OLYMPIAN turned politician Lord Coe was in Swindon this week in 2007.

He was in the midst of an ongoing mission to drum up excitement over and support for the London Olympic Games due to take place five years later.

Because that event turned out to be very successful and generated an impressive groundswell of public approval, the criticisms levelled during the run-up are sometimes forgotten.

In 2007, two years after Britain won the right to host, those criticisms were largely confined to the spiralling budget and concerns that too much of a focus would be placed on London.

Lord Coe, who chaired the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, was therefore pushing the message that the games would bring long-term benefits throughout the country.

Speaking at a Get Active Day event at Steam, he said: “People think to themselves that the games are away in London so why does it affect them?

“But sporting provision has changed so much in the last 30 years to the extent that it is almost unrecognisable.

“People have more opportunities to practice sport and employees are more mindful of the need for a work-life balance. It generates a more healthy population who have greater access to affordable healthcare.

“People don’t realise just how close to London Swindon is. We want to make sure people can come from across the country to the games, and part of the argument is can we make ticket prices affordable?

“We will be contacting the train companies to see if they can offer affordable fares because this is an opportunity we cannot afford to waste.”

Another famous person with railways on his mind that week was record industry mogul and former Pop Idol judge Pete Waterman, who made his annual pilgrimage to Steam for the Swindon Railway Festival.

Although a multi-millionaire thanks to his work with performers including Kylie Minogue, the lifelong railway enthusiast revealed he now preferred his collection of trains and his model railway firm, Just Like the Real Thing, to being in the limelight.

“Coming to Swindon is one of the highlights of my year,” he said, “and if I was on television again it wouldn’t be possible. I look forward to the festival for months before because it’s a chance to meet the guys who are the Great Western.

“By the age of 10 I was an avid model railway collector and that has stayed with me throughout my life. I trained as a boilersmith in Wolverhampton but always admired the Great Western Railway.

“When I saw a locomotive in Leamington Spa in the 1960s I knew I had to come to the home of the railways.”

There was sadness in Wootton Bassett at the news that a staunch champion of community life and heritage had died.

Former teacher Eric Hodges, 78, who died at a Cambridgeshire nursing home, had been a parish and town councillor for 38 years, a district councillor for 35 and also a county councillor.

His achievements included successfully petitioning for Wootton Bassett’s High Street to be made a Conservation Area, setting up what eventually became an area branch of Age Concern, arranging schooling for traveller children and monitoring the local NHS.

Even in retirement in Cambridgeshire he was involved in community life; his funeral was held at the Free Church in Ely, which he had campaigned to save from dilapidation.

An old council chamber foe, former Wootton Bassett mayor Chris Wannell, said: “We were political opposites, but he was very respectful on a personal level.

“If he wanted something, though, you would see just how determined he could be.”

Back in Swindon, the borough council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead for a bid to redevelop the site of the recently-vacated Swindon College building in Regent Circus.

The plans featured much of what can be found there now, including a supermarket, restaurants, a cinema and a public square, and also a hotel and a 17-storey residential tower block which would have rivalled the David Murray John Building as the tallest in Swindon.

What nobody envisaged, of course, was that a worldwide economic crisis was on the way, and that the bottom would fall out of the market for such developments.

The college building lingered, gradually growing more derelict, for another five years, and the futuristic new Regent Circus Development was finally ready for business two years after that.

Another old Swindon building featured in an Adver story that week was the Mechanics’ Institute.

The then owner Mathew Singh was trying to persuade the council to back his plan to demolish a side of the structure and replace it with a glass tower to create a hotel.

The plan came to nothing, much to the relief of the many people who saw it as monstrous.