London 2012 boss from Highbury says Arsenal title win still best sporting moment
He is a key figure behind the success of London 2012 – yet his fondest sporting memory still revolves around his beloved Arsenal and their miraculous 1989 title win.
Highbury resident Neale Coleman has been recognised with a CBE in the New Year Honours list as one of the unsung heroes of the Olympics and Paralympics.
As the director of London 2012 within the Greater London Authority, he was the Mayor of London’s right hand man from the outset, when Ken Livingstone was in the hot seat.
But when asked what his highlight was, the 59-year-old and lifelong Arsenal fan, who lives in Elfort Road near the Emirates Stadium where he has a season ticket, said: “I was fortunate enough to be in the Olympic Stadium the night Mo Farah won the 5,000 metres.
“The only better sporting occasion that I’ve witnessed was when I was lucky enough to be at Anfield, to see Michael Thomas win the league for Arsenal in 1989.”
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Mr Coleman worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help bring about 2012’s golden summer of sport, right from the early days of the bid.
He said: “I’m very pleased to get the honour. I have been at it since we were first putting the bid together in 2001 and it’s nice to have been there all the way through, and for it to go as well as it did.
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“One of the things that’s quite distinctive about the London Games that helped make it a success is that there were a lot of people who saw it almost all the way through, although I’m one of the longest serving. There was a lot of upheaval in previous Olympics, but we had a good team who stayed together.”
Speaking about his wide-ranging role within that team, he said: “I was the main person advising and acting for the Mayor of London. There were a lot of decisions to be taken along the way, especially when building the stadium and facilities. It was a hectic time. As we got closer, it became much more about detailed operational planning.
“The Games were planned very carefully and rigorously and that showed.”
Mr Coleman was joined on the New Year Honours list by Ruth Mackenzie, of N1, who was given a CBE for her role as director of the Cultural Olympiad arts festival.
Catherine Ugwu, of Holloway, was made an MBE for services to the Games as executive producer of the opening and closing ceremonies.