There are now just 100 days until the start of the Olympic Games. As Boris has said before, the level of preparation is such that we could probably host the event tomorrow if required. As such, the final build-up can be characterised by increasing excitement at the forthcoming sporting spectacle, as opposed to fear – as in Athens 2004 – that stadia etc. may not be ready.
Two more things: Firstly, it was always a key part of both our bid and the subsequent planning that our hosting the Olympics should be about more than just a month of top-quality sport. It’s as much about leaving a lasting legacy – with long-term economic, social and sporting benefits. Boris’s extensive plans – as outlined in the Olympics chapter of his manifesto – are well worth a read.
On a second, somewhat more frivolous, note, Ladbrokes are offering 100/1 on Boris being chosen to light the flame at the opening ceremony. I’ve already got cash on Roger Bannister doing the honours, but I can’t resist a long shot like that.
Boris’s transport manifesto, launched today, highlights both achievements from his first term and detailed second-term plans.
Reflecting on his first term, Boris notes that, amongst other things, tube delays are down 40%, crime on the Tube is down by 20%, crime on buses is down 30%, the ban on alcohol on public transport has had a hugely positive impact, Labour’s unworkable PPP scheme was scrapped, bendy buses were scrapped, the New Bus for London was delivered, Boris bikes were launched, and investment for Crossrail and tube upgrades was secured, creating 32,000 jobs.
His second-term plans include massive, much-needed, further investment in the Underground, new signalling track and stations, significantly improving disabled access to Tube stations, air-conditioned trains, bringing delays down by another 30%, the introduction of driverless trains, ending the unions’ ability to hold the capital to ransom, rolling out 600 more new Routemasters onto London’s streets, significant further expansion of the Boris bikes scheme, the doubling of travel by river, lobbying for increased aviation capacity while opposing a third runway at Heathrow, withdrawing free travel from young people who behave badly on public transport, trebling the number of cycle superhighways…(I could go on).
I recommend a read of the document in full. It’s packed with innovative and often radical proposals, which would truly transform every aspect of London transport.
February 29, 2012 London 2012 Comments Off
MayorWatch reported yesterday on Channel 4′s plans for their coverage of this summer’s Paralympic Games. It seems they’re actually taking it seriously, with Clare Balding taking a lead role, which is a blessed relief to those of us who cringed our way through their appalling world athletics championships coverage last summer. If you remember, they made the catastrophic error of letting the omni-shambolic Ortis Deley present their coverage, only to have to sack him halfway through the championships out of sheer embarrassment. You don’t remember? Relive the pain…
Today started well for those of us who are already unhealthily excited about the Olympics. To mark 150 days until the start of the games, huge bright Olympic rings travelled up and down the Thames on a barge, stopping at various landmarks to give people time to see them.
When they reached Tower Bridge, Boris announced the summer’s extensive cultural programme, including “the biggest festival of outdoor arts ever to be seen in the capital”. He added “Wherever you are, you will feel a part of the 2012 celebrations and experience a summer like no other in one of the most exciting cities on earth.”
So far, so good. Until this evening, when Unite general secretary Len McCluskey threatened to time public sector strikes for the middle of the Olympics, as part of their ongoing campaign against the government’s spending cuts. It’s actually hard, on a family blog, to give my reaction to the news. At a time when the city will be packed with tourists – from across the UK and the world – and at a time when the eyes of the world will be focused on London, how anyone with any brain at all can consider catastrophically disruptive strike action is genuinely beyond my understanding.
London – and Britain as a whole – would be a global embarrassment, with the ensuing chaos providing the worst imaginable advertisement for our capital and our country. The attempt to seize on what, for most, will be a joyous few weeks is nothing but cynical, heartless and greedy opportunism from the unions. You may remember that the Aslef union had similar plans at the time of last year’s royal wedding. Fortunately the plans were met with such universal disgust that they were promptly shelved. This strike action, too, must not be allowed to happen.
Of course, wherever there is discord in London, Ken Livingstone is never usually far away. The Unite union is one of his principal backers – they have campaigned for him and provided him with tens of thousands of pounds of campaign finance. Remember the YouGov poll a couple of weeks ago which showed that 50% of Londoners believe his union backing compromises his ability to hold office? In order to convince us otherwise, he must condemn these strike proposals in the strongest possible terms and, if necessary, return to the unions the cash which he has previously so hungrily received from them.
To mark 200 days until the start of the Olympics, Boris headed to the top board at the Aquatics Centre to check out the diving…
On a previous visit, he commented: “I have been asked to have a go in the pool myself but I think it would be electorally inadvisable.”
It’s time for my 2012 predictions, which achieve nothing other than giving everyone something to laugh at the inaccuracy of in a year’s time…
12 political predictions for 2012:
1) Boris will beat Ken in May, by a tiny margin.
2) Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination.
3) Barack Obama will win the US presidential election by a landslide.
