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The long and winding road to 2012 – and the turning point of a stack of handwritten letters to Tony Blair

Posted on 27 July 2012 | 10:07am

It was as a result of a mid morning phone call from Tessa Jowell that I went to my diaries for 2002 and 2003 and tweeted some of the key moments in the history of the Olympic Bid.

She was calling from the athletes’ village, where she is staying for the duration of the Games as she goes about the place dispensing her kindness and sorting out any problems that come the athletes’ way. She was still bubbling over with the excitement of having taken Ed Moses to Brixton yesterday, as the torch passed through her constituency. And she was full of the joy of having been woken up in the early hours by a very famous voice emanating musically from the stadium. As part of Operation #Savethesurprise, I won’t say who it was.

And then, I confess, we did a bit of reminiscing about the long journey the last government took to go from inception of the bid, via winning Cabinet support for it, then to victory over Paris, and now, almost a decade on, the official ceremomy.

The diaries show Tessa, then Culture Secretary, as a constant voice arguing that we should go for it. So was sports minister Dick Caborn, who never wavered in his belief, when so many others were saying we had no chance, that we could beat Paris.

Tony Blair’s position was more complicated. Instinctively he was in favour. But fair to say he was somewhat scarred by The Dome (now one of the world’s greatest music venues of course), we were worried about yet another failed and expensive bid, and we were aware that several members of the Cabinet were much less enthusiastic than Tessa.

As a sports obsessive, I was always on the side of Yes, whilst understanding the arguments of No, not least the financial ones that were raised often by Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Andrew Smith. Clare Short was against, presumably in part on the grounds that we were in favour. I was surprised to read in my diary that John Reid had also opposed, as did David Blunkett initially, though he had come round by the time the decision had to be taken. Jack Straw and Ian McCartney both spoke of the fantastic impact the Commonwealth Games in Manchester had had on the North West as a whole (an impact which continues to be felt via the supremacy of Manchester based British Cycling). As with The Dome, when we went for it, John Prescott was key.

There are 18 entries for the bid in the index of Burden of Power, and for me the most important was the one for January 25 2003. I cannot remember who it was that had the idea of getting British athletes past and present to handwrite letters to Tony Blair, and put them together in a big red, white and blue Team GB folder, but it was a turning point. I remember names as varied as Paula Ratcliffe, Chris Hoy, Jess Ennis, Steve Cram, Denise Lewis, Steve Redgrave, and youngsters we had barely heard of, all setting out why they wanted to see the Olympics come to Britain. We put the file in TB’s weekend reading box for Chequers. He called a couple of times over the weekend, and I could tell he was deciding that despite the risks and the doubts, we could not not go for it.

It was interesting to see several political journalists among those welcoming my tweeting of all the relevant entries. Others, less charitably, thought I was just trying to get in on the act, or get Tony in on the act. I was certainly wanting to remind people that as with a lot of big projects, what seems obvious now was not always so obvious. I was moved by Tessa’s emotional call this morning to want to point out her absolute consistency throughout. And I wanted to point out too that when cynics say politicians never make change happen, the Games would not be taking place without the political support of the last and current governments.

I also agree with the tweeter who pointed out that it would be nice every now and then to hear David Cameron and Boris Johnson and Co pay proper tribute to their predecessors in making it all happen. Tony Blair never fails when talking about Northern Ireland to acknowledge the role played by John Major in laying foundations. Messrs Caneron and Co would do themselves no harm whatever to point out that the chapter they are helping write as the opening ceremony kicks off the Games tonight is part of a book that is bigger than them, bigger than all of us, and has many authors, not least the sportsmen and women whose letters to a Prime Ministerial predecessor played a big part in driving the political process in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    That’s fair enough I suppose.

    Me, I’m really excited about the Olympics, and enjoying the football already, but I would have been excited if they had been held in Timbuktu, they’d still be on TV. Rather than pay tax towards them being held here, I wish Paris had won and the French citizens could be taxed by their own personal undemocratic government.

    As with almost all things, I would have preferred a referendum, with a no camp saying the olympics would clog up London and cost £12 billion, or £1000 per person or whatever it is, and the no camp telling us the benefits, ie that politicians could distract us from real issues apart from security and transport for a few weeks.

