It's not often that I find myself agreeing with David Beckham, not because I disagree with him but because I find it quite difficult to identify with statements such as "The Bobby Charlton Soccer School was so important for me" and "I have come to accept that if I have a new haircut it is front-page news."
But when he spoke early this month of how exciting it will be to have the Olympics in his "manor" I was in total agreement. For, as David might say these days, "Mi manor es tu manor." I, too, grew up in east London and though, to those not in the know, the lower Lea Valley may sound like a rather lovely place, it is in desperate need of the regeneration the Olympic bid team has promised. In fact, the London Borough of Newham, future host to the main Olympic park, is one of the poorest areas in the country, many of its residents going without the decent housing, adequate clothing and healthy diets most of us take for granted.
Much of Seb "Lord of the Rings" Coe's bid focused on the inspiration the Games would bring to children, both those from my and David's manor, and those from manors across the world. He is, I am sure, right about this. In fact, I have no doubt that, had the 1984 Olympics been held in London rather than Los Angeles, I would now be a champion shot-putter. As it is, I am excited by the prospect of 2012, and am already contemplating which sport I could take up now to be of Olympic standard in seven years' time.
I suspect that archery or shooting would be best for me, which is a shame, because I rather fancy pole vault or synchronised diving. Shooting, of course, is a sport familiar to many of the children of east London, the only difference at the Olympics being that the targets are not moving.
To tell the truth, for a chubby, bookish little girl like myself, no number of local sporting heroes or opportunities would have made me a sports star. We tried. I was entered for the Coca-Cola football skills summer course and came away with a can of Coca-Cola for "best effort" rather than a certificate for keepy-uppy - something that the Choosing Health white paper failed to address, but I suspect that the MPs on the health select committee wouldn't approve of rewarding fat kids with sugar.
Then there was my time as a mascot for Leyton Orient, doing what little sisters do and copying my big brother (the difference being that they won when he was mascot, but lost when it was my turn). And another summer, there was the hockey course where, as the only girl, I impressed the supervisors but did manage to break one coach's wrist by tripping him over with my hockey stick. This is what I mean about east London - deprivation breeds violence after all.
Not that I was deprived. Like Beckham, I grew up in a comfortable household. But we both saw at first hand, through our local areas and our school friends, that east London is not all hockey courses and mascot opportunities. The Olympics are an opportunity to ensure a real legacy for this part of the city - not just a shiny new sports stadium and a few hundred McJobs selling ice cream to spectators for the duration of the Games, but new and affordable housing, sustainable jobs, a vastly improved transport system and new health, education and leisure facilities that will last far beyond the three weeks of the Games. It would be a crying shame if we were no nearer to ensuring a bright future for all Londoners in 2012 than we were after the 1948 Games.
This month, 30 schoolchildren from Newham were taken to Singapore to illustrate to the International Olympic Committee the London bid team's promise to inspire children across the globe. The legacy of the Olympics will not be if these children and their peers go on to win medals (though medals of course are very nice), but if this trip proves to be the beginning of a lifetime of opportunity, rather than the highlight in a life of lower
life expectancy, lower standards of living and few opportunities. That would be a truly lasting legacy for my manor.