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Van den Hoogenband: London a perfect host city

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The sun glints through the flags of nations taking part in London 2012 Olympics in Parliament Square, central London …

I've been to four Olympics and in Sydney, it wasn't just the gold medals but the whole atmosphere - the people feel their sport. And I think in England it's the same, they know their sport and they are passionate and proud to be organising the Olympics so I think there will be a great atmosphere.

I think London is the perfect city to host the Olympics. I was there for the Laureus World Sports Awards, where David Cameron gave a brilliant speech. With all the old champions, the sense of humour and people who know their sports, I think that will create a fantastic atmosphere.

The Olympics are very important in my life. It's a way of living, because I'm always thinking in four year blocks. We made a plan before the start of the Olympics for the four years after, so if we were successful we could communicate to our team, the people we working with, the next step.

So we had a plan before Atlanta for Sydney, we had a plan for Athens before Sydney, a plan for Beijing before Athens. So now I'm still thinking in four years, even with all the plans I'm now making, I'm still asking, 'okay, what do I want to achieve in four years?'

My most precious Olympic memory is from Athens: winning the 100 metres freestyle, and winning it for the second time in a row. Johhny Weissmuller did it and so did Aleksandr Popov, so only three of us have achieved that. And what made it even more special was the fact that I had serious lower back damage - a hernia - so I couldn't get the best start or the best turn but I was so confident about the way I was swimming and the second 50m that I managed to win that race, so there was also a lot of physical and mental pressure.

I am so thankful that Popov and Ian Thorpe were my opponents, because they really pushed me, they pushed me to my limits and helped me to swim faster. I think we all need a good opponent, a good rivalry. On the blocks I really wanted to break them, but when the race was over it was nice.

Ian Thorpe for example, he's a friend, and before the Olympic final in Athens we actually lunched together.  It was friendly, but of course just before the race, he was the enemy.

Dutch former swimmer and triple Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband will be an expert consultant for Eurosport-Yahoo! during the London 2012 Games.

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