4) Nicolas Sarkozy will lose the French presidential election to François Hollande.
5) Ed Miliband will remain Labour leader.
6) Chris Huhne will be sacked from the cabinet.
7) David Laws will re-join the cabinet.
8) Cameron’s expected cabinet reshuffle will be a small one, with Osborne, May, Hague, Clegg, Alexander, Gove and Lansley all keeping their current jobs.
9) David Miliband will join the shadow cabinet.
10) Unemployment will start falling by the end of the year.
11) Britain will not re-enter recession.
12) Greece will leave the Eurozone.
and 12 sporting predictions for 2012:
1) Jessica Ennis will win Olympic Gold.
2) Mo Farah will win Olympic Gold.
3) Paula Radcliffe will win an Olympic medal.
4) Usain Bolt will win four Olympic Gold medals.
5) David Beckham will captain the GB Olympic team.
6) England will reach the semi-finals of the European Championships.
7) Harry Redknapp will replace Fabio Capello as England manager.
8) Manchester City will win the Premier League.
9) Liverpool will qualify for the Champions League.
10) England will win the Six Nations.
11) Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam.
12) Luke Donald will win a major.
A new poll out today shows Boris has marginally increased his lead over Ken Livingstone since the last poll (way back in June), with a 48-40 split of first preferences. Taking second preferences into account, Boris leads Ken 54-46.
The background data is particularly interesting. It shows that Boris is more popular than Ken amongst both men and women, and across all socio-economic groups. He is more popular than Ken across every age category apart from 18-24 year olds, and leads Ken 64-36 amongst the demographic most likely to vote – those aged 65+.
On specific policy issues, Londoners trust Boris more than Ken on the Olympics, crime, the economy and policing. The confidence Londoners have in him on crime and policing comes as no surprise to those of us who think he has a record to be proud of, but will stagger those rather simple lefties who cynically insist that crime is rising, the city’s close to implosion etc.
One concern for Boris is that the poll shows Londoners currently trust Livingstone more than him on transport. That does now seem to be the policy area on which he needs to refine his message. I’m sure his choice of investment over cuts is the right one, but he needs to better explain its value and benefits.
Away from mayoral issues, some interesting questions are also asked on the subject of Wednesday’s public sector strikes. Given the statement “By going on strike public sector workers are holding the public to ransom”, 50% agree and just 37% disagree. Given the statement “Public sector workers should show that we all share in the economic pain by accepting the changes to their pensions”, 48% agree and just 34% disagree. This suggests that Boris is – as ever – far more in touch with public opinion than his socialist opponent.
It was announced a couple of hours ago that London has beaten Doha to the right to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships. The bid was led by Lord Sebastian Coe, with a contribution from Boris at the conclusion of the presentation. Boris’ speech was wisely low on wiff-waffery, but strong on London’s hotels, restaurants and general preparedness, and Londoners’ passion for sport.
After the announcement of London’s victory, Boris said: ”The London team put together a cracking bid. With the 2017 championships now in the diary, next summer’s London Games is the start of a long and active life for our magnificent stadium. I believe they [the IAAF] felt we wanted it for the right reasons and that got them going.”
The victory is not only great news for sports fans – the UK will now host the Olympics, the Rugby World Cup, the World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games over the next six years – but also provides a fantastic boost to the Olympic legacy. Indeed, it will become part of the Olympic legacy – both in terms of stadium usage, and in maintaining youngsters’ interest in sport beyond next year’s extravaganza.
UPDATE: Boris even showed off his French in the post-announcement press conference…
Usain Bolt’s disqualification from the 100 metres final at the World Championships today is the best example so far of the utter absurdity of the IAAF’s new false-start rule. The rule – introduced last year – is that any false-start is immediately punished by disqualification, unlike the previous rule where a second chance was allowed. Christine Ohuruogo suffered yesterday and Dwain Chambers went the same same way this morning, but Bolt’s premature exit is the highest-profile casualty imaginable.
Put simply, the rule ruins highest-level sporting events for the very fans and spectators for whom professional sport even exists. What’s more, the rule has most impact – as we’ve already seen – in the most popular events, such as the sprints where every hundredth of a second counts. Even last year, Tyson Gay – quite presciently – predicted that the rule could ruin sprint events. That’s just what’s happened. Now what we’re more likely to see is athletes holding off marginally at the start, and world records becoming less common.
The World Championships are the second most important competition in the athletics calendar. For the most anticipated event at the championships to be ruined in this way is a great shame. The IAAF now need to seriously reconsider the ruling in advance of the single most important competition – next year’s Olympics in London. To potentially deprive some of the world’s greatest athletes of sport’s greatest prize because of a bureaucratic ruling from people who apparently don’t truly understand sport’s raison d’être would be an utter travesty.
“I have been asked to have a go in it myself but I think it would be electorally inadvisable.”
(Boris, on the new Olympic pool.)