by Sarah Kinson
John Armitt, Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, is the man in charge of making sure London is ready for 2012.
When did you first arrive in London?
I was born in London in 1946. My parents lived in Wood Green at the time. My dad was from Highbury and my mum, from Stoke Newington.
Where did you grow up?
We moved out of London to Ramsgate when I was four. We lived there for eight years and I really got into fishing. I can clearly remember standing with my fishing rod on Ramsgate pier. Then we moved to Portsmouth, and I got interested in sailing. So, my childhood was largely spent by the sea.
Why did you move back to London?
When I was 20 I moved to London to start my first job. It was with John Laing, the construction company, and I worked on building the Minories car park in Tower Hill.
What parts of London have you lived in?
In my 20s I lived in Ealing for about five years. I got very involved with the Questors Theatre there. After work and at weekends, I built sets for plays.
Where do you live now?
I have a flat in Westminster and a house in Gloucester. Westminster has a lot of government buildings and so it’s quiet in the evenings, but in 15 minutes you can be at the South Bank, or into the West End. You can go out in the evening and choose whether you grab a bus, taxi, or walk back home.
Is London a good place to bring up children?
I didn’t bring up children in London but it must be an exciting place for children to grow up in. Obviously there are challenges. Like, at what age can you let them do their own thing. But increasingly, that’s an issue, wherever you live.
Describe a normal days' work for you.
It may be out on the Olympic site, or meeting with the chief executives of the different contractors that we have working on site. Or there might be a press conference. It is not my only job though, so I have other meetings to go to.
What are the main challenges for you in getting ready for the Olympic Games?
Getting ready on time and within budget. In terms of getting it done on time, we have to integrate the design with the construction. We need sufficient workforce on site and we need to deliver it safely. We want people go home in the same state that they went to work. We also have to manage relationships with the people who live and work around the Olympic site.
Then, there is making sure the cost is kept under control. The economic situation we have at the moment has created an issue for us about the amount of private sector finance that we are able to bring into parts of the Olympic site.
What will be the experience of ordinary Londoners during the summer of 2012?
It’ll be fantastically exciting. There will just be so much going on and it won’t all be in Stratford - Greenwich Park, Wembley, and Earls Court will also be hosting events. And there will be things going on in Hyde Park, the Dome and at Excel. During that six weeks London will be as close to a 24/7 city as you are ever going to get.
Will local schools and residents get special tickets?
Ticketing is the responsibility of LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) and it will be one of the most challenging issues. In Beijing one of the big disappointments was seeing empty seats. We need to make sure that every day there is some way of making sure tickets are used. I’m sure that kind of last minute opportunity could be taken up by local people who’ll be able to get to events quickly.
How can people take part if they don’t have tickets?
We want to make the Olympic Park somewhere where people can go, even if they haven’t got tickets to get into the stadium. They can still experience the atmosphere and see what is happening on the big screens. I’m sure there will also be big screens in places like Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park.
How will London have changed after the Olympicsis long gone?
What we are creating at Stratford is a new place in London. The stadia, aquatics centre, veledrome, multi sports facility, new parklands, 3,000 flats and shopping centre will all be there after the games. It’s an enormous amount of infrastructure which will be good for the next hundred years.
Then there is the plan to continue the development of this part of London after the games. That master plan is being worked on by the LDA at the moment and it’s due to be realised in the Autumn 2009.
What we want is a new focus for London – a focus in the East. The test will be to what extent this has been created. By 2020, the developments in the area will mean that 2012 will not have just been a fantastic party.
What do you do to relax?
I recently spent all day Saturday at the Old Vic. Occasionally, I go and watch Arsenal - I recently saw them at Stamford Bridge. The one sport I play occasionally is golf. I like gardening and I enjoy fishing, but I don’t do much sailing these days.
Where do you find tranquillity in London?
Walking through St James Park. In any of the art galleries, or in Westminster Abbey. Or going into the club that I belong to.
What is the worst thing about London?
It’s around 10pm when you get black plastic bags of rubbish stacked up on the pavement. I watch people having to manoeuvre around them. Some cities in Europe do better than us in continuously being on top of rubbish. London generates a lot, and it this will be a challenge for the look and feel of the Olympics.
What is the best thing?
There’s so much. The river - the view from Westminster Bridge is wonderful.
If you had only one more day here what would you spend your last day doing?
I’d walk along the Embankment. There are so many fantastic buildings to see. Then I’d go to Trafalgar Square and the galleries. This is a phenomenal city. Personally, I think it has got more to offer within itself, than probably any other city in the world.
Where do you want to end up when you pop your clogs?
I would be happy to keel over standing on a riverbank somewhere with my fishing rod! In terms of a sense of belonging to a place, I think the things you do when you are 8-12 years old have a big impact on you and Ramsgate Harbour is somewhere that I remember very clearly.