UCL News


Face to face with London's future; I want to be a role model for all, says golden girl Christine

5 April 2006

The date is July 27, 2012, and the nation's eyes are fixed on a fabulous new 80,000-seat Olympic arena in Stratford, East London, whose glass superstructure is designed to resemble the muscles of the human body.

As the Queen prepares to open the Games of the 30th Olympiad, the TV cameras pan to a beautiful female athlete bearing the famous torch aloft.

Her name is Christine Ohuruogu.

She was born into a large British-African family and raised in the unprepossessing gridiron streets of Stratford, within comfortable running distance of the stadium.

Because she presents such a positive symbol of the new, multicultural Britain, she has been chosen as The Face Of London 2012.

Six years is a long time in sport and the envisaged scene may never come to pass.

Yet Christine's credentials made her a strong favourite to front the Olympic charm offensive, even before she unexpectedly won the 400 metres gold medal two weeks ago at the Commonwealth Games.

Watching her smiling beneath a fluttering flag of St George on the winners' podium in Melbourne only confirmed her potential as a public relations gift just as the Aboriginal-Australian athlete Cath Freeman was Sydney's 'face' in 2000. …

After leaving school, she attended UCL, graduating with a 2:1 degree in linguistics despite a ferocious athletics training schedule.

During her second year at university, she also took part in an inner city school mentoring scheme, helping the 15-year-old GCSE pupil she took under her wing to achieve excellent grades against the odds, an experience she rates as important as winning the gold. …

Before leaving Australia … there was time for a meeting with Freeman, who, during Sydney, 2000, was regarded as a beacon for Australia's Aboriginal minority.

But should Christine be similarly cast, she would broaden her horizons.

"It's not really something I see myself doing, but if that's what the the Olympics organisers want, then fair enough, I wouldn't discourage it. I would go out of my way to help," she says demurely.

"And if that does happen, then I would hope I'd be a role model for everyone. You do see lots of kids with talent that's going to waste. If I could inspire someone to do something with their lives, then I'd be happy."

Lord Coe and his Olympic committee should be happier still. For in Christine Ohuruogu, an East Ender with African roots, they have found an embodiment of all that is best in Britain's aspirational, multicultural capital city right on their doorstep. …

David Jones, 'Daily Mail'