Come July, all eyes will be on the world’s greatest athletes, says Sir Steve Redgrave. But praise should also go to the construction professionals who made it all possible
There are probably two abiding themes that dominated my teenage years growing up in Marlow Bottom in the Chilterns; one was trying to be good at sport, namely rowing, and the second was running around building sites with my father who ran his own construction firm. At the time, before rowing became so important, I guess I imagined that construction would play a large part in my life. I still think it is the sense of independence, self-reliance and at times sheer stubbornness in all builders that I witnessed in my father that has led me to compete whatever the odds. It is this set of values that helped me to the winner’s podium at the Olympics in Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. It is also these values that led us into the run-up to London 2012 and what looks like becoming one of the best designed, constructed and project-managed Olympics in the history of the Games.
Certainly, if the Games go as well as the construction, we are all going to be up on that podium at the end of September when the Olympic and Paralympics have finished.
This time next year the London Games will be seen as a fantastic achievement in their own right but doubly so set against the backdrop of the worst recession in living memory
But for me, 2012 is about much more than sporting prowess. The London Games represent the greatest opportunity I have witnessed in my lifetime to raise the level of participation in sport and, in turn, improve the health of the nation. The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world and it’s going to be held in our country; to say that is exciting is an understatement. But it’s important that the Games are not just about sports people at the highest elite level, and that they leave a legacy for everyone that reaches far and wide and lasts for years to come. Key to my vision of the future has always been the fact that the facilities created for the 2012 Olympics remain available for use once the Games are over. In Athens, the stadiums and venues were very impressive but they just aren’t usable in 2012. It’s not inspirational for an athlete to train in an empty 80,000 capacity stadium.
I have gained an insight into the modern construction process working as a part of the team with the cost and project management business, Gleeds, for the past six years during the build-up to the Games. Acting as an ambassador for the business since 2006 has given me a fascinating insight into your industry and its complexities from the inside. Hence one becomes more and more aware of the importance of communication, organisation and legacy planning before, during and after any project. The Olympics are no different - it is about “future proofing” so that a building is as fit for purpose in 20 years time as it is in 2012. We have a fantastic opportunity this year to use the Olympics, not just as a shop window for our elite sportsmen and women, but also to showcase our construction and design professionals who enabled London 2012 to be delivered on time and to budget. Following the Games the challenge is in making sure that the London Olympics prove to be the start and not end point for all sorts of initiatives that will help improve the health, sports participation and general well-being of the nation.
This time next year when all eyes will be turning to Brazil and the build up to the 2016 Olympics, it is my belief that the London Games will be seen as a fantastic achievement in their own right but doubly so set against the backdrop of the worst recession in living memory. Plaudits will quite rightly go to the Team GB who we hope will deliver great things, to the organisers who will have pulled off flawless organisation of what is undoubtedly the greatest and most complex show on earth watched by billions of people. Also, however, I hope that some praise will go to the men and women who sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to deliver the numerous stages, venues and arenas upon which the world’s finest athletes performed. Not everyone may have got tickets to see the events in person, me included, but everyone can share in the pride of a job well done.
Sir Steve Redgrave is a Gleeds Ambassador. He is a five times Olympic gold medallist rower and recently received the BBC’s Lifetime Achievement Award