Do Big Crowds Mean a Royal Resurgence or a London 2012 Legacy? No! Its the Occasion, Stupid!

Today at 11.25am, Associated Press announced some breaking news: “Prince William and Kate Middleton declared husband and wife”.  Breaking news?  Really?  Those of us with foresight greater than a goldfish might have been able to predict this.  What we might also have been able to predict is the crowds on the Mall, the party in Hyde Park, the Royal Wedding “Live Sites”, the street parties around the country, the media obsession, and so on.  But what will this mean after 29th April 2011?  Will there be a legacy for the Monarchy, or for Britain, from the Royal Wedding in 2011?

VisitBritain certainly hopes so.  It’s strategy is focused on the triumvirate of the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Of course, what each of these occasions have in common is that the nation will stop, everyone will want to feel involved, and there will be a big party.  This desire to get involved in something, to be part of something big where the whole nation comes together, is called a “festival effect”.  Undoubtedly we will see it in July and August of 2012 when the whole nation will be captivated by the Olympic Games, and hopefully in September 2012 when the Paralympic Games will take place.  However, having a great party, no matter how memorable, will not be enough to encourage millions more people to take up sport, nor to encourage millions more people to visit Britain, nor to encourage millions more people to respect people’s disabilities.  To harness the festival effect to achieve these goals requires a long-term strategy building on people’s anticipation of the event to achieve clearly articulated and planned for health, economic and social goals.  Achieving a health, economic and social legacy is not the same as having massed crowds enjoying the greatest national party since….the last one.  For both the Royal Wedding and London 2012, the big crowds and the party are not indicators of a legacy of a resurgent Monarchy or of a newly active nation.  People just love a celebration – its the occasion, stupid!