Lord Swaraj Paul played a vital role behind London Olympics

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Lord Swaraj Paul
London, Jul 27: There is an Indian hand in the successful bid and holding of the London Olympics beginning on Friday. As the unprecedented third Olympics in London gets underway, NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul looked back with great satisfaction to his role in the successful bid for the Games and thereafter as the Chairman of the key Olympic Delivery Committee (ODC) tasked with acquisition of land running into hundreds of acres.

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Seven years ago, when the venue of the 2012 Olympics was to be decided, Paul was among the eminent Britons led by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair who went to Singapore to persuade the International Olympic Association (IOA) to allot the Games to London, which has been the venue twice before, in 1908 and 1948. "The competition was intense. Paris appeared certain to get it. The French President was there. The US was bidding as was Russia. But we did it," he recalled.

London having won the bid, Paul was given the onerous task of chairing the ODC. "Acquiring so much land, paying compensation to industries existing there was no easy task, but we did it in time," he said.

"At the time there was a lot of opposition to the 2012 Games being held in London but the LDA (London Development Agency) and particularly the then Mayor Ken Livingstone worked very hard to overcome this and had the determination to see it through," Lord Paul said.

The British government acknowledged Paul's contribution with Tessa Jowell, then Minister for Sports, publicly telling Paul: "Your leadership, dedication, energy and imagination as a member of the London 2012 board was absolutely crucial to London's success."

The NRI industrialist, who made Britain his home 46 years ago, has one wish which he puts in these words: "I wish India host the Olympic Games, which would be another recognition of its growing prowess in the world and in sports. They did an excellent job with Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. It is time to go higher."

Lord Swraj Paul's portrait will be featured to represent India at a major public art project showcasing Britain's cultural diversity coinciding with the Games. Under the project, The World in London, the Photographers' Gallery commissioned 204 photographic portraits of Londoners, each originating from one of the nations competing at the London Olympics and Paralympic games.

Lord Paul, Chancellor of two British Universities - Wolverhampton and Westminster - was chosen to represent India and his portrait was taken by famous photographer Mary McCartney, daughter of Sir Paul McCartney. An exhibition of the Portraits will take place in Oxford Street, Central London, for four days starting from Friday as well as at Victoria Park in East London. In December, the full set of The World in London portraits will be donated to the Museum of London as part of its permanent collection.

PTI

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