Duncan Mackay

The summer of 2012, when London hosted the Olympics and Paralympics, was such a glorious time in Britain that it is no wonder that, as the 10th anniversary of those Games approaches, there is growing interest in bringing them back to the capital for a record fourth time.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan used a trade visit to the United States this week to unveil plans for his city to become the "sporting capital of the world," and that he wants the biggest showpiece of all - the Olympic Games - to return.

He has set his sights on 2036, the next available Olympics, after Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028 will have joined London as hosting the Games three times. They are due to be followed by Brisbane in 2032 and cities and countries are already trying to position themselves to be next.

Khan had promised another Olympic bid in his election manifesto last year and this is one pledge he seems determined to keep. The Mayor has tied hosting the Olympics in with another of his key promises, making London a more sustainable city.

"If it’s the case we want to have a world that is green, that is sustainable, but also includes having Olympics that are sustainable - not building stadiums that sit empty but reusing stadiums and facilities that already exist," he told ITV London.

"We've got the facilities in London so the cost wouldn't be humongous, and we could have the greenest Olympics ever."

Khan is being disingenuous if he believes that his city already has the facilities necessary to host another Olympics as, in the decade since everyone packed up and returned home from London 2012 with their happy memories, there have been a number of major changes.

The 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium is now the 60,000-capacity London Stadium, home of Premier League football club West Ham United. Shortly after the Olympics, UK Athletics signed a 50-year agreement to stage its flagship events there and hosted an extraordinarily successful sold-out World Championships in 2017.

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London are fondly remembered by everyone who attended them ©Getty Images
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London are fondly remembered by everyone who attended them ©Getty Images

But the Stadium is clearly too big to host sustainable athletics events there on a regular basis and UK Athletics are now in discussions with West Ham to exit their contract. Once that happens, it is almost certain the Stadium will be repurposed to become an exclusive football venue, once again leaving London without an athletics venue to stage major events.

The Aquatics Centre, which once held 17,500 spectators, has also been repurposed as a community-use pool with space for just 3,800 fans. The Basketball Arena and Water Polo Arena were both taken apart and recycled after the Games, while Earls Court Exhibition Centre, which hosted volleyball, was demolished five years ago.

Replacements for these venues could be found but the loss of the Athletes’ Village, which accommodated 17,000 competitors and officials and has since been converted into 3,000 new homes along with restaurants, shops and schools, will be harder to overcome.

Before 2012, this pocket of East London was an unloved part of the city once home to a 20-foot tall "Fridge Mountain" on a neglected brownfield which had struggled since the end of World War Two for funding, but today is described as one of the most connected areas of the capital and one of the most visited leisure and tourist destinations.

London 2012 was a once-in-a-generation chance to reinvent a key area of the capital in need of regeneration. Such an obvious area to build another Athletes’ Village accommodating thousands of people close to the main venues simply does not exist.

It is clear then that London is far from having all the facilities that Khan claims it does ready to step up to host the Olympics again.

The Athletes' Village built for London 2012 has now been turned into 3,000 homes and is a thriving community ©Getty Images
The Athletes' Village built for London 2012 has now been turned into 3,000 homes and is a thriving community ©Getty Images

Besides, there will be plenty of voices within the Olympic Movement shouting that there are many places other than London who deserve the opportunity of hosting the Games.

By 2036, it will be Asia’s turn to host the Olympics again, especially after Tokyo was denied its opportunity to shine by COVID-19. As I have written here before, Doha will be a strong contender and Jakarta in Indonesia also has ambitions.

Europe’s next opportunity to stage the Games will come round in 2040. Madrid, the biggest capital in Europe never to have hosted the Olympics, will surely be back in for a fifth bid, having lost out in 1972, 2012, 2016 and 2020?

Hungary, the country to have won the most gold medals without staging the Olympics, will hope that all the goodwill Budapest has stored up over the decades by hosting major championships can be cashed in.

Germany, which last hosted the Olympics at Munich in 1972, have grown increasingly enthusiastic about bringing the Games back.

There could even be a bid from a post-Putin Russia, something that could appeal to the International Olympic Committee who love to use their Games as a vehicle to try to demonstrate their commitment to world peace and bringing everyone together in a harmony.

Khan’s ambition of turning his city into the "sporting capital of the world" is one worth supporting but, when it comes to hosting the Olympics again, I think London will be waiting a good few more years yet.