The new British Ambassador, Jill Gallard, spoke to reporter Chris Graeme about security at the London Olympics and why it is a major concern for the British government for 2012.
Speaking on Tuesday at the British Embassy in Lisbon, the ambassador said that the security aspect of the games had formed part of the initial bid.
“Like all Olympic Games, security is a huge concern because it’s such an international event – all eyes will be on London. In terms of the Norwegian attacks, the British Government already has a strategy for terrorism of all types, and we are reviewing overall our security in terms of an attack of the kind that occurred in Oslo,” Jill Gallard said.
The countdown to the 2012 London Olympics began on Wednesday in Trafalgar Square when the President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Jacques Rogge, addressed elite sportsmen and women from all around the world to mark the 365 day countdown to the Olympics and Para-Olympics.
“For all of us in the UK, it has been a pretty amazing six years; it’s not just about sport for us. We have three basic visions: the first is to put the athletes at the heart of the planning, secondly to get young people around the world more interested in sport, and thirdly the legacy of the Olympics, to transform the East End of London, so that when the Olympics finish, there is a real legacy and it makes a real difference to the people who live there.
“I’m very pleased to say that with one year to go, we are on track to meet all these commitments, on time and to budget. The games are already starting to change the lives of people around the world,” she said, highlighting the international Inspiration Programme which is about reaching out to young people around the world, getting them involved in sport.
In Britain, there has been an amazing transformation to the East End of London, including the largest urban park in Britain, 2,000 trees planted and lots of wetland plants to create a great backdrop for the games.
When the games finish, there will be a fantastic facility for the people who live in that part of the city, including a ten-year blueprint to ensure that all of the buildings and structures being built will be used and the Olympic site will not end up as a ‘white elephant’.
So far, all the sports venues have been built, designed by some of the best architects and engineers, although it was stressed that no Portuguese companies have, so far, been involved in the construction process – most of the contracts going to British firms – a situation that could change over the next year.
The entire project will not only be great for the competing athletes, but will leave London with a lasting sports facility legacy.
“We want this to be the greenest Olympic Games in history. We have been very careful to try and have the lowest carbon footprint as possible. Some of the stadia will be portable so they can be moved to another location after the games, while the games themselves will be very energy efficient,” Jill Gallard added.
So far, 3.5 million tickets have been sold around the world, to foster a great international feel to the games, while some 250,000 people have already come forward to be among the 70,000 volunteers (volunteers were first used in 1948 when London last hosted the games) to collect tickets on the day and welcome the athletes at the airport.
There will be 8,000 Olympic torch bearers and their journey across the UK will take 70 days.
“The reason why embassies around the world are talking about the Olympics is that we are very keen to attract as many visitors as possible to London, not just because of the Olympics, but in the years afterwards because of the great new facilities,” she stressed.
“We look forward to welcoming lots of Portuguese visitors. You have lots of British visitors here, but it will be very nice to see lots of Portuguese visitors in the UK,” the ambassador concluded.