    But seriously, I would love to see a financial estimate showing us what the games will definitely cost, compared with what we project they will earn for us. The fact this hasn’t been done tells me it is pure cost, and we would have been better letting Paris suffer that cost. Then Londoners could zip around without Zil lanes and head over on eurostar if they fancied it.

    However the current administration do seem to think these games are a good thing (I’d blame them for adding on to the national debt if it was me) and therefore they should mention their predecessors.

  • Anonymous

    2 questions: 1. Has anyone got a link to any kind of figures showing a positive financial reason for having these games ie tourism, plus ticket receipts, plus future rent/sale of facilities etc? I’d like to get on board from a financial as well as sporting perspective but I cannot so far.

    2. I wonder what Alastair thinks of Tony Blair’s comeback. I liked what Blair said which was essentially honest, ie he liked being prime minister, didn’t want to step down, did want the european presidents job – the implication being he would liked those things again. I suppose he can’t say it but is thinking “I’d have done a lot better than Brown and Cameron.” Does he think he can do better than Miliband too… probably. Could he ever do the sort of job William Hague is doing for Cameron or would Blair need to be the one in charge? I suspect the latter, and I don’t mean it in a negative way. Problems electorally though, left hate him for the Iraq war, right hate him for immigration.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Deception on Olympic scale.
    London 2012 Olympics have next to nothing to do with sport.
    They are, in fact, an Illuminati ritual and a showcase for a police state.
    According to a 2010 Rockefeller Foundation future report “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development” 13,000 people will die at the Games.
    1995 Illuminati-game producer issued a card of Big Ben exploding during the Games.
    The mascot has the Illuminati All-Seeing Eye.
    Floodlights at the Olympic Stadium are in the shape of Illuminati pyramid.
    The Olympic Village is surrounded by occult street names.
    The Olympic medal has occult symbols.
    Berlin Olympics in 1936 were full of occult symbols.
    Olympic torch is a Nazi invention.
    Prometheus, the original torch-bearer, stole the fire from the gods.
    Rockefeller Center has a Prometheus fountain.
    Torch is a classic Illuminati symbol.
    Olympic flame is a representation of the sun as a reference to Ra/Lucifer.
    Lucifer in Latin is for Light Bearer.
    French Grand Orient Temple freemasons, by the way, gave the Statue of Liberty to the US.
    The Olympic movement was also reinvented by a French freemason in 1894.
    The ancient Olympics were dedicated to Olympus gods.
    Since 1984 Olympics have been hijacked by big corporations.
    Globalist bankers own the sponsors of the London Games: Coca-Cola, McDonald´s, General Electric, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Visa etc.
    Locog is being run by people from Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.
    Public cost of London Olympics is £13bn.
    53% of Britons are not interested in the Games.
    “The greatest show on earth” is supposed to unify the world through sport.
    Olympics stand for INTERNATIONALISM.
    But the London 2012 Olympics will not be promoting peace… 

  • Anonymous

    Oh yes, and I don’t know that Blair and co “always” credit John Major for his initial work on Northern Ireland, work which was indeed vital and for which he should get more credit from the country, but I certainly have heard Blair praise him on occasion for this. It took exceptional intelligence, skill and courage from both men (many others as well of course) to create the much better environment Northern Ireland, and as a result the rest of the UK, has today. There were others involved as I say, but Major and Blair both showed exceptional leadership of this.

    So well done John, Tony (and Alastair.)

  • I think that Alastair is correct when he says that Cameron and Gideon are more interested in tactics than strategy. Boris doesn’t know the
     difference !!

  • Anonymous

    Jeremy Ehtch must have something missing – have a look here, and I was screaming at the telly “you bell is loose, your bellend is loose….. jeezuz Jezz!”.

    Shows how out of touch he is with reality, quite symbolic. Beeb has posted the clip, which is nice,

  • mightymark

    “I also agree with the tweeter who pointed out that it would be nice every now and then to hear David Cameron and Boris Johnson and Co pay proper tribute to their predecessors in making it all happen. ”

    Agreed but then they are I suppose only following the precedent set by all  too many Labour people in treating Tony Blair as somehow “untouchable” – and just as wrongly.

