this he understood why people were doubting the Olympics.
However, one thing shone through, that he is working hard to make sure this summer's greatest event is not restricted to just those inside the M25 and that London 2012 will go beyond the capital and out to the regions and, crucially, Lincolnshire.
He is passionate about the challenge and is eager to make sure we all enjoy the games.
In my position as deputy chair for the nations and regions for LOCOG I hear a lot of people talking and saying it is all about London. What is in it for us? The big winner for the country has been the business side of it as that has affected the whole of the UK.
Around the East Midlands £390m has been given out in direct contracts, so for me the first message is that people are benefiting financially from this.
The other thing for me is the educational programmes we are running.
I've visited a number of schools and we are promoting a programme which focuses on the Olympic values and not just the athleticism.
I believe using the power of the Olympic values is a very important thing to be teaching younger children.
Schools which sign up to this programme are also eligible for tickets, which are paid for out of a levy from the corporate hospitality programme.
Of the 11,000,000 tickets only eight per cent have been reserved for the corporate organisations
In total 75 per cent went on sale to the general public and that is a massive chunk.
We cannot ignore the fact that the corporate bodies have invested £200m into the Games, they have played a significant part, but the tickets they have allocated to them is probably less than you imagine.
There are loads of people from Lincolnshire who are going to be Games Makers, and they will be getting started on their training next month.
They will have an important part to play in making sure the Games go smoothly.
Then, of course, there are the torch bearers, and there is some truly inspirational people who have been selected to do that in Lincolnshire and from all backgrounds.
There will be people running with the torch in their local area, being supported by their friends and family and it will bring the Olympics home.
It will be exciting and there is going to be the cultural festival as well which will bring people into the Games.
The short answer is that we sold these Games on the fact they would be for the whole of the UK and not just for London. It is hugely important that we make it happen.
It might appear to people that at the moment the Games are distant event.
But when the torch relay comes through places in Lincolnshire, when it goes to all the villages, then it will really hit home.
It starts on May 19 when it leaves Lands' End and then people will start to get excited.
People will want to celebrate where they live and we are running a local leaders programme, which helps people set up and provide resources to celebrate the Olympics.
I think it will be a great summer for Britain.
With the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee as well, the eyes of the world really will be on us. I want us to be proud to be British and feel that we can put on a great show.
I think Britain needs to show what it can do and that it can handle putting together one of the most complicated logistical operations going.
It is important for the reputation for the country. It is why they put more money into the opening ceremony. If we do something which is average we will suffer. We have to do something which is positive for us.
One issue of the legacy is participation.
We have seen from the numbers that getting people into sport, especially young people, is not happening quickly. It is slow moving.
Hopefully when the Games get started it will create a huge feeling of excitement.
We then have to make sure that the facilities are there and that they can cope with any wave of interest.
But this is not just about finding the next generation of Olympians.
We all know the benefits that come from sport and physical participation and the role that can play in helping our health.
My role as the athletes representative on the LOCOG board sees me talking to the athletes on all number of issues.
Crucially it is about the finer details, like making sure the beds are comfortable, that the TVs work, that the athletes have internet connection in their rooms and the food is tasty.
It reflects well on us that we do a good job. The most important thing is to know that we have gone the extra mile.
I feel that we can be proud of that because we have not wasted any time and we have got a lot things ready.
To get things right for the athletes you need to have all the projects completed on time.
If you do not have those right then it can make the rest fall behind and then you are struggling. Preparation in advance is crucial.
All these little extras do make a big difference to you as athlete.
When you arrive in a foreign country, ahead of what is going to be the biggest test of your sporting career, you find yourself under immense pressure. It makes a massive difference to be met by a volunteer who is smiling and ready to do all they can for you.
The last thing you want to happen is to be met by someone who is not sure what they are doing and is not willing to help you.
What you cannot forget is that among all of this we will be having two great weeks of sport and I believe all of this work we are putting in will make sure the sport is the best we have ever seen.
If the athletes are well looked after then they will be able to get out there and do a good job.
I think a lot of athletes are excited about coming to London for the Games. For the endurance athletes the conditions are going to be perfect.
They are not going to be dealing with any high temperatures or humidity and while some people will expect it to rain that should not be an issue – even in Sydney in 2000 we could not avoid the rain.
The biggest legacy for the country and Lincolnshire is that if we do it right with the Olympics it could open the door for more things to take place in this country.
I know there is a lot of politics in sport and that will play a part. However, if an international sporting body knows we can put on the biggest of all sporting spectacles then it will make a difference.
That in turn makes a bigger difference to our country, because hosting major events brings a lot of economic benefits along with it.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, do not miss out.
The Olympics is making an impact already.
Get ready and look forward to it. It is something that you will never see again in your lifetime
Scuba Divers supported the Games in 2012, did you? Anonymous