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The world in one city



2012 site at Stratford
The London 2012 Olympic site in Stratford. November 2009

Adrian Warner
By Adrian Warner
BBC London's 2012 Correspondent

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the younger members of London 2012's staff often gathered late at night in the bar of their hotel to relax after a long day.

Most evenings, former hockey international David Luckes would challenge his colleagues to a game of pool.

Standing at the table with a beer he would describe as "half-full" (never "half-empty"), the 40-year-old acted as a mentor to the 20 and 30-somethings, providing a calm voice among the excitement many of them oozed at learning vital lessons from their first Olympics.

Luckes represented Britain at three Olympics in 1992, 1996 and 2000. Now a senior manager for London 2012, he tends to avoid the media spotlight while chairman Lord Coe is the public face of the Games.

Few people know it, but without his crucial work a decade ago, the world's biggest sporting show would not be coming to London in 2012. And the most dramatic story of Olympic history would never have happened.

Inauspicious beginnings

At the end of the 1990s, Britain was a second-class citizen in Olympic bidding. Birmingham and Manchester had both failed to capture the imagination of the International Olympic Committee and officials were coming to the conclusion that only London had a realistic chance of winning because of the capital's glamour.

London 2012 should make sure they have special seats in the stadium for Jowell, Livingstone, Clegg and Luckes
Adrian Warner

In 1997, British Olympic Association chairman Craig Reedie called Luckes and asked him to work on a feasibility study for a London bid.

There was no pay - only expenses. No office provided either. The former hockey player worked at a desk in the corridor of the BOA's cramped headquarters in Wandsworth.

"At least the corridor allowed me to get to know most of the people in the building," Luckes said. "I looked at East London and West London alternatives and tried to put a proposal together which we could take out of the London boroughs and the government."

By the time the magnificent 2000 Sydney Olympics had captivated the nation, Luckes had put together a 395-page report.

It contained an option around Wembley but it was obvious, even then, that the opportunity to regenerate a run-down part of East London was the more favourable option.

Luckes and former BOA chief executive Simon Clegg were ready to start lobbying hard at that stage and their campaign started to get some early momentum. But it soon hit trouble.

In the autumn of 2001, Britain was forced to pull out of hosting the 2005 world athletics championships because of a row over plans for a new stadium at Picketts Lock in Lea Valley.

Ghost of the Dome

In the eyes of the world, London looked amateurish. The troubled redevelopment of Wembley was creating negative headlines and the capital was not even capable of staging championships for the premier sport of the Olympics.

But Clegg and Luckes kept going and they managed to get former London Mayor Ken Livingstone on their side.

Simon Clegg, Craig Reedie and David Luckes
Simon Clegg, Craig Reedie and David Luckes

Even though he is not a sports fan, Livingstone saw the potential of the bid as a way of getting Government cash to revitalise east London.

After the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games were a major success, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell took up the argument in Government.

The London MP had a major task on her hands. With Paris being touted as favourites, a report from civil servants said a bid would cost too much and that it was not winnable.

The ghost of the troubled Dome was also frightening off many of the Cabinet.

Jowell convinced Prime Minister Tony Blair that a bid could be successful and she also managed to get deputy PM John Prescott onside.

But Gordon Brown was very worried about the costs. The then Chancellor's fears were supported by a report by civil servants that the true cost of the Games would be much more than previously thought.

It was not until Livingstone sat down with Jowell in a meeting in her office just off Trafalgar Square in mid-January 2003 that opinion started to turn around. Sitting on Jowell's bright white sofas, the Mayor and the Minister hammered out a financial deal to cover the cost of the Games.

It gave Brown more confidence in the Games and by May that year, the Cabinet was ready to approval a bid.

The story of London's Olympics will always go back to that meeting. Luckes and the BOA carried the bid's baton around the first bend. Then Jowell and Livingstone raced it down the back straight.

Tessa Jowell and Ken Livingstone
Tessa Jowell and Ken Livingstone played a vital role in securing the Games

Unless he produces a major political comeback in May 2012, Livingstone will not be in power to witness London's Opening Ceremony. If the polls about next year's election are correct, Jowell may also not be in office then.

Unsung heroes

But London 2012 should make sure they have special seats in the stadium for Jowell, Livingstone, Clegg and Luckes.

The other person who deserves an opening ceremony ticket is the former airline executive Barbara Cassani, the American who was first put in charge of the bid.

Your Decade
What are your key memories from the last 10 years in the capital?
Email us and even send photos to yourlondon@bbc.co.uk and we'll publish as many as we can.

When I first spoke to Cassani in the summer of 2003, the 42-year-old was sitting in the middle of her living room in Barnes trying to put a bid team together. She had no personal assistant, no bid phone and no computer.

Cassani was often criticised during the bid. It is true that she was not suited to the lobbying of IOC members which was crucial to London winning.

But she did hire some of the key figures, especially the multi-millionaire Sir Keith Mills and the public relations guru Mike Lee.

Most importantly, she agreed to step down in May 2004 when she realised that she was not suited to the job.

This, of course, was the cue for Lord Coe to step forward and take charge of the bid.

Dame Kelly Holmes and Steve Cram in Trafalgar Square
Winning the bid on July 6 2005

Much has been written about the crucial roles of Seb Coe, Mills and Tony Blair in lobbying IOC members and about London's magnificent victory in the Singapore vote in July 2005.

There is no doubt that Britain could not have found a more suitable figure than Coe to lead the capital into the final straight of its preparations for the Games.

But on that big night in 2012 when the world is watching the opening ceremony, Britain should spare a thought for all of the other people involved in getting the capital along the most dramatic sporting journey of it history.




SEE ALSO
London: The world in one city
26 Nov 09 |  People & Places
A Decade in the Arts
15 Dec 09 |  Arts & Culture
In Pictures: A changing landscape
26 Nov 09 |  People & Places
In Pictures: London's Decade
26 Nov 09 |  People & Places
Barbara Cassani: Bidding for London
20 Jun 03 |  Newsmakers
Rise of the stadium
18 Nov 09 |  2012

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