  • Anonymous

    Boris wants a fight with that over-rich yank Romney fella, outside an eastend pub, methinks.

    Juss let us know which manor and which pub Boris – I’ll hold your coat.

  • Gilliebc

    Well said Olli.         

    I hope and pray that there will not be a ‘false flag’ incident during or soon after these Games.  But if there is I think we can be almost sure that such an incident will be blamed on Iran.  For obvious reasons.

  • Anonymous

    I think it would only be mature for current politicians to give a mention to their predecessors, but when your political tactics (strategy being too big a word) is to try and make the previous Govt unelectable before actually doing anything else, it seems unlikely that anyone will bother saying they were won on some else’s watch.

    I find it fairly nauseating that Dave and Hunt come out as if this is all their doing – but given the record to date of the Govt, it is no surprise. 

    I mean, its like the surprise that trashing confidence in the economy as a policy means that the economy goes into decline PDQ…..

  • Anonymous

    The main reason I resent the Olympics is that they are a platform for some of the most disgusting, divisive people in politics.  Anything that puts Johnson, Hunt, Cameron and co in my line of sight is a big no-no.  It would feel a lot better if we had some real people in charge who had the country’s interests at heart.  But sadly we don’t, and so it feels all wrong.

    I am sorry you and your colleagues are not getting any credit, Alastair, but politics and football are equally cruel, aren’t they?

  • Richard

    Not a word from you about the budget creep from £2.3 billion to £11.4 billion, Al? £30 million spend tonight. A mere trifle when it induces the mutual masturbation which  your blog amounts to  today. Good show chaps.

    TB to light the bowl tonight and then to be hung at the top of the stadium as an example of politicians who piss public money away and then tell us when it is all gone!

    Shameless bastards all of you.

  • Anonymous

    Glad to see the IOC hardcore sensibles managed to get through Heathrow, to tell these coalition quickly this, that and the other, where they/we are going wrong.

    Didn’t spot that observation, have you?

    They are up and running, unlike these total coalition shites, we presently suffer with. Imagination, see. They internationally don’t get employed for nothing.

    My song for the lympics, non coke cans, maccies burgermaster non-like,

    Since people from that part of the world fucked up quite a bit of the twentieth century, it is said, an appology, of sorts, through culture, from them.

    Still love to shag Marina though, to save any world…

  • Anonymous

    youtube has told me to post this, and who am I to argue?

  • Anonymous

    In the manor, where around here we sort things out indoors, Mitt,

    In conclusion, yankie boy, Mitt,

    ‘Ave some brit wellingtons, mitt, and dropped orf from tower bridge, without cameras? Ey, you want that son? So keep your bullshit shut when you are in our manor, son. last bit of advice I am gonna give you, sunshine!!

  • Anonymous

    Talking of, Alastair, the long and winding road, how about the song?

    A group, which I first sing to, She Loves You, yeh yeh, and yeh.. 1964, amused my tall aunties..Hanky time, sorry, PRRRRAAAPPP, sniff, thanks. can still sing it – don’t ask, it sounds double sad now me singing it now, ey lads?

  • Anonymous

    yeh, the overhang, in somewhere in Lancashire, as Fred said,

    jeeeezzzuz wept, I am suddendly suffering from vertigo.

    christ, the earth is moving, as I stand, Fred, you Lancashire bollocks…

  • Anonymous

    Elizabeth, always a sweetie in my life, always thought so, a song, just for her,

    Matt, remember him Lilibet?

  • Anonymous

    just try to phone up my younger brother, Lyn, and again after discussion, he put the phone down on me again,

    And we played table tennis against each other when growing up, in the garage, and now he is a cunt to me. Try again, the prozaccedtwat

  • Anonymous

    Japan, from Bechenham, what? So I met Dave Sylvian, in a pub…

    diong dang dong, south London.

  • David

    Boris will not turn up,he will send his friend Darius !!

  • Anonymous

    Fair opening ceremony,
    fair to middling.
    In our minds unimpressed,
    traditionally, beaten down.

    Thought it was “alright” myself,
    well, not bad.
    lot of action, and things, going on,
    quite good, BLOODY ACE!


    Danny Craig from Chester, the complete male tart.

