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What would success in 2012 look like for the nation?

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Roger Mosey | 10:25 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

There's been a bit of a theme in the diary this week. I've had a lot of meetings that are NOT about Sport and have been much more to do with the wider legacy of the London 2012 Olympics for the United Kingdom.

I know the 'L' word - legacy - is a tricky one, but it's unavoidable in my job.

We're bombarded with ideas and documents about the economic legacy, the sport legacy, the social legacy and countless others - and you can read some of the government's documentation here.

But here's the best definition I've heard so far - from a bright chap at a brainstorming session we attended a couple of months back about what legacy really means.

He said we should maybe think about Andrew Marr's History Of Modern Britain - the Festival of Britain, the Coronation of the Queen and the rise of television in the 1950s, the dramatic social change and musical revolution of the 1960s and so on until the present day.

coro_pa595.jpgThe Queen waves to the crowd from Buckingham Palace after her coronation in 1953

His question then is: imagine Andrew Marr making a programme in 2020 about the decade that had just ended and assessing the impact of the 2012 Olympics.

We've seen how national landmarks over the years have succeeded or failed - so, to use the phrase management consultants always use, what would success in 2012 look like for the nation?

What would we like the next series of the Modern History of Britain to say the benefits had been?

Everyone here wants great sporting moments for the world, of course, and more golds for Team GB. But China and Australia as two of the recent Olympic hosts have got much more from the Games than that - and the debate is about how ambitious the UK can be.

It's not just about culture or volunteering or sports participation programmes or education: it's about all of those and more, and the cumulative effect if everything is brought together.

From the vantage point of 2009, some of the plans still feel a bit abstract; and it's not clear how or whether they'll work.

But a couple of meetings this week have also reminded me of the human dimension of the Olympics and Paralympics.

dome_pa595.jpgThe Millennium Dome was not the initial success it was hoped to be

I caught up with some leaders from ethnic minority communities who were envisaging London 2012 as an opportunity for multi-racial Britain to talk in terms of success and achievement - rather than "problems" and division.

Then today I had a chat with some people involved in disability sport, and they have big hopes for how the Paralympic Games being in London might achieve lasting change in attitudes to disabled people in the UK.

None of this is about pie-in-the-sky social engineering: change will only happen if enough citizens of this country want it to.

But it will become a significant item on the national agenda: is 2012 only about sport, or do we want more than that. And if we do, how would we like our legacy (that word again) to be seen by future generations?


  • Comment number 1.

    The legacy I would like to see is as follows:

    1. A Britain once again confident that it can take on multibillion pound construction projects and deliver them on time and broadly on budget, with knock-on effects for the wider economy over the next 50 years.
    2. The political legacy that, some of the time, for specific projects, cross-party co-operation is better than dog-eat-dog confrontation at Prime Minister's Questions.
    3. A set of facilities around the country to allow youngsters, wherever they are brought up, to aspire to excellence if they have the talent (in conjunction with Manchester 2002, Glasgow 2014 and perhaps XXX 202X in another regional centre).
    4. An understanding of the value of integrated transport networks to major events venues, thereby leading to the long-term improving the efficiency of British life and the view of foreign guests as to our capabilities in that arena (something which Liverpool City Council might profitably examine with regard to new football stadia proposals).
    5. A belief that, if we build vision, political alliances, compete internationally and never lose our belief, that we can win major global competitions on merit (hopefully the soccer World Cup may add to that in 2018?)
    6. An ability to translate that skill-set into wider business winning capabilities internationally, in particular through leveraging the contacts made at high levels across the entire globe through the London 2012 hosting process.
    7. A long-term transition to the concept of self-sustaining community action through the realisation that any community in the UK can be part of the London 2012 process if they sell themselves constructively, realistically, successfully and reliably.
    8. A deep understanding of the role of exercise and sporting competition in a human's life, holistically integrated through the major phases of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood and into middle age and later life, with resultant impacts on diet, medical treatment, healthy living, community design and political funding priorities.
    9. A satisfaction that, through sport, Britain started to find a new role for itself in the world.
    10. An Olympic Park whose use after 2012 was decided collaboratively based on balancing financial, community and sporting needs, thus becoming a benchmark for global thought leadership in post-event site management.
    11. An acceptance of our unique UK climate and how to optimise major events HERE, not trying to emulate the Meditteranean, California, China, India or Brazil, whose climates are and always will be different to ours.

    I'm not sure whether all that will be achieved by 2020, although much of it could and should be.

    But then again, Lord Coe believes in setting challenging/bordering-on-the-unrealistic targets which WILL be hit, doesn't he??!!

