A peek at the Park

editorial image

With just over four months to go until the start of the 2012 Olympics, work is well progressed on the main venue for the Games, Olympic Park.

Features editor Joni Ager takes a tour of the site in Stratford, London, with Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards.

Who better to give you a guided tour of the new Olympic Park than an Olympic gold medal-winning athlete?

We were shown around the main venue for London 2012 by triple jumper Jonathan Edwards CBE, who won gold at the 2002 Sydney Olympics and who still holds the world record for his jump of 18.29m at the 1995 World Championships.

He played an important part in the success of the London 2012 bid as an official ambassador and is now on the board of the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.

As he takes us round the site in Stratford, east London, it is clear to see he is passionate about making the Games a success.

Jonathan said: “Once you get into the Olympic year, your heart definitely starts beating a bit faster with excitement and with nerves.

“We are in great shape. It has been exemplary progress to get us where we are now but there is still a huge amount to do. We will need every last day.

“There is definitely more excitement now. You see the politicians getting involved and there is a lot more interest regionally, especially since the torch relay was announced. There is more focus on the athletes and how they are doing, and we have the test events.

“You do really get that sense of things building towards the Games.

“There is not a person in this country who does not want us to do a good job. It is national pride at stake and the eyes of the world are watching.

“Everyone wants it to be a success.”

Jonathan is not only a board member of the organising committee but he is also the athletes representative on the committee.

He has been heavily involved in the preparations for the summer and acting as the voice of the 17,000 athletes who will be competing.

He said: “It has been a huge privilege. The best way I can describe it is people have asked me what I would give to be competing in these Games and I can honestly say I would not want to. I would not want to be anywhere else.

“To help put on the Games in your own country has been better than anything and it’s about so much more than sport.”

For a British athlete, competing on your home turf is a dream come true, but it also brings with it a huge amount of pressure.

Medal hopefuls such as Tom Daley and Jessica Ennis will be all too aware of the hopes of the nation, who would love nothing more than seeing Team GB on the podium in London.

So what advice does Jonathan have for the athletes?

He said: “It will be different for every athlete in how they respond to the pressure. The way they make it work will be different.

“For some, they will want to read about themselves in the papers and see themselves on billboards. They will put themselves in the spotlight and they will perform.

“For others, they will be better off going to Portugal or somewhere for the next three months and treating it as a Games on foreign soil.

“No-one will ever experience a crowd like it. It is going to be really hard and as an athlete you cannot help thinking of things that can go wrong.

“That pressure will be like nothing else. They will be out in front of a home crowd shouting and cheering and that’s when they will find out what’s inside them.”