When it was announced that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics like most Londoners, I was absolutely overjoyed. The bid to bring the Olympics to London was based on the fact that east London would be regenerated. Money, business, tourism and regeneration would be poured into the area. The potential improvement for Hackney was huge.
As plans for the Olympics have unfolded we have all seen what an ambitious and creative project hosting the Olympics is. I admire the hard work that has gone into creating the project, setting out the plans for what the event will look like and ensuring the legacy of the Olympics means London will benefit for years to come.
But I strongly believe that for the Olympics to be a success, local people must be supportive of the project. That means that local people must have access to jobs, and the wonderful Olympic Park, media centre and other buildings must be turned into spaces the community can use after the big event.
Since work began on the Olympic Park, I have been concerned about the low number of local people working on the site.
Figures released by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) in October 2010 revealed that out of 6,423 workers on the Olympic Park, just 130 hail from Hackney, the lowest of all five host boroughs. There are also just 7 apprentices on the site who live in Hackney.
The situation has improved since the end of 2008, when just 83 people employed on the Olympic Park site were from Hackney. Earlier this year, there were126 people and just one apprentice working on the site. But I find it shocking that since March only
4 more people have been able to get work on the park, despite the high unemployment rates in Hackney.
The five Olympics Host Boroughs – Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney – are among some of the poorest areas in the country. In fact all five Host Boroughs are in the most deprived 15% of the country, and Hackney is in the bottom 5%. Only 55% of people of working age are in employment in Hackney, despite the fact that the population is comparatively very young. There are few other places in the country that are more in need of an economic boost and regeneration. And I truly believe that the 2012 Olympics is the perfect opportunity for this boost and regeneration.
To draw attention to these low numbers I held a debate in Westminster Hall in March 2010 and made two speeches in the House of Commons last year. As well as raising awareness of the problem in Parliament I have had regular communications with representatives from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the London Organising Committee of the Olympics (LOCOG), and the organisations charged with getting Hackney people Olympics jobs.
I want to ensure that Olympic officials are making the most of the opportunity that the Games are providing in East London and that they acknowledge their responsibility to those living on the doorstep of the site who have had their homes and businesses uprooted. I will continue to highlight the figures and hope to see improvement ahead of 2012.
I also have major concerns about the Olympic legacy and the impact the Games will have on East London once they are completed. Current plans will allow wealthy individuals living outside of the Olympic Boroughs to buy homes on the site, leaving no chance for many living in and around the Hackney area to live there. Through various talks with the ODA and other bodies, I am continually stressing the fact that local needs must be met in order to truly fulfil London's Olympic legacy.