  • Comment number 2.


    I had a quick look at the 21012 Olympic Legacy Action Plan. In see that the promises are:

    1. To make the UK a world-leading sporting nation.
    2. To transform the heart of East London
    3. To inspire a generation of young people
    4. To make the Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living
    5. To demonstrate the UK is a creative, inclusive and welcoming place to live in, visit and for business.

    I doubt that 1 and 3 will be achieved. Where is the evidence that building state of the art sports facility in a particular location and spending millions of pounds on elite athletes will achieve these aims. I've long argued that to turn the UK into a sporting nation and to gain the health and social benefits from this, what is important is the provision of infrastructure and other resource throughout the UK. The money being spent on the 2102 Games would be better spent on this. In my experience, people will take up sport if there are good facilities available nearby at an affordable cost. The availability of training is also important; funding coaching in schools would also be a better use of the resources. The argument that producing a few "stars" in athletics or whatever sport will transform the UK into a nsporting nation is fallacious - if I'm wrong in this assertion, please show me the evidence.

    There is in my opinion too much focus on elite sport. We will only turn the UK into a sporting nation if we can encouarge the population to take up and participate in sport for most of their adult lives. In my experience, there is too much focus on identifying talent and streamlining that talent to the elite level of sport and not enought resource spent in encouraging mass participation.

  • Comment number 3.

    nedafo - That is a fair point.

    We will get the usual 2 weeks of people getting excited by sports they don't usually see or can even afford to take part in before the mainstream sports take over again or will there be enough facilities for kids attracted by Olympic winners to get invovled and be able to manage the cost.

  • Comment number 4.

    Very interesting comments. Rjaggar in #1: I know your post has been read by colleagues over at the London Organising Committee, so thanks from them and from me for setting your thoughts out so clearly. Plenty of food for thought.

    Nedafo in #2 (and MarktheHorn in #3): yes, that's the heart of the debate. Clearly it's both/and not either/or: we need excellence at the elite level but also a participation agenda that goes right down to the grass-roots. I don't think the Sport Legacy programme is anything like as well-developed as it needs to be now, so that's one area where outside bodies and the BBC will be working together to try to make it happen.

  • Comment number 5.


    Thanks for the response. I agree that it its not an either or situation. There is an element of chicken and egg here; can you have mass participation without role models and can you have excellence at elite levels without mass participation (tennis is an interesting example). My view for what it is worth is that while role models are important to encourage participation, access to training and facilities is more important. However, I'm not sure that this is reflected in the funding.

    Off te top of my head, the UK's most sucessful Olympians ovwer the p[ast decade or so have been the likes of Chris Hoy, Brad Wiggins, Redgrave and Pinsent, Rebecca Addlington and Shirley Robertson. I have to doubt that may people have access to track cycling, rowing or sailing. I'll admit that swimming does have greater participation (although livbing in the North east of Scotland, I would need to take a 250 mile round trip to get to my nearest 50 metre pool - just ask Hannah Miley who comes from the area and trains in a 25 metre pool). I did row as a schoolboy and, bearing in mind the equipment costs, it is not surprising that the majority of the competition came from private schools. Indeed, it would be very interested to have some analysis of the schooling of the 2008 Olympic UK team - what proportion went to private/indepenedent schools as compared to the state sector. The point is that access to facilities and training in the private/indepenedent schools is way ahead of state schools. If we want mass particiaption in sport, children need to be encouraged at a young age to try a wide variety of sport. This needs funding for facilities and coaches. In my view, the emphasis should not be on identifying the few that may go on to excel but on allowing people to find a sport which they enjoy and can play at their own level well into adulthood.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nedafo - you make really good points again. And the north-east Scotland view is a reminder of the need to try to connect the whole of the UK to the benefits of the Games.

    Of course, it's not just about money - if it were, British tennis would be a major success based on the investment it gets. But I'd still say it's both the things in your final point: identifying the stars of the future and also emcouraging mass participation.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Veering off topic I know, but any planned live coverage from the BBC tomorrow of the Olympics 2016 announcement at 6pm. This would clash with the 6 o'clock News, but will News 24 opt out to bring it us live and uninterrupted, or perhaps put it up on the red button?

    Fingers crossed for Rio - still too soon IMO for them to return to America, just 20 years after Atlanta, and effectively for the third time in a generation considering the games were in LA just 12 years earlier.

  • Comment number 9.

    Brekkie - thank goodness it was all sorted at 5.50 as scheduled! And your finger-crossing worked...


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