Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The former Prime Minister, now an Olympics legacy consultant, advises patience when it comes to evaluating the impact of the Games.
Tony Blair attended the Beyond Sport summit yesterday in London to speak about how sports, particularly the Olympics, can facilitate positive change.
Since leaving office, the former Prime Minister has started a small-scale sports foundation in northeast England to train coaches and volunteers. More recently, he has become an adviser to the Labour party on Olympic legacy.
At the event, he touched on a number of topics related to the potential outcomes and legacy of hosting the Games, including local skepticism over what England can expect from seeing its winning bid through to completion.
Blair is not surprised by the less-than-excited reception around the country as the Opening Ceremonies draw near, but he also predicted that the country would eventually take pride in its hosting of the Games. "We're just like this," he said. "But when it comes to the point, people will be delighted. It's an enormous opportunity for the country."
In yesterday's Guardian, Blair was quoted after the event as saying it could take a decade to judge the London Games honestly. He also emphasized the importance of maintaining political focus long after the Olympics conclude. "It's in 10 years time we'll know whether this has worked or not." he said. "What is important is after the Olympics to carry on encouraging the impact of it to keep generating local sport activity."
When asked if the $14.6 billion price tag for hosting the Olympics could have been spent on urban regeneration without hosting such an event, the former Prime Minister seemed uninterested in such a discussion, saying, "It's not quite the same. You've got the Olympics! When people start making arguments like this I just have to say 'Come on guys, this is the biggest sporting event in the world and we're hosting it.'"
Blair added that winning the bid is quite an accomplishment. "There is no accurate assessment of the figures on this, but if you were to ask any of the cities who we beat if they wish the result had gone differently, if they were being honest they would say 'yes, of course,'" he said.
He also believes the fact that the IOC chose London over Paris and Moscow is a testament to the city as a whole, "The infrastructure is now the thing the Olympic committee more or less take for granted," he said. "What we added was a sense of London as a modern, multicultural, multi-faith city. I'm not saying that was the determining element, but it was an important dimension."