It’s been 15 years since London – against all the odds – won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Singapore on 6 July 2005.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a long-standing member of LLDC’s Board, recalled the moment in a recent webcast to the organisation’s staff.
“There were loads of photographers in front of Paris and none in front of us,” she told staff. “When Jacques Rogue [the IOC President] said “London” it was just amazing.”
Tanni had been involved in the London bid since 2002 and while initially underwhelmed by one of her first visits to the proposed Olympic site she soon changed her mind. “I do remember coming to the Park in the early years when it was cold and wet and muddy. I was pushing through all this mud and it was all over my coat and was then told to stop in a very particular spot. They said: “This is the 100m finish line” and you think, ‘Yeah, that’s quite cool!’”
Talking about how the Park has changed over the years Tanni, who holds 19 Paralympic medals including 11 golds, told staff: “It’s been an incredible transition ... I remember thinking I never wanted it to be a Park that was sort of dumped with walls around … what London has done is incredible. I’ve been to other Olympic Parks and nobody has done anything like London.”
The five-time Paralympian said her favourite memories of the Park are seeing people walking through it. “I love the summer,” she said “when the fountains are on and there are kids playing there who have no idea what the Olympics and Paralympics did and they feel the Park is theirs. To get that requires thousands of hours of work.”
It’s the attention to detail that inspires, she said, recalling the hours spent conjuring a name for the new apple trees planted on the Park to celebrate Team GB’s 55 Paralympic gold medallists. And even in the athletes’ village, where facilities were usually basic, the planning and thought that went into the Games included trees and open spaces which made most athletes say it was the best Games to be at.
But memories of that time are always tinged with sadness when 52 people lost their lives in the 7 July terrorist bombings just 24 hours after winning the bid.
For Tanni the euphoria of Singapore evaporated instantly but those events created a determination - and a responsibility - among the London 2012 organisers to deliver the best Games in the modern era.