Following, humbly, in his footsteps today, with exactly 100 days to go before our Games, feels not just fitting, but a genuine privilege – and especially so as I'm joining a unique project planting a ribbon of contemporary de Coubertin Oak Trees: five trees in Much Wenlock are the terminus for a line of some 40 oaks stretching down to Kew Gardens and on to the Olympic Park in London's Stratford.
In 2004, as part of London’s bid to host the 2012 Games, a group of pupils at the William Brookes School in Much Wenlock planted acorns from de Coubertin's original oak. Later Kew Gardens kindly took the young saplings and smothered them with the best in horticultural love and attention. Now, as healthy and youthful oaks, reaching seven or eight feet tall, they are being returned to Wenlock and many points south.
Present and past pupils and staff from the school, the Town Mayor and representatives of the Wenlock Olympian Society take turns to complete the ceremonial planting and a new avenue of de Coubertin Oaks is established.
Twenty six of the London 2012 'Get Set' schools between Shropshire and London will be conducting their own planting ceremonies over the next few weeks and in Kew Gardens, Seb Coe planted another oak. The final links in the chain will be added at the end of May when more of the trees are planted in the Olympic and Paralympic Village.
As with so much of London 2012 this has been a bigger team effort than it might appear. As well as LOCOG’s Sustainability and Education teams and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the project has been supported by the Forestry Commission, the Much Wenlock Tree Forum, The Tree Council, the Woodland Trust and logistical support from UPS.
There is something inspiring about the generous boughs of a mighty English Oak Tree – particularly so when, as a silent keeper of our history, it is older than any of us and, like as not, will outlive us all too. These particular trees carry especial meaning forging the unique history of de Coubertin's link with British Olympic heritage with young people across the country playing their own part in creating London 2012.
On the day when London 2012's Games motto was announced – 'Inspire a Generation' – I'm in no doubt that the de Coubertin Oaks will provide a source of shared memory and inspiration for many a generation to come.
Bill, Director of Ceremonies, Education and Live Sites.