It’s a golden farewell to London 2012: Now dreams must not fade and die

Golden farewell to the Olympic Games - now the dreams must not fade and die...

Ending as spectacularly as they arrived, The London 2012 Olympic Games are over and have bid a Golden Farewell to Newham.

It was an unforgettable experience which touched the lives of every one of the 300,000 plus people who live in our borough.

On Saturday night, Newham and Essex Beagles Mo Farah completed a simply magical double gold medal winning haul in Stratford’s Olympic Stadium, winning the 5,000 metres

Mo said: “The crowd were amazing. The noise was unbelievable. I want to thank everyone who has helped me throughout my life. It has been a long journey with hard work, hard graft.”

There were gold, silver and bronze medals for our local heroes and heroines during the games. And now we catch breath before we do it all again for the Paralympics in just two weeks time.

There has been a collective pride in Stratford and in all of our borough not seen since the end of the Second World War when, despite the poverty that existed, those alive then tell us they were proud of the place they lived in.

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The closing ceremony was again brilliant

Artistic Director Kim Gavin brought together Britain’s biggest international stars and emerging talent to perform in a Closing Ceremony that provided the soundtrack for the whole world to celebrate the achievements of the world’s greatest athletes during the Games.

The Ceremony at paid tribute to UK music, fashion and culture, capturing the spirit that has inspired so much global creativity over the past 50 years.

Newham’s own Silver medal winner Christine Ohuruogu confided that she thought the whole experience “was wonderful”. She told me: “ I am so proud of Newham.”

I echo those emotions. And there are many thousands of Newhammers who enjoyed our time in the spotlight and enjoyed how we welcomed the world.

The big challenge now is…can we remain in the spotlight and improve local life for all the right reasons.

Are we upto the challenge of making better lives for the people of Newham?

There are some truly fantastic legacy plans for Stratford and other parts of Newham.

But all the good that has come forward for so many people from Newham must not be allowed, to use a famous phrase from the Irons theme tune, to fade and die like so many dreams before.

West Ham’s probable use of the Olympic Stadium is a key issue that needs to be resolved quickly.

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales told the Recorder that the borough must capitalise on the “unforgettable games.”

He said a major challenge now was to capitalise on the feelgood factor through grassroot sport investment.

Sir Robin Wales said: “This is one of those rare moments when I can be sure that I speak for everyone when I say that the London 2012 Games - two thirds of which are taking place in Newham - have surpassed all our expectations so far.

“It’s been an incredible and unforgettable Olympic fortnight. There’s also been an Olympic effort by council staff who have been working round the clock to keep the borough clean and working. Plenty of residents have been able to cheer on our team, including more than a 1000 young people. Nationally, around one in 10 people got a ticket to the Games. For Newham residents, that figure is roughly one in six so far.

“We’ve achieved this by working with the organisers and lobbying them on residents’ behalf. No other borough has done better.

Newham athletes have been a critical part of the greatest-ever British team.”

Sir Robin added: “Funding grassroot sports is the key to ensuring the incredible success of the Olympics continues long after the flame is extinguished.”

His message comes as David Cameron announced funding for Olympic sports has been guaranteed until the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Sir Robin continued: “Newham athletes, including Mo Farah and Christine Ohuruogu, have played a pivotal part in ensuring a record-breaking gold medal haul for Team GB. The question now is how we ensure that success continues as part of the Games legacy.

“The danger is that when the Olympic flame is extinguished, the hard work and energy that has been created will be extinguished with it. We cannot spend the next four years arguing over who funds what.

“The coalition’s announcement sounds good – but it comes in the context of free sports activities, including swimming, being axed across the country. Here in Newham, despite being hit by one of the biggest central government grants cuts suffered by any local authority, we have continued to provide free swims for youngsters.

“We want to ensure inner London boroughs like Newham get their fair share of the funding and that it doesn’t just go to the leafy suburbs.”

Sir Robin also said: “Elite sport stars start at local level so we’re already doing our bit with programmes like Every Child a Sportsperson which is giving young people a golden chance to participate in sport. Success must not be limited to an elite few. We are committed to our youngsters and want them appearing in sports stadiums – including the Olympic Stadium in Newham – for years to come.

“Let’s not forget too that it was the coalition that slashed funding for school sports partnerships, which had helped to increase the quality and range of sport available in schools. It’s important to ask where this new funding will go to. It’s all about creating a strong infrastructure and capitalising on the Games’ feel good factor. We want to harness that inspirational power to encourage people to get involved in their local communities, whether it’s through sporting activities or volunteering.

I know the Paralympics will now amaze and inspire everyone all over again. It isn’t over yet and so let’s make the most of it.”

Sir Robin was quizzed for the newspaper China today this week and said the challenge now is to ensure Stratford’s newfound vibrancy continues beyond the Olympics. In particular, he hopes the Newham government’s achievement of helping 5,000 locals find jobs last year can be repeated every year for a decade.

“If we keep it going for the next decade, then we will see a change for our people - and the Olympics and all the investment will have been worthwhile,” he said.

Sir Robin describes the Games as the “opportunity of a lifetime”, especially for local youth who are desperate for work. “What we are really proud to show in our area is our people,” he says.

He wants to encourage businesses and investors to visit Stratford, and to help develop the area or open offices in the new blocks available.

“ We have an area a third the size of Manhattan to develop. There are lots of opportunities, so come and develop it,” said

Newham Council already has a series of events and programmes running to develop a lasting local legacy.

They include:

• Every Child a Sportsperson and summer sports programmes for young people

• BMX programme with Access Sport

• Free swimming for under-16s and a commitment that a six-borough gala will be the first community event at the Aquatics Centre

• Direct support and partnerships with local clubs such as Newham & Essex Beagles, West Ham Boxing Club and Newham Swords fencing club

• A community athletics programme including 10 ‘Run England’ groups with 890 members

• 343, disabled participants taking part in clubs and sessions

• 1,335 previously inactive people doing athletics at least once a week

• 40 Active coaches

• 174 Active volunteers