London 2012 Olympics

What is the London 2012 Olympics?

The International Olympic Committee voted in July 2005 for London to hold the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, with the majority of facilities centred in the capital but many other locations hosting events, training villages and support facilities.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for the bid was seen as a major boost for London and a significant factor in it beating Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow, as was the support of Nelson Mandela.

The key message behind the London 2012 bid was that the Games would provide Britain with a legacy: transforming people's lives through the regeneration of one of the poorest areas of London; inspiring a new generation to greater sporting activity and achievement; and supporting the Olympic movement of the future.

A 500-acre Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, will form the centre of the Games. It will include the main 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held as well as the athletics events, and the Aquatics Centre, which will include two 50m swimming pools and a diving pool.

Existing facilities at Wimbledon and Lord's Cricket Ground, the lake at Eton Dorney and the historic Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich will all be used, as will the Dome in Greenwich.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) promises to carry a high-speed shuttle service between central London and the Olympic Park in just seven minutes. This will also link up to the Eurostar and carry on to continental Europe. When combined with improved Underground services, the Olympic team intends to have a train arriving at the Olympic Park once every 15 seconds.

The entire delivery of the 2012 project is being monitored by the Olympic Board which comprises Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan and London 2012 Organising Committee chair Sebastian Coe. Former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Sir Menzies Campbell and Don Foster also sit on the Board as observers.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), chaired by John Armitt, is the public body responsible for developing and building the new venues and infrastructure for the Games and their use post-2012. The ODA is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Greater London Authority, the London Development Agency and the Olympic Lottery Distributor.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is the private sector company responsible for staging and hosting the 2012 Games. It has a £2bn budget, with almost all of it to be raised from the private sector.

The Olympic Games will be held from the 27 July-12 Aug 2012 and the Paralympic Games from 29 Aug-9 Sept 2012.


The Olympic Games were last held in London in 1948. The only other time the Games were held in London was in 1908.

The decision for London to bid for the 2012 Games followed the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and the Euro '96 football competition. These events reassured the UK's sporting authorities and the Government that the country could successfully stage major successful international sporting events.

Work on the 2012 London bid began as far back as 1997. In late 2000, the British Olympic Association delivered a report to Parliament, the Greater London Authority and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone outlining the proposed bid.

During 2002, the Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Committee conducted an in-depth report into the bid, published in January 2003. The Prime Minister indicated his backing for a London bid in April 2003, but it was not until May 2003 that the Government officially threw its weight behind the bid and allocated £2.375 billion to the costs of staging the Games.

The British Olympic Association formally notified the International Olympic Committee that London was bidding for the Games in July 2003 and the details of the bid were officially launched in the following January at a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden, London. The Olympic Games were awarded to London on 6 July 2005.


The huge cost of staging the Olympic Games raised widespread concern with many fearing that – with memories of the Millennium Dome and Wembley Stadium as present as the success of the 2002 Commonwealth Games – the funds provided would not be well spent. In addition, there were fears that costs would continue to spiral out of control.

At the time of the bid the estimated cost of the Games was £4 billion: £3 billion for the Olympic Park and an element for elite and community sport; and £1 billion as part of the wider Lower Lea Valley regeneration (excluding tax and wider security costs). Following a review by the Government a revised funding cost was announced in March 2007 of £9.32bn.

In addition, many people were, and still are, concerned that London's fragile and crowded transport infrastructure will be unable to cope with the added pressures of the Games. Although the Government is determined to complete major improvements before the Games, the record of British governments and their contractors in completing transport projects on time and to cost has not always been encouraging.

By the time of the IOC vote in July 2005, however, there was huge public support for the UK bid. Some of Britain's top athletes and sportsmen, including David Beckham, Denise Lewis and Kelly Holmes, also threw their weight behind the bid.

Prime Minister Tony Blair attracted controversy in late December 2003 when he was accused by the International Olympic Committee of violating a ban on engaging in promotional activities regarding the 2012 London bid. He brought up the "extraordinary success" of the Commonwealth Games hosted by Manchester in 2002 at a 'sports breakfast' in Abuja.

The IOC subsequently wrote to the nine cities bidding for the 2012 games warning them of their responsibilities.

In April 2005, the promoters of the London 2012 bid were forced to withdraw a £15 million package of incentives for athletes and sports' administrators only five days after it was proposed. It was feared the package, which included free flights, would constitute a breach of bidding regulations and the bid team decided to withdraw the offers before an investigation by the IOC's ethics committee reported back.

Other controversies were overshadowed by that of the Olympic logo, however. Taking ad agency Wolff Olins over a year to design and costing around £400,000, the unveiling of the logo at a specially convened press conference with Lord Coe and Kelly Holmes was followed by near-instantaneous criticism.

While figures connected to the project did their best to put a brave face on the reaction, objections to the logo remained widespread and vociferous. An online petition calling for the logo to be replaced received over 50,000 signatures.

Things went from bad to worse when it emerged that an advert promoting the logo could trigger fits in people with photo-sensitive epilepsy. Epilepsy Action claimed 22 people had already contacted them to say the advert had triggered a fit and the Olympic Organising Committee quickly re-cut the video.

