The Clock’s Ticking for London’s Olympic and Paralympic Legacies

On the day that London 2012 tickets went on sale, with 500 days to go to the Olympic Games and the Paralympics due to get underway a month later, the official Countdown Clock, unveiled only the day before, stopped ticking. “The clock may have stopped”, said a London 2012 spokesman, but preparations for the Games are “well underway and ahead of schedule”.

That’s all very well, but the justification for a £9.3bn investment in the Olympic and Paralympic Games is that it will deliver more than the Games themselves – it will deliver a legacy. So, with 500 days to go to the Olympics, will they deliver more than the Games?

For many, the key legacy promise is that the Games will inspire a new generation to play sport. But, the latest Active People survey shows that there are still 877,000 people to go to achieve the target of a million more people playing more sport by 2012/13. This latest count was taken for 2009/10, so that’s more than 292,000 extra people playing each year in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13. As the official Countdown Clock is now counting in days rather than years, this equates to more than 800 new players for each and every one of the 500 days left to the Games. And that’s assuming that 800 more people per day have been playing in the first part of 2010/11, and that a further 800 more people per day will play into 2013.

And that’s just sport! When the vague rhetoric of the winning Singapore presentation to the IOC in 2005 was first translated into “legacy promises” in 2008, sport was joined by regeneration, culture, sustainability, and the economy. But by that time three years of opportunity, almost half of London’s time in the Olympic sun, had already been lost. Furthermore, by the time the disability legacy promise was added nearly two years later in 2010, it was difficult not to draw the conclusion that both the Paralympics, and their potential to deliver a legacy for disabled people, were an afterthought.

In short, in 2005 London 2012 had seven years to deliver Olympic and Paralympic legacies. Now it has 500 days! The frustrating thing is that evidence suggests that Olympic and Paralympic legacies can be delivered if strategies are developed early with long term goals. However, outlining legacy promises three years after the bid was won, or five years after for disability, is not starting early. So now, despite the best efforts of the official Countdown Clock to buy some time, the clock is ticking for London’s Olympic and Paralympic legacies.

Tick, tock!

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