  • Anonymous

    I agree apart from the confidence part in the economy. Ironically that in itself is a confidence trick. Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, China – none of their economies rely on confidence, and ours shouldn’t either.

  • Anonymous

    Must admit, whilst cynical about the games, or specifically about them being held here, I am even more cynical about opening ceremonies.
    I hate all forms of ceremonies, boring waste of time and money – if you go to see a musical, they don’t put on a football match at the start, therefore I can’t understand why we insist on putting on a musical before we watch football, or sports!

    However I actually enjoyed that tonight. I liked the historical bit at the start, I especially liked the fact that it wasn’t all hordes of camp dancers spinning round with arms flailing aimlessly in colourful costumes for 2 hours, though there was enough of that to please people who like that sort of thing. But I thought the bit in the middle going through the music was brilliant – no other country in the world could put on a musical show like that, because no other country has the beatles, the stones, the sex pistols etc etc. So credit to the organisers and the nation.

  • Anonymous

    Got to say, its not mining or manufacturing, but one difficult-to-measure but certain economic benefit already from the Olympics opening ceremony – when it comes to shows, ceremonies, choreography, music, dancing, and all the other creative industries, Britain showed it is still very much a world leader. This was a great advertisement, and will help to sell even more of these very lucratice, tax-raising, gdp-boosting services around the world, as well as of course to tourists.

    Credit where it’s due, to all involved.

  • Anonymous

    It was quite strange meeting Dave, he was totally just like anyone, not out arty like his sell. An average fella out and about, on his arty days off. We got on well. We liked each other, each others philosophies, and shit, of life. He wanted me to live in his huge house of his parents, in Forest Hill.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t spot these today, 2012 gogo dancers.

    By the way, gogo dancing is coming back into fashion, in a big way, short legged strong thighed, large bummed ladies, going for it, bouncing up and down, as here,

    For those that can’t remember where the music comes from, it is Gerry Anderson and Joe 90, yes who!?!, I say again, Joe 90,

  • Anonymous

    ..furthermore, 1967 is coming back, go go dancing as here, posted elsewhere,

  • Anonymous

    ..even furthermore, yankie 1960’s telly programme, Shindig,

    yeh, move it, yeh..

  • Anonymous

    Question, Alastair, sorry to be a damp squib – but who has suddenly decided to call the Olympic flame a “cauldron”? Coe? Locog?

    Give me strength! It is the Olympic flame, it is the Olympic flame, it is the Olympic flame, always. Never a fucking cauldron, you beeb numbnuts!

  • Anonymous

    much better, full twelve inches, brit release version, with full tweeter blasts as it gets to a climax,

  • Dave Simons

     1963. The long and winding road led to being a pillar of the Establishment. Grammar schools have a lot to answer for!

  • Quinney

    leave it arrrt, he’s farmlee

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear, the men’s cycling went a bit wrong. The coverage on the telly was confusing, commentators not knowing who was who due to tiny numbers on kit, and lack of updates how far back the second group was in time. Hope the ladies road race will be better, in both ways.

    Incredible men’s team archery final today, Italy beating USA by a point on the last arrow, one of the Italians getting a bullseye to win it on last arrow.

    GB ladies footies did the job, getting through their pool.

    No GB medals yet, oh deary me.

  • Anonymous

    I agree  – only when it appears that it does rely on confidence – its not overly clever to act like the Govt did coming into office

  • Graham

    It has been a lost point, in all the hysteria surrounding the Olympics in London, that it was a Labour government who took the decision to enter the bidding for 2012. While Brown was understandably reticent about the bid, from a financial point of view, given the failure of the Manchester Olympic bid, it was courageous of Blair to bite the bullet, and take it on. 
    The whole government had to work incredibly hard, in tandem with the British Olympic bid team, to steer the bid through several different obstacles, before they got to the final stage, and we shouldn’t be in any doubt, that it was a massive gamble. Had it gone wrong, it could have harmed Labour at the next election.
    Thankfully, it payed off, and the capital has reaped the benefit of the games, through jobs, infrastructure, tourism and a lasting legacy, of world class facilities that will benefit the local community, as well as, the national sports men and women who represent us.
    It.s unfortunate that politics has impinged on the games, in so far as to say, there has been some political capital been gained by the coalition, despite most of the work being done by others. 
    There will be time, after the games have finished, for Labour to address this properly, but for now it;s important they hold their fire. This is the athletes time, and a chance for the people of London to shine. It’s their show, and it would be wrong to spoil it. 
    Then, after the games have gone, Labour can go to the people and say, it wasn’t Boris, or Dave, or George that took the difficult decision to bid for these fantastic games; it was us. 

