How the London 2012 Olympics will create a lasting participation legacy

This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for Leisure Report in the UK.


In the first article in this two-part series (2012 – After the golden show, Leisure Report, October 2008), I discussed the size of the ambition that organisers and stakeholders have set for London 2012. London aspires to go far beyond any previous host city to leave a tangible and enduring participation legacy that enriches the lives of those not just in the UK, but globally. The economic and ‘hard’ legacy that flows from hosting the world’s largest sports event is now a given and London is looking way beyond physical regeneration. This is a games designed to move people; to ignite dreams and inspire individuals to leave the comfort of the sofa and experience the joy of human movement. The ambition is to enthuse more people to be more active, more often across both structured sport and in their everyday lives. This article explores the participatory aspects of London’s legacy and its ambition to get the nation moving.

 Can the Olympics inspire people to take part?

With a previous focus on social and economic regeneration, the Olympics have not previously been harnessed to catalyse a nation into physical activity. This means that evidence from past games tends to be more anecdotal than empirical simply because insufficient emphasis was placed on measuring the ‘Olympic effect’. As Cathy Livock Director of Consulting at pmpLEGACY comments:

‘Sports participation has not traditionally been a priority for Games legacy so the impact of hosting the Games on sports participation is unclear’

After Sydney hosted the 2000 games, participation in key Olympic sports such as cycling, running, tennis and football all rose. However, some sports later experienced a fleeting ‘Wimbledon effect’ with a decline the following year. In addition, Sydney did not see participation rises across all Olympic sports, especially those that inevitably received less television exposure such as table tennis, horse riding and martial arts. There was also a spike in non-Olympic activities such as walking and climbing which may suggest that Australians were inspired by the Olympics, but not Olympic sports. Sydney’s commitment to measuring the national participation legacy was weak with some Australian academics describing it as ‘incompetent’. London will not make the same error because there is a real sense that London 2012 can deliver so much more than a 17-day sports festival. Accurate measurement of the Olympic effect is now expected.

 Read the full article below:

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