Last week (Friday 18 December) I had the great privilege and honour to accompany Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, a non-Executive Board member of LOCOG, who has over the last two decades made exceptional contributions to the East End of London and was conferred an honorary fellowship by Queen Mary, University of London.
Together along with a group of pupils from the London East Academy we went to witness at first hand the real change in landscape taking place in our back yard.
I live in Tower Hamlets. It is where I was born and brought up. I am proud to say that my back yard will be the centre of the world’s attention come 2012. Tower Hamlets is one of the five host Olympic boroughs in London.
But sadly it’s also one of London’s most deprived boroughs where unemployment is double the national average and a fifth of people have no qualifications. As the Legacy Action Plan said: 'hosting the Games will help tackle disadvantage and improve opportunities' for local communities.
Three years ago the site in Stratford was a redundant, disused and neglected area. Today as I have seen for myself - this is no more. From the splendid bowl of the Olympic Stadium that takes shape to the steel fashioned fish that is the Aquatics centre; these monumental structures are symbols of the bright future that the games will leave behind for the East End.
But what’s more it will inspire a generation of young people. London 2012 is already a beacon of hope, a source of great inspiration. I am proud of the fact that my capital is moving so fast to ensure the Games be a success. In the metal structures erected all around the site, I see a symbol. I see what London is about. A Games designed to reach for the sky and to the world and leave behind symbols of excellence and hope for local communities, the wider country and the world.
During the summer I travelled to China and India. I visited the Bird’s Nest: the heart of what symbolised Chinese pride during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In New Delhi, I saw the almost complete structure that will form the centre of India’s 2010 Commonwealth Games. This is the power of sports; to be able to invigorate national pride and unity and the power to change and inspire.
Throughout our visit to the Olympic site we were accompanied by Bulbul Hussain – the only British Bangladeshi who took part in the Paralympics. A resident of Tower Hamlets, he was paralysed after a car accident while on holiday in Bangladesh. Against all the challenges he went on to make it into the England Team as a Wheelchair Rugby player for Beijing 2008. This is the story which inspired me and will inspire young people around the country.
As we move to a phase where the once distant dreams of hosting the 2012 Olympics now fast become reality, we must all enjoy and celebrate what London has achieved to date and will offer to the world.
After the Games the Olympic Park will be transformed into one of the largest urban parks created in Europe for more than 150 years. The world-class sport facilities will be open for local communities to use and the new affordable homes will lay some relief to the epic house shortages in my borough, for example.
London will, I am confident, showcase the best of Britain. Our youth, our culture, our history, our heritage, our vision. That vision is a vision for all. A vision which says you can do it. You can be the next Chris Hoy or the next Bulbul Hussain if you put in the effort.
Back in 2005 when we won the bid Ken Livingstone said: "We felt there was a mountain to climb and we would never win”. Today as we set our sights on the games and its important legacy, with less than 950 days to go, we are half way up the mountain.
The Games will leave a key legacy of national benefits in culture, sport, volunteering, business and tourism. It has inspired me and it will inspire millions more around the country and the world to strive for the best.