  • Anonymous

    As with all songs Dave, it is open to interpretation. If it was what you say, you have got to feed the establishment biscuits to keep them off your back.

    I remember when it was said the Beatles had a real hard time with them, them being from the backstreets of Britain. Just ask Sir Paul, or even Sir Mick Jag, and he was from the “right” side of the road, to see what I mean.

    1960’s Britland was class infested, even after what happened during WWII. Euro countries class system ended with WWII, more or less, after that fun and games, but ours still cling on, like molluscs, or like something smelly on your shoe sole…

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear part two, Brit ladies darts, sorry, archery team, were five ponts ahead of Russia in the first round, but blew it. Signs that Britain is struggling to do anything in this Olympics already. More backbone required – COME ON NICOLE, she is a real fighter. See what happens in the ladies cycle road race.

  • Anonymous

    Can you imagine laddering a chimney as in the vid here but a few hundred feet up? Going up ladders is one thing, but putting the ladders up first of all is the business. Vertigo city! Fred was a true star.

  • Anonymous

    1. It would be useless to try and find out. Accountants are the biggest spinners of the bottom line that god has ever invented.

    2. Glad to see him back on the Brit scene. Always had stacks of common upstairs, unlike this shower we are suffering with at the moment.

  • Anonymous

    The locals from her home village are up for it and ready,

  • Anonymous

    Damn, Armistead left it a second too late to go for it, and reacted to Vos rather than go for it herself.

    Nicole hasn’t been on form for a couple of years, maybe her knees are creaking and need looking at, or something.

  • Dave Simons

    I don’t remember the Beatles ever having a hard time with the British Establishment. They were far too harmless. Sir Alec Douglas-Home gave them mock praise for easing the balance of payments problem after Beatlemania hit the USA in 1964, and Paul was in with the Ashers fairly early on. Incidentally John wasn’t from the backstreets – when he moved in with his Aunt Mimi he’d entered middle class suburbia. 1960s Britland was certainly class-infested, but less so towards the end than now. We’ve gone back fifty years in that sense.

  • Anonymous

    Good excellent extended vid of Fred I have been sent, almost hundred minutes, brilliant it is Alastair,

    Did yer larke tha?

  • Anonymous

    more daddy after teatime porn, mam giving him a slap, when he stares for that just a bit too long…

  • Anonymous

    Quinney, are you saying he is your farmilee?

    Wotch your mouth son, choose who to back arp from your kin who is kosher, not a cann, fella, or you could be following ‘im with concrete boots inta that Thames, sunshine.

    : )

  • Anonymous

    Us celts, when heard of a cauldron, think of strange old aunts, who live on their own, with cats, and say really strange things to you when you visit them, like, beware of the person that comes to you and says vote tory, and things like that….. : )

  • Anonymous

    fuff! Beatles not getting a hard time with the establishment? What happened to their boss, ey? Drove him to suicide on how he tried hard to protect them.

    Sorry Dave, you know shit!

  • Anonymous

    ..and furthermore Dave, you missed my point completely, anywhere is from the backstreets, when away from the home counties, then.


    Sorry to be as subtle as a breeze block, Dave, just trying to educate. : )

  • Anonymous

    Yes Quinney son, Mitt needs to realise we banter in this way, we say feck when we mean fuck, and that son, and cannn for the other, yeh. So watchit Mitt!

    Got old friends I made from the manor – just sing Tom Jones at their kareoke if you want to find friends, especially if you are welsh, as I have found, in their manor, matey!

    Wot? not welsh? That is your problem, son.

    : )

  • Anonymous

    Would liked to have some input to Danny Boyle in this, but I did spot Ken Loach’s Kes the kestrel flying in it. Anyone spot that, or am I on my own? Well, obviously, it wasn’t Kes.

