6 July 2005

London wasn't expected to win the Olympics Bid so today at noon when the International Olympics Committee's decision was announced in Singapore, throughout UK the cheers were mixed with hefty sighs of relief. That will teach Jacques Chirac to criticise British cuisine! I was privy to some of the preparations for the bid, as my theatre colleague Jude Kelly has been in charge of the Arts side of the planning.

Ian McKellen Carries the Olympic Torch
Tower Bridge
26 June 2004

It has been too often forgotten that the Olympic Games originally included a festival of arts to accompany the sporting events. I was invited to help celebrate when London was put on the shortlist for 2012, alongside Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris. I read Wordsworth's "On Westminster Bridge" to a jolly crowd of revellers who were also addressed by the Mayor of London and Sebastian Coe who has been heading the Bid committee. Jude subsequently got me along to a couple of meetings with other supporters of the arts to imagine in what ways London could present the arts during the Games. I suggested that every London theatre should host a foreign company of players, in parallel with the sporting visits. Jude favoured a Friend-Ship vessel which will sail the world before returning to the docklands close to where the Olympic Village will be built in East London.

Last week I added the voice over the images of athletes in the film shown at Singapore at the final presentation of London's case. So I'm extra specially pleased with the news. I just spoke to Jude in Singapore and urged her to stay on and start imagining in detail the greatest arts celebration ever known - in 2012 - in London!