On July 17 last year, Lord Sugar chose me as his next business partner, changing my life and also starting me on a journey which has taken me right into the heart of the Olympics.
At the time I was living in Putney, while Lord Sugar is based at his offices in Loughton in Essex and my fiancée Sarah (now my wife) works in central London. It made sense for me to work from Lord Sugar’s in Essex, and I spent the first few months doing the two hour each way, commuting back and forth. In the end, Sarah could see the commute was killing me and we had a decision to make – where would we like to live?
Stratford was right in the middle for both of us, and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to actually live in the place where London 2012 is going to happen?’ I’ve always loved the Olympics. I remember the 1992 Games, when I was 13 years old and glued to the TV every day during the summer holidays, watching Linford Christie win the 100m and cheering Sally Gunnell to victory in the 400m hurdles.
I’m a big fan of sports like hockey that aren’t normally shown on TV and I love the fact that, every four years, you can spend three weeks flicking from one event to another and marvelling at the incredible, wide-ranging talents of the best sportsmen and women in the world.
So we moved to Stratford. Of course, one of the reasons why the Olympics has come to Stratford is because the area was badly in need of regeneration. Living in a new area far from friends and family was at first certainly pretty tough, especially in January and February. But it’s been so exciting living here for the last year – I’ve really been able to see the area of Leyton and Leytonstone improving, day by day.
Living in Stratford I’ve been able to take advantage of the ‘London Prepares events’. I’ve been getting as involved in the build-up as possible, going to a number of the Olympics Prepares events – the hockey, the diving, the water polo and the athletics. I donned my trainers and had a taste of the action myself after taking part in the National Lottery Run on March 31 – a 5km event in the Olympic Park which finished in the Olympic Stadium itself. By taking part we were one of the first to cross the Olympic finish line. I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren: “I crossed the line before Usain Bolt!”
I imagine that’s as close as I’ll ever get to being an Olympian – but my grandfather nearly went to the Games in 1988. He just missed out on qualifying for the shooting event. My mum says there was a malfunction in the equipment that fired the target, so he didn’t shoot at it. He got 99 out of 100 in qualifying and didn’t make the team.
I drive around the Olympic Park to get to work and I’ve had fantastic views of it all developing. It’s only increased the sense of anticipation – although I’ve been studiously learning the back roads so I can avoid the queues over the next few weeks!
I literally could not be more excited about what’s about to happen and, as a Brit and a Londoner, I’m so proud of how well it’s all being organised, and so impressed with Locog and all the volunteers who have given up their time. I’ll be going to watch the rowing, athletics, hockey, volleyball and handball – over the next few weeks I’m taking a few days off.
There’s literally hours to go now until the Opening Ceremony and I’ve just been for a cycle around the area. It difficult to explain how much the area has changed over the last year. I wish I’d taken more photos to show. Below are a couple
I’m planning to head out and watch it on one of the big screens with Sarah, Ricky Martin (the latest Apprentice winner, not the singer) and a few friends.
It should be a night to remember – the party of the decade, and a once in a life-time opportunity right here in London. In fact I don’t think any of us are going to forget the next few weeks. I really hope you enjoy the games as much as I will.
What the Olympic Park used to look like 23/9/2010
26th July 2012 – The night before the opening Ceremony