    Ken is one of my life heroes. Clip here with wotsisname trying to be Bobby Charlton and a gym teacher at the same time in it,

    That’s ‘im, Brian Glover – brilliant performance.

  • Anonymous

    in that clip, I have heard, they were asked to not wear knickers, and if so and so was going on, use, umm, plug it things.

    wharrrt? oh grow up will you!

  • Anonymous

    I have a vision, to set up a visiting brit comic store/library, with a turnstile.

    Hold pn, keep with me, just off Charring Cross Road, two quid to get in – I have a shitload of stuff already, but not enough, but I have some Joe 90 annuals, and shedfulls of comics and annuals, some well brit bizzare, that could sell for tons.

    overseas tourists might be amused, as well as brit anoracks – Viz geordie comics included.

    Will work on this idea. Dependent on the rates and shit off their arcades there.

  • Anonymous

    Dave, Beatles on Shindig US pop programme from around then, early sixties,

    Stirred the republicans up, no doubt!

  • Dave Simons

    We’re deep into the silly season now and a lot of people are going on holiday and, frankly, I’d advise you to follow suit – it sounds as if you need one! But then a shameless bastard would say that, wouldn’t he?

  • Dave Simons

    I’ve not heard that interpretation of Epstein’s death. Where’s the evidence? The Beatles were given a hard time by the evangelical Christian groups after the ‘more popular than Christ’ statement but I don’t remember any British Establishment figures being hostile to the Beatles – rather they rushed to make them part of the Club.

  • Anonymous

    The rumour that John was an out and out commie? And was 100% anti-Vietnam? How’s that? And George trying to turn the country into a bunch of hari-krishnas?

    The evidence is all there, alledgedly.

  • Anonymous

    Ken Loach must have based this scene on what my grandmother also said, remembering her 1910’s/20’s school education, when she said “a schoolteacher is a man amongst children, but a mouse amongst men”.

    But that was then, honest, with the cane and things, when going to school was like going to bootcamp. So don’t get wound up with what I just said, present day schoolteachers, whatever you do. Find your funnybone is my advice.

    But Brian Glover did excellent dark humour there, which is a way of getting by.

  • Anonymous

    Danny Craig at it again. Chester is within our manor, just, so wotchit, we like our Chester peeps, no matter wot they say abhart us taffies,

    Think Danny, aka that ponce James Bond, will no doubt fancy meeting me one day, for a chat, and things, and pass the fucking time of day.

    : )

  • Anonymous

    Might as well post Sex Dwarf from Soft Cell, and why not, it is my favorite track of them, as you no doubt will soon see. Girlies living a various life of vice, photos internal or whatever.

    Hope it gets through the filters here so you are able to click onto it, and enjoy with open mind…

    Early eighties Thatcher had an edge, in the backrooms of country and city pubs, porn explosion, tricks for a shilling, Kings Cross Station and all that, travelled from Bradford and parts.

  • Anonymous

    Not getting it, ey, sunshines?
    Well, we are the Sweeney, and we haven’t had our breakfast – your nicked!

    sort ‘im ‘art Carter, and give ‘im one from me, while you’re ‘art it.

  • Dave Simons

     That was later – after the Beatles had broken up. ‘Revolution’ was against the  student protests of 1968. Lennon later jumped on the bandwagon.

  • Anonymous

    Did a college course with a fella from Swansea that had a degree in chemistry, and he said he could produce some speed and shit within a few hours from off the shelf supermarket pharmacuticals, and he wasn’t bullshitting. He was a bit shy on his past, by the way, and why he is not in it’s honest trade with an official company anymore….

    I didn’t press him.

  • Anonymous

    definately after twelve watershed I think, rather than nine, 9pm that is, not when school telly starts, 9am, but you never know.

    What ever happened to daytime school telly, ey? It seemed to just disappear in the age of video then dvds.

    Anyone remember the interlude clips they had between schools prgrammes on the beeb? Especially the ball bouncing round a square castle next to the wall, always going up steps, all the way round, MC Escher like, the dutch etcher, to the music of popcorn?

    This one will do,

    The Popcorn music if you haven’t heard it before, a recent cover version…. : )

    ding-dong, I say! Very school gates old boy. Nice!

  • Anonymous

    That is what you think Dave, I heard different. He was always like that, alledgedly.