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Tony Blair visits City Hall for Olympics launch

The Prime Minister came to SE1 on Tuesday morning to join Ken Livingstone in launching the London's Challenge for 2012 document.

"For two weeks London will be the centre of the world," said Mr Blair. "And then, when the focus has shifted, when the world's attention is elsewhere, we will be able to look at what we have done for London and for the rest of the country too."

Michael Lynch, chief executive of the South Bank Centre, told how the experience of the Sydney Olympics [Mr Lynch was chief executive of the Sydney Opera House] radically changed the way people went about things, creating a can-do attitude from government down, that involved the whole artistic community and permanently changed the city's psyche.

His message to London was that we can do this, but organisations have got to work together, government and local government have to keep things moving, and the business and philanthropic communities must recognise that investing in culture is as crucial to 2012 success as investing in buildings, infrastructure and sports sponsorship.

Mr Lynch pointed to the work already being led by the South Bank Centre and Tate to help make this a reality, bringing together 21 cultural organisations in SE1 under the umbrella of the South Bank and Bankside Cultural Quarter.

"The one thing this city has to learn – and learn fast – is how to get things done," said Mr Lynch. "It took 12 years to get the Royal Festival Hall refurbishment under way. The new planning rules call for both wider consultation and speedier decisions. On strategic projects that must be delivered to deadline you can't have both! If the Government and the Mayor get behind bold thinking and bold decision-making then we will be able to realise our Olympic ambitions."

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