London 2012 will be a most compelling story

Winning and delivering the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will become one of London and the UK's most compelling stories of the early 21stcentury.

18 July 2012

Windsor Great Park Olympic torch

It will make its mark physically on our capital much more profoundly than the British exhibitions of the 19th and 20th centuries. In just seven years one of the most neglected and derelict parts of London has been transformed and I am proud to have played my part in this - as part of the bid team, a Director at the ODA and now as CEO of The Crown Estate.

On 5 July 2005 London won the bid. For many of us it was a heart stopping moment that changed our lives. Back then the hardest task seemed to be winning the bid. Post-win, with the press still hounding the Dome and Wembley, the challenge was convincing sceptics we could deliver ambitious public sector projects. So the end of the 'Big Build' brought a sigh of relief and satisfaction. However, I think we all felt that the third and final phase would be the toughest. The scale and logistics of staging of the world's largest event, with 4 billion people watching, is without precedent in the UK.

The Games will showcase British engineering, innovation and ingenuity, sending a clear message that we can deliver big projects and that London is a dynamic and modern multi-cultural city. When the dust settles in September though, the challenge will be to sustain this momentum. The prize: a serious boost to London's position as a global city, and to jobs, growth, tourism and inward investment.

Infrastructure will continue to be key. We must apply the lessons of the Games to the next challenges, from strategic transport capacity and critical infrastructure, to public realm. The Games are proof of what can be achieved with strong leadership, vision and political alignment (central and local), backed by business. At The Crown Estate we're proud of our transformation of Regent Street. Even some of our more local projects, like the Oxford Circus diagonal crossing (in partnership with Westminster City Council, and Transport for London) have made a real difference to visitor experiences.

Capitalising on the Games is about more than just the tangible; it's also about brand. London's brand is already iconic but cannot be taken for granted. West End retail easily competes with the Champs Elysees and Fifth Avenue. Add to this the quality of our restaurants, parks and public spaces, and it's easy to see a truly global, world-class city.

The Games will take all of this to the largest possible audience. Our task is to crystallise this interest for long-term benefit. That's why Regent Street and St James's are welcoming the world with the flags of all 206 competing nations. And why we've teamed up with the London Media Centre at our new Quadrant 3 development to host a satellite media centre in Regent Street during the Olympics.

In property, we know why occupiers choose London, whether it's for the right type of modern space or a welcoming regulatory environment. In the West End, the benefits afforded by the great estates, including The Crown Estate, should also not be underestimated; they have helped deliver long-term vision, investment and cohesive management. Seeing companies like Telefónica Digital choose Regent Street for its global headquarters, proves the West End now competes with the City as a global business address.

In sustaining this, politicians have a role to play, not just as planning authorities and policy makers but in helping stimulate inward investment. And we must also continue to encourage the growth of a more balanced London. If you draw a line north/south through Tower Bridge, half of London lives to the east - we must rebalance the Capital to unlock the opportunities and talents in the east.

And so for me, I have to pinch myself to believe that London's moment has finally come. Yes there will be challenges. Yes, we won't get it all right. But it's a team Game - public and private. And we need a final rally to ensure we do everything possible to make the London 2012 Games an historic moment and a lasting success. Let the Games begin! Oh, and let the summer begin too now (please)!