In May and after eight years on the London Assembly, Baroness Dee Doocey will stand down to focus attention on her work in the House of Lords. For the last year, the Dubliner has been involved in tackling child trafficking, security for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Finance Committee, responsible for a budget of £3.5billion. It’s been quite a year for the Irish woman. Here she looks at what 2012 holds.
A year ago, even the wisest person would probably not have predicted some of the momentous events that occurred in 2011 – the Arab Spring, the deaths of both Colonel Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden, the humbling of Rupert Murdoch, the riots in many English cities…the list goes on.
So with this in mind, perhaps some caution is necessary in predicting what will take place in 2012. But we can be certain about one event this year and that, of course, is the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Six and half years ago, London won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games, closely beating the long-term favourite, Paris, at the finish line.
It is truly exciting to know that the world’s biggest sporting event is now just a few months away and being held in a city that has been my home since the 1960s.
And for all the carping and the negative stories you might have heard about the Games – such as the controversies about ticket sales or the future of the Olympic stadium – overall, the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a huge success.
In fact, in many respects it already is.
The Olympic Park is now the largest new urban park to be created in Europe for 150 years. An area that was an eyesore of electric pylons, polluted land and silted rivers has been transformed. A part of London that has been deprived and neglected for over a century has all the ingredients to attract visitors, tourists and new businesses for many years to come.
The Olympic stadium, velodrome, aquatics centre and all the other Park venues are now complete – and constructed within budget. And I am proud to say that Irish businesses have played an important role, including Banagher Concrete (who worked on the handball arena in the Olympic Park), Leinster Reinforcements (who worked on the Aquatic Centre and the handball arena) and John Sisk Son (who constructed the shooting range in the grounds of the Royal Artillery Barracks).
It is a huge achievement for Irish businesses to win more than €200million in contracts, at a time when the economy is in dire straits. However, the 2012 Games have another significance for the Irish, whichever side of the water they live.
It is a simple fact that this will be the last time the Olympic Games will be held in Britain in the lifetimes of most people alive today.
The last Olympics to be held in London took place in 1948 and it is reasonable to assume that it will be at least another 64 years before the chance comes round again. And as Ireland has only bid once to host the Summer Olympics – and that was back in 1936!
This year’s Olympics will be the best opportunity for anyone from Ireland to experience the Olympics first hand.
Despite what some might believe, tickets are still on sale for several events, especially the Olympic football tournament and also a range of events at the Paralympic Games. And hopefully, by the time you are reading this article, the technical difficulties will have been resolved and the website allowing people to resell tickets will be up and running. It is also worth remembering that the road cycling and the men’s and women’s marathons are non-ticket events.
Another great way to enjoy the Games without a ticket will be to watch live coverage on the huge screens in Trafalgar Square, Victoria Park, Hyde Park and Blackheath.
The Olympics might be in London but they are for everyone, and I hope that this summer we will see many visitors coming across from Ireland. The Irish have played a key role in delivering the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is now time to ensure that we enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Baroness Dee Doocey is the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Olympic spokesperson.