As preparations to move my Club West Ham United to the iconic Olympic Stadium gather pace, the one-year marker offers a chance to reflect on what legacy has been left so far and, more importantly, what we can look forward to in the years ahead. I, for one, am excited about what the future holds as I truly believe that we will enjoy the best legacy left by any Olympic Games in recent memory. We will play a significant role in making sure we keep the Olympic flame burning bright - for the next 99 years at least!
Without question, our new home, the stunning jewel in the crown of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is the most important physical legacy of the 2012 Games. Back in March we were awarded the proud title of anchor concessionaire by London Mayor Boris Johnson on behalf of her Majesty's Government. They identified that West Ham United provided the best long-term legacy for the Olympic Stadium. They shared in our vision and could see our unwavering commitment to ensuring it kept its status as one of the great sporting venues in the world.
It was the focal point of one of the proudest summers for Great Britain for a generation so we fully understand and relish the responsibility we have to our fans, to Londoners and the rest of the United Kingdom who, like me, hold the venue in a special place in their hearts. No-one is more committed than my Board and I to ensuring that the Stadium is still held in that esteem for generations to come.
We make two simple promises. The first is that following the Stadium's groundbreaking conversion into a world-class UEFA Category Four football stadium for the start of the 2016/17 season, it will remain an inclusive and accessible beacon for young people who will be actively encouraged to come to enjoy sport and to be inspired.
The second is that it will continue to be a Stadium that London and the rest of the United Kingdom can be proud of. The draw of Premier League football means people from all over the United Kingdom and beyond will still visit the Queen Elizabeth Park every other week, while the TV cameras will broadcast the action to a global audience of 4.7 billion people. We are already one of the top 30 football brands in the world but with our commitment to bringing in world-class talent and the draw of our new home, people across the globe will sit up and take notice of what's going on in east London.
Since we became involved in football, David Sullivan, David Gold and I have been committed to offering affordable football to all. We pioneered the popular Kids for a Quid programme; now widely recognised throughout the game as a successful way to inspire young people through access to elite sport. Last season alone West Ham hosted six such fixtures, which resulted in a 23% increase in young people enjoying Premier League football at the Club.
That trend will only continue as our move will give nearly 20,000 more supporters the chance to experience our fantastic product on a regular basis. We are also committed to access schemes that will offer up to 100,000 free and affordable tickets to the most deprived community groups.
Our award-winning Community Sports Trust will ensure that, all year round, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a hub for education and sport for the community. It is something West Ham United has been doing since our inception as Thames Ironworks FC in 1895 when Arnold Hills built our first home, the Memorial Grounds, just a mile from the Olympic Park as a focal point for the community. His legacy lives on today as my Board and I take our commitments to the local community very seriously. Although the Olympic flame was extinguished nearly 12 months ago, we will ensure it continues to burn bright in East London.
Looking back at the past 12 months since the dramatic closing ceremony, we have seized the opportunity to capture young peoples' imaginations and engage them in sport in a way that simply would not have been possible had the Olympic Games been awarded to another city back in 2005.
We were proud to host the final of The Kickz Cup, a nationwide campaign which uses football to bring deprived communities together and engage young people. 18,000 youngsters in the Olympic boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets alone engaged with West Ham's Kickz project and we are expecting an even greater number this season.
In June we broke new ground as, for the first time in its history, the Boleyn Ground hosted the finals of the UK Asian Community Cup, providing an opportunity to open our doors to new groups within our community. I'm pleased to report the response has been phenomenal. At West Ham we are excited by the opportunity the Olympic Stadium provides to widen our reach and are pro-actively engaging with all groups within OUR community to ensure that it will feel like home to everyone.
To ensure we maximise the opportunity to make sure the Olympic Games wasn't just a golden flash in a generation's upbringing, I have recently appointed a highly experienced new Head of Community, Joe Lyons, who will oversee the vast expansion of our community department and operations. Joe has hit the ground running and the young people of east London are already feeling the benefit of his expertise and passion.
Over the coming years, thousands of young people will be inspired by our community coaches' expertise, with the chance to be coached, trained or educated in the Queen Elizabeth Park a major draw from 2016 onwards.
From a West Ham perspective, once we were awarded the stadium and the constraints of confidentiality were lifted, we have been hard at work to inform and consult our supporters about our historic move. Over 100,000 people watched a video I presented on the plans for the incredible conversion and I've personally read hundreds of emails we have received from supporters. We've launched a new microsite and opened up new channels for supporters to get in touch with the Club.
The West Ham fans continue to amaze me with their passion and loyalty and I know that by working together we will make sure that the Olympic Stadium - the country's most famous sporting monument - will continue to serve West Ham United, the east end and the rest of the country for many years to come. It is an honour to be offered that chance and we won't let you down. On behalf of everyone at West Ham United, we look forward to welcoming you in 2016.
West Ham United Vice-Chairman
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