WIGHT LIVING AS the Island gears up to welcome the Olympic torch next month, an Island man looks back with pride on his own part in bringing the greatest show on earth to Britain.
Who could forget the jubilant scenes back in 2005 when London won the two-way fight with Paris to stage the 2012 Olympics?
It followed an impressive presentation by Lord Coe, the bid chairman, and a hard-fought campaign in which London called on England captain David Beckham and a galaxy of Olympic and Paralympic medallists as ambassadors.
But as political consultant Chris Whitehouse revealed to the County Press this week, the bid nearly didn’t get out of the starting blocks because of concerns among civil servants about London’s ability to stage the event.
Chris, who had just started his own business as a professional advisor to charities, businesses and campaign groups after 15 years working for MPs and Lords, was asked by Simon Clegg, chief executive of the British Olympic Association (BOA), for his help in persuading the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to mount the London Olympic bid.
Chris was approached as when he worked in the Commons he had managed for Sir Nicholas Winterton, then the Conservative MP for Macclesfield, the process of getting onto the statue book his private members bill, the Olympic Symbol Etc Protection Act, which gives specific copyright protection to the five-ring Olympic symbol and the word Olympic.
Chris said: "That had brought me into contact with the BOA and they had obviously been pleased with the result but when they told me they wanted me to work with them to bring the games to London for 2012 I was simply astounded, daunted and delighted in equal measure."
The sheer scale of the project was immense in political terms.
The bid could not be mounted without the full support of the Government, potential future governments and the mayor of London.
In practice, that meant persuading Labour leader Tony Blair to join with the leader of the Conservatives whom he had just trounced in the General Election, and with Ken Livingstone, whom he had just expelled from the Labour Party for standing as an Independent in the London mayoral election.
"It was quite simply asking Tony Blair to commit to the greatest peacetime programme of capital expenditure in our history," said Chris.
"When I first took the BOA to meet with the head of sport policy division at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, she had no idea what was coming.
"She literally went white when we told her the plan. She was quite clear — over her dead body. She was adamant there was simply no way she would ever make such a recommendation to her ministers or, through them, to the Cabinet.
"That was no surprise to us, it was exactly what we had expected.
"The objections came tumbling out so quickly we had to ask the civil servants to write to us after the meeting setting out their anxieties in a long letter, and when it arrived there must have been about 150 of them."
Chris said it included everything from the massive costs involved, the inadequacy of the London transport system, the lack of stadiums big enough, security and even the British weather.
"The BOA were as determined as they were professional. They set up working groups to review each objection and help us hone an answer.
"As time moved forward, the list of unanswered objections grew shorter until we reached the point at which it boiled down to the finances — how much it would cost and the return for UK PLC for that investment.
"Before it went for consideration at the highest level, we needed to slip in the back to Number 10 and brief the Prime Minister’s personal advisers in the strategy unit to get them on side before they were exposed to the still rather negative views from civil servants.
"They could immediately see the political and public relations benefits of securing the games for the capital city, and they were persuaded the capital investment involved was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get London’s transport upgraded, its hotels improved and whole areas of East London regenerated."
They briefed the Conservatives, in opposition at that time, so they too confirmed to the PM they would honour the commitment if the bid went ahead, and London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, agreed.
Chris, who is married with four children and lives in Totland, said: "The highs were knowing the decision was going to the Cabinet.
"Few lobbyists are ever involved in decisions that need to go to that level, usually we are just tinkering around with the details of legislation at a very low level but this was serious, high-level politics.
"When the news came that the bid was to be made, I was absolutely delighted but as a one-man business I had not the resources to take the baton of the bid to the next stage of the race. That needed an international campaign to win votes from the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) all around the world.
"On the day the IOC finally announced its decision it would be London for 2012, I watched the Red Arrows tear across the London skies over the celebrating crowds in Trafalgar Square.
"But as well as a proud heart, knowing a big job had been well done, I had a sinking feeling too because I knew I would no longer be needed by the BOA.
Despite all his work, Chris has been no more fortunate than the rest of us when it comes to getting Olympic tickets.
He expects to be watching most of the Games on his television but jokes he may try to get a glimpse of the beach volleyball from his office roof.