Ken Livingstone went on record as saying the company who made the video should not be paid but later softened his stance in a belated attempt to downplay the controversy.

A further significant controversy arose in early July 2012 when it emerged that G4S, the private company contracted to provide security at the Olympics, could not guarantee it would be able to supply enough guards in time for the opening of the Games. Home Secretary, Theresa May, said there had been signs of staffing problems in late June, which G4S said they could resolve; but on 11th July, G4S admitted they could not resolve the problems and would not be able to produce the staff they were contracted to produce.

As a result, 17,000 troops were drafted in to make up the security shortfall with a further 1200 put on standby.

G4S chief executive Nick Buckles was subsequently subjected to a humiliating interrogation by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in which he was branded "incompetent" and "amateurish". Mr Buckles admitted he was reliant on police and military support to provide security at the Games and agreed the situation was "a humiliating shambles". He told MPs he was"deeply disappointed and embarrassed" by the failure to satisfy the contract and that he was "deeply sorry".

G4S, which has operations in more than 125 countries and over 657,000 employees, later issued a statement saying it was "grateful" for the military support. "We do not underestimate the impact on the military personnel and their families and express our appreciation to them," the statement read. "G4S has undertaken to cover the additional costs relating to the military and police who make good any shortfall in G4S personnel. The Company has reviewed the latest position and believes that, even if some or all of the additional troops now on standby were to be deployed, the overall losses to be incurred on this contract would remain within the previously stated estimate of £35m – £50m."

The Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were strongly criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for their handling of preparations for the Olympic Games. Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: "The chaos which has emerged over the security contract was predictable and undermines confidence in those responsible for managing the Games." She also wanted to know why "no credible explanation" had been given for "an astonishing twelve-fold hike in management costs, from £10 million to £125 million" and urged the Home Office to "get a grip on LOCOG and G4S instantly."

Mrs Hodge also accused the DCMS of "a resistance to giving us clear and consistent information and a readiness to depart from proper ways of conducting public business." She said the Committee had faced "considerable difficulty" in pinning down just how much the Games was costing the taxpayer and how much risk there was. "A big concern is that the Department has no intention of producing a single auditable account for the Games, drawing together both the costs within the Public Sector Funding Package of £9.3 billion and those outside." she said. "Such an analysis must be produced."

Home Secretary Theresa May and G4S boss Nick Buckles are both due to appear before MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee in September.


The construction of all the new main venues and infrastructure for the London 2012 Games is now complete.

Construction progress by 14 November 2011:

The final piece of turf has been laid on the field of play in the Olympic Stadium, marking completion of construction of the venue.
Construction has been completed on the Basketball Arena
Construction has been completed on the Copper Box
Construction has been completed on the Velodrome
Construction has been completed on the Aquatics Centre
Construction has been completed on the Lee Valley White Water Centre
More than three-quarters of the residential plots are structurally complete, the structure of the Chobham Academy school is nearing completion and work is well underway on the state-of-the-art polyclinic.
Construction has been completed on the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and the Main Press Centre (MPC) is structurally complete.
Work has been completed at the main ‘gateway’ station for the Games, Stratford station.
The two-year planting programme on the Olympic Park has been completed
The number of completed apartments on the Olympic and Paralympic Village has passed the symbolic 2,012 mark

The public investment for the ODA’s work was agreed in spring 2008 and the project remains within this budget.

Source: – November 2011

London 2012 Olympics – transport key figures:

0.3 per cent of London’s roads have Games-specific lanes.
1 per cent of London’s roads covered by the Olympic Route Network.
2.6 kilometre extension to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
80 kilometres of walking and cycling paths being improved.
10 rail lines serve the Olympic Park, including the London Underground, the DLR, London Overground and national rail services.
15 seconds – a train will arrive on the Olympic Park every 15 seconds.
7 minutes – the Javelin service will shuttle people between Stratford and St Pancras in just seven minutes.
27 Jubilee line trains per hour into Stratford, along with 50 national rail trains and 68 buses per hour on six routes to Stratford.
33 per cent capacity increase on the Jubilee line.
500,000 extra trips expected on the London Underground each day.
900,000 peak number of spectators (half a million of them in London) using public transport.
3 million spectator trips within London on the busiest day of the Games.
20 million spectator trips within London throughout the Games.

Source: HM Government – May 2012

The Games will involve more than 200 countries, over 10,500 Olympic athletes, more than 4,200 Paralympic athletes and over 14,000 officials.
The FCO will welcome over 100 heads of government and heads of state from across the world during the Games.

Source: FCO – July 2012



"As Ministers visit Olympic venues, businesses, schools and organisations associated with 2012 right across the UK, I want the message to go out loud and clear, from tourism to business, sport to investment, we are determined to maximise the benefits of 2012 for the whole country."

Prime Minister David Cameron – January 2012

“I want to say a great warm welcome to everybody who is coming to the Olympic Games. We have organised here in the United Kingdom what we hope will be one of the greatest Games ever… We’re looking forward to everyone being able to cheer on their competitors, their favourite athletes from all over the world. Enjoy the Olympic Games.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague – July 2012