Who's who: Political credit from London Olympics
- 9 August 2012
- From the section UK Politics
As Team GB enjoy their Olympic gold medal rush, here's a guide to the politicians with special reasons to celebrate:
Sir John Major
The Games might be happening 15 years after he left Downing Street, but there are those who say Sir John should take credit for Team GB's successes. It was his government that introduced the National Lottery in 1994, a vital source of funding for many of our Olympic athletes. Kevin Jefferys, professor of contemporary history at Plymouth University, describes it as Sir John's "key achievement" in sport policy. The money was too late to make any difference at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Professor Jefferys argues, when Britain finished 36th in the medal table. But it has made a huge difference since then, he says. David Cameron has made the same point as Team GB has climbed up the medal table during the Games.
His successor as London Mayor Boris Johnson might now be enjoying the limelight, but it was Ken Livingstone who was the figurehead for the capital when the right to stage the Games was won in 2005. Mr Livingstone told judges from the International Olympic Committee in Singapore: "The regeneration of the area around the Olympic Park is already under way. The Games guarantee this regeneration will create a community where sport is an integral part of everyday life." His presentation concluded with the promise that the Olympics would turn east London into "a model for 21st-Century living". Mr Livingstone once explained why he was so passionate about winning the Games for London. "I didn't bid for the Olympics because I wanted three weeks of sport," he said. "I bid for the Olympics because it's the only way to get the billions of pounds out of the government to develop the east end."
When asked about the Russian President Vladimir Putin's prowess at judo, the Mayor of London joked there should be "a politicians' Olympics". If there had been, many would argue Boris Johnson would be in line for a medal. For the local mayor, the Olympics has provided a global stage. Mr Johnson's knack for capturing the public mood - and getting stuck on a zip wire - provoked a deluge of headlines. "The Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoink," predicted Mr Johnson on the eve of the Games. Some rather breathless articles suggested it would be next stop Downing Street for the mayor. Steady on. But his star does appear to have risen.
The former prime minister is credited by many for his marathon lobbying before the crucial vote in Singapore that determined who would get the 2012 Games. Tony Blair's arm-twisting was so extensive it provoked a complaint from rival bidders Paris. "I am not saying that they just bent the rules, they overstepped the mark," Bertrand Delanoe, the then mayor of the French capital claimed. Not so, said the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge. Mr Blair has described the lobbying operation as "the strangest electorate I have ever had to deal with, because it is just 120 people". He has also praised his wife Cherie for lobbying some of the less well-known IOC members.
The chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, known as LOCOG, is not just a former Olympian, but a former Conservative MP. He worked as chief of staff to William Hague when Mr Hague was Conservative Party leader. The two men became judo partners. Lord Coe became chair of the London 2012 bid in 2004, when Barbara Cassani resigned from the role. "To make an Olympic champion it takes eight Olympic finalists. To make Olympic finalists, it takes 80 Olympians. To make 80 Olympians it takes 202 national champions, to make national champions it takes thousands of athletes. To make athletes it takes millions of children around the world to be inspired to choose sport," Lord Coe said in front of IOC members about to make their decision in Singapore in 2005. Seven years later, "inspire a generation" has become the slogan of the Games.
When London was awarded the Games, the prime minister was shadow secretary of state for education and skills and one of several people being talked about as the next leader of the Conservative Party. As prime minister, he has had the job of articulating the pride of the country in staging the Games and Team GB's successes. "This really has turned into a golden summer for Team GB and the whole of the United Kingdom," he said. "We have shown the world the best face of Britain." After a tough few months for the government, the Olympics has, no doubt, been a welcome domestic political ceasefire for Mr Cameron. Once the Olympic cauldron has been extinguished, political hostilities will resume. Some, too, will look to the prime minister to ensure there is a legacy to the London Games: that the facilities are put to good use, more people get involved in sport, and the Olympics do provide a boost to the economy.
Dame Tessa Jowell
Rewind the clock nine and a half years, to January 2003. The Labour government of the day was increasingly consumed by the prospect of taking the country to war in Iraq. The then Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell thought London should bid to hold the Olympics in 2012. But some of her civil servants didn't agree and neither did her cabinet colleagues. "We started with no votes around the cabinet table," she told the Daily Telegraph in a recent interview. After a few deferrals of the cabinet decision the go ahead finally came in May 2003 in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's fall. In the same interview, she said she would be spending the entire Games at the Olympic Park and sleeping in the Olympic Village, in her role as deputy mayor of the athletes' accommodation. Some say she can claim to be the politician most closely associated with the Games from beginning to end.
He is often described as the "culture secretary". But Jeremy Hunt's full title is Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. Few people can have been more relieved to see the Opening Ceremony, and the brief respite from political hostilities during the Games. 2012 hasn't been the easiest year for him, facing weeks of questions about his involvement in News Corporation's attempts to take full control of BSkyB. And just days before the Games started he also faced questions about the failures of the security firm G4S to supply enough security guards. But, in ministerial terms, the Olympics is his responsibility and the Games have been widely praised, while Team GB has had unprecedented success.
Although he is yet to be pictured pitch/pool-side at Olympic events, Gordon Brown was at the Olympic opening ceremony, along with fellow former prime ministers Tony Blair and Sir John Major. Baroness Thatcher was invited but not well enough to attend. As chancellor when the Games were won in 2005, and prime minister at the start of the global financial crisis and whilst the Olympic Park was being built, Mr Brown was always keen to emphasise what he saw as the economic benefits of the 2012 Games. The Olympics would be both a "job creator and growth generator", he said.