April 8 - Green-fingered Britons are to be given the chance to design a Great British Garden on the London 2012 Olympic Park thanks to a nationwide competition launched today by Tessa Jowell (pictured).
Run in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), 'The RHS Olympic Park Great British Garden Competition' is designed to showcase one of the nation's favourite pastimes of gardening, whilst commemorating the Much Wenlock Olympian Society in Shropshire, whose games inspired Pierre de Coubertin to found the modern Olympic Movement.
Amateur gardeners from across the country will be asked to submit ideas for a quarter acre site expressing the unique qualities of a British domestic garden within contemporary parkland, so that visitors feel like they are wandering through someone's garden.
Six finalists will be shortlisted by a panel of experts before being put to a public vote in September 2009.
Winners will be chosen from two categories, one 16 or under and one 17 and over.
The winners will work with the team of world-class landscape architects and garden designers on the Olympic Park to design a great British Garden that will be in bloom during the London 2012 games and remain in legacy.
The competition, part of the London 2012 Inspire programme, will be open to all.
Simple entry forms can be downloaded from www.rhs.org.uk/news/olympicpark.asp .
Entrants can submit their forms by post. All entries need to be in by July 31 2009.
Jowell said: "London 2012 will showcase everything that's great about Britain, and there's nothing quite as reassuringly British as spending an afternoon pottering around the garden.
"That's why I want to see a Great British Garden on the Olympic Park.
"If gardening were an Olympic sport then green fingered Brits would win gold, silver and bronze.
"So what better way to build it than by digging into the well of gardening talent and enthusiasm across the country?
"This competition, run by the RHS, will give two amateur gardeners the chance to help build a beautiful British garden on the Olympic park.
"That's great for British gardeners, great for the Olympics and great for the millions of people who will come to the Olympic Park in 2012."
Inga Grimsey, the director general of the RHS, said: "Great Britain is a nation of great gardeners.
"Gardening has been part of our social and cultural make-up for generations.
"This competition is a fantastic opportunity for the nation to celebrate its passion for plants, get involved in gardening and for the winners to literally get their hands dirty and help to build the Olympic dream.
"The RHS is incredibly proud to be involved in this project.
"If we can nurture the nation's interest in gardening, by being a partner in this competition, then we too will have helped to create a legacy that goes beyond 2012."
John Hopkins, the project sponsor for parklands and public realm at the Olympic Delivery Authority, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to be involved in creating a part of the parklands that will both form a green backdrop to the London 2012 Games themselves and new public space in legacy.
"The Great British Garden will celebrate both the heritage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and British gardening traditions, something that will be reflected throughout the Olympic Park parklands."
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: "Britain has the best gardens in the world, so it is fitting that the Olympic Park will show off our top gardening talent in this way, also creating a wonderful garden for Londoners to enjoy for many years after the Games.
"Today is a rallying cry for our army of amateur gardeners to rise to this once-in-a-lifetime horticultural challenge.'
The inspiration for the modern Olympic Games can be traced back to British doctor, William Penny Brookes who held the first Much Wenlock 'Olympian Games' in 1850.
It was after a visit to Much Wenlock in 1890 that Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Olympic Games, was convinced to organise the 1896 inaugural Olympic Games in Athens.
Entrants will be asked to consider opportunities to incorporate a "de Coubertin" Oak tree, currently being grown in Kew from seedlings taken from an oak tree de Coubertin planted himself in Much Wenlock, into their garden design.