“A moment of great national celebration”

Jonathan Edwards

Triple-jump world record holder and a member of the board of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), Jonathan Edwards explains the vision for London 2012 and what the athletes can expect from the facilities

Global: The UK last staged the Olympic Games in 1948. What does it mean for Britain to be hosting the Games in London in 2012?

Jonathan Edwards: If you look back to when Britain won the bid, in 2005, we had a remarkable reaction. This sense of using the Olympic and Paralympic Games to achieve much more than simply staging a great celebration in the summer of 2012 – we were looking at a really rigorous legacy plan – and the strength of the ambition, was something which everybody bought into and which got people excited. So I think it will be a moment of great national celebration and something which, for years afterwards, we will be very proud of.

Critics complain that the Games will be too London-centric. As Deputy Chair of the London 2012 Nations and Regions Group, can you tell us what LOCOG is doing to ensure that the whole of the country participates in and benefi ts from the legacy of the Olympic Games?

There is a huge amount of activity going on to make sure that there is good communication and engagement around all the opportunities. The Olympic Delivery Authority have also been incredibly pro-active in this respect. The business story is very strong. I think that over 50 percent of contracts have gone outside London and 98 percent in total have gone to British companies. I have to say that when we won the bid I didn’t envisage that we would be in such a strong position in terms of the nations and regions with regard to the economic impact.

Then, right at the moment we’ve got the launch of the volunteer programme. We are very keen that we absolutely make sure that there is a geographical spread of volunteers up and down the country. And the ticketing launches, the Cultural Olympiad and the Torch Relay will be going across the whole of the UK.

On my visits, what I see is plenty of activity. Relatively small projects taking up the inspiration of the Games, getting our ‘Inspire Mark’ – the non-commercial use of the brand – and using the enthusiasm that exists around 2012 to make things in a local area much, much better. A huge amount of hard work has gone on and I think it is a project which has engaged the entire UK and not just London.

You are also Chair of the Athletes’ Committee. How can the Games be organised to ensure that athletes are able to perform at their best?

The thing that has exercised us the most is the Olympic Village. We, as an organising committee, can have the most impact – either in a positive or a negative sense – on the athletes’ village.

From my memories of Olympic Villages they are always a compromise. For most of my career I stayed in 5 star hotels and had a single room with an ensuite bathroom, but when it comes to the Olympics you are probably sharing with somebody and you’ve got one bathroom between five. So we work as hard as we can just to make sure that when the athletes come to our village things are as smooth and easy as they can be. Looking at things like noise reduction and blackout blinds so that athletes can sleep through the day, different types of catering, the frequency of buses, the arrival hall system when they come to Heathrow – all that is dealt with seamlessly. It’s really about getting the basics right. Athletes come to the Olympic and Paralympic Games under a huge amount of pressure and are right on the edge of their nerves and can snap quite easily. So, we just want to make sure that the obvious things are done to the highest of standards.

What will it mean for British athletes to compete on home ground in the London Olympics?

You only have to listen to every single British athlete whenever they are interviewed – all they talk about is 2012. It’s difficult for me to get my head around it because I wouldn’t be thinking about the Olympic Games right now if I was an athlete. I would be thinking about the Commonwealth Games, which are coming up, and the World Championships next year, possibly. But all [British] athletes talk about is 2012. It would be impossible, I think, to overestimate how large it looms in athletes’ minds, and how well they want to perform there.

The only thing which really gives me an insight into it is competing in Sydney on the same night that Cathy Freeman [the Australian 400m runner] won her gold medal. The response that she got and also looking at her and how exhausted she was after the race and that pressure that she had lived with for close to seven years from the decision through to the Games itself – it’s mind blowing.

Do you wish that you were still competing so that you would have to the opportunity to take part in the 2012 Games?

Yeah! I would have loved to have done it. To have competed in the Olympic Stadium in Stratford with a chance of winning, it would be overwhelming, especially as the whole country will be united in celebration and united behind British athletes.

What measures are being taken to ensure that the London 2012 Games are as drug-free as possible?

We’ll do 5,000 random tests during the course of the Games and also tests on those athletes who win medals, which I think will be the most ever. As well as that we are also working on what you would call the non-analytical fight against doping which is using intelligence and trying to be much more targeted in the testing that we do. We are working with border agencies around [preventing] people bringing substances in and setting up places where they can cheat outside the Olympic Village area.

You didn’t win your Olympic title until five years after you had set the world record of 18.29m at the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships. Did you ever worry that you were destined to be one of those great athletes who never won an Olympic title?

Absolutely. No question about it. When I went to Atlanta in 1996 the gold medal had already been hung around my neck, but I was only just coming to terms with the fact that I was the world record holder and world champion. You can guarantee at an Olympic Games that someone will be there who is the greatest shape of their life who you didn’t expect, and in my case it was an American, Kenny Harrison, who beat me and still holds the Olympic record. I work alongside now, at the BBC, two athletes who have that – Steve Cram and Colin Jackson: the greatest of all time in their disciplines but they don’t have an Olympic gold medal. So yes, I was mightily relieved, as well as happy, when it all came right in Sydney.

About the author:

Triple-jump world record holder and a member of the board of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG)


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