Wednesday 15 August 2012

London 2012: What is the Olympic legacy?

One of the great things about having a blog is that you can look back over your old posts and see what you had to say for yourself.

I've been reading some of my old posts about the Olympics. In particular there was my first Olympics blog I wrote three years ago:

3 years and counting before the Olympics begin

If you read it, you'll see that back then I was talking about the sort of legacy the Games should leave.

My original thoughts were that the Olympics should encourage and inspire young people to take up sport and for the nation as a whole to become more active.

We're still having this debate and if there's one thing I've realised, it's that trying to figure out what an Olympic legacy should look like is actually pretty difficult.

It's going to take a lot of hard work and vision to put in place a real legacy - the good thing is at least we're having the debate.

Like a lot of people I'm still reveling in the after glow of an amazing and inspiring Olympic Games. The question now is how do we hold onto the that feel good factor and make the most of it before it all becomes a distant memory

We've seen that the success of Team GB has come largely in part to an increase in funding. In the Atlanta Games of 1996 we won one Gold medal, in Beijing four years ago it was 19 - now in London 2012 it was an unprecedented 29 Gold medals.

It might not sound romantic but if you want sporting success then you have to invest in it. The question is do you focus more on elite level sport or grass roots?

It has to be both but you need to get people playing sport in the first place before they can begin to consider competing at an elite level. This means more school sport and a greater recognition of the role sport can play in terms of education.

Critics complain that too many of our Olympians have been educated privately but that's only because private schools still understand and recognise the value of sport in education.

There's constant talk on how too many state schools have sold off their playing fields under successive governments. This has to stop or at least slow down.

Much of our sports facilities are old, tired and underfunded and will continue to be so due to more government cuts to local authorities.

Despite the tough economic times we're living under, funding at this level needs to be looked at otherwise people will never have the chance to take up sport if the facilities available are too poor or non existent.

But even having the facilities and seeing our athletes succeed at the Olympics is no guarantee that more people will take up sport. America is obsessed with sport, but it's population also includes some of the most obese people in the world.

I think if you can get more young people physically active, they'll be more likely to continue with sport into adulthood and this should in theory lead to healthier lifestyles for people.

Increasing sporting participation will be difficult along with maintaining adequate funding. However, there are some legacies we can already see.

Look at the regeneration of East London; lets not forget that the Olympic Park site was a wasteland only a few years ago.

The town of Stratford has been transformed, I've seen it with my own eyes having lived here for 4 years. The area will never be the same again and the reasons for that are generally positive ones.

The legacy question will continue to be debated for years to come. One legacy that I hope will last which doesn't focus on sport or regeneration is that of the country's self image.

I think the Olympics has allowed us to learn more about ourselves as a country. We're both a modern and ancient nation. We're cool but quirky, incredibly creative and passionate people.

We've successfully organised the greatest show on earth. In terms of medals we've been the most successful country at the Games. We've discovered we don't always have to be gallant losers.

Perhaps the greatest legacy can't be measured in terms economics, regeneration or sporting success. Maybe its one at an emotional level of understanding just what our country is about and knowing what we're capable of achieving.

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