As the eyes of the world focus on London for the start of what promises to be an incredible Olympic Games, I have been struck by the enthusiasm of the public generally for the London 2012 Games, but particularly of the volunteers I meet travelling between Westminster and Rochester via Stratford.
I see many dutiful and focussed Army patrols walking through the Westfield shopping centre at Stratford next to the Olympics village, and have, alongside them, been impressed by the huge numbers of Olympic volunteers working to make the Games a success. They are putting a really welcoming human face to the Games and are displaying the very best of British to our visitors from across the globe.
Like many, I recall momentous contests from past Olympics, notably the rivalry between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe during the Moscow Games in 1980, and the supreme Steve Redgrave winning a gold medal for the fifth Olympics in a row at Sydney in 2000. I am sure our London Olympics will deliver some equally memorable moments and I would like to wish all of Team GB the very best of luck for London 2012.
Locally here in Medway, and nowhere more than in Rochester, there has been ever-growing enthusiasm for the Olympics, supported by the excellent build up provided by Medway Council. The Olympic Torch Relay could not have gone better, with thousands of well-wishers, including my own family, lining the streets to cheer on the torch bearers.
Though it was sad that the Medway Messenger’s campaign for Jack Denness to carry the torch in Medway was not successful, I was delighted to arrange for him to do so in Parliament and that Medway Council, at the instigation of Mayor Vaughan Hewett, invited him to the Civic Reception as a guest of honour.
This evening I will be watching the Olympic Games opening ceremony on the big screen in Rochester Castle Gardens, following the completion of what has been an incredibly well supported ‘Medway Mile’ in this Olympic year.
As a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee I was at Heathrow to see the South Korean Olympic team clear immigration smoothly last Friday, and then receive a very warm welcome from London-based supporters – there just don’t seem to be so many North Korean flags around!
On Monday I will be joining our Chairman, Keith Vaz, to inspect security at the Olympic Park and the way which our police and armed forces are now uncomplainingly taking up the baton from G4S. We are grateful to them all and wish our athletes the very very best for the Games.