On Wednesday July 6 2005, the day London won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics, I was in Moscow. I watched the scenes of jubilation on a grainy television screen and the next day I flew back to the UK after a year living in Russia. I only learnt about the 7/7 terrorist attacks as we sat on the tarmac at Heathrow, unable to disembark.
The significance of that momentous week has scarcely diminished. Here we are now, at the outset of the Games, confronted by many of the same cultural and political preoccupations.
Since returning home, I’ve been working on photographic explorations of contemporary Britain. Now, having been granted access to photograph the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, I’m aiming to produce a series of photographs that are not focused solely on the sporting spectacle itself. To me, the drama is not just Usain Bolt crossing the finishing line but the alternative, often overlooked, stories: photographs of how we congregate, how such a complex logistical exercise is staged, the assertion of national identities and the backdrop of the changing British landscape. Probably no other event since the end of the war has affected so many lives in London.
I have tried to enter into the spirit of the Games myself. I have spent the past six months in training (well, I’ve joined a gym for the first time in years) and decamped from my Brighton home to live in student digs in the capital in order to be fully immersed in the Olympic experience. Like so many, I’m looking forward to watching the world’s best athletes (including Wiggo) compete on home turf. The countdown that began seven years ago is now over – in fact, it’s likely that, as you read this, the first gold medal of the Games will have been awarded (at the women’s 10m air rifle final) and sporting history will already be in the making.