Although there have been discussions about the impacts of previous Olympic and Paralympic Games, the London 2012 Games are unique in presenting ‘legacy’ as the overarching rationale for hosting the Games. No previous host has been so ambitious about seeking to use the Olympic and Paralympic Games before, during and after the events to contribute to economic and social good across the country as a whole. From the presentation of the London bid in Singapore in July 2005, through the five promises of the Legacy Action Plan in 2008, to the updated Plans for the Legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games published at the end of 2010, the London 2012 organising committee and the UK government has very publicly stated that they will use the Games to leave a legacy for sport and physical activity, for regeneration in London, for young people and culture, for sustainable living, for the economy and tourism and for disabled people. Of course, the prospect of legacy is a key justification for the £9.3billion cost of the Games, which is roughly £150 for every man, woman and child in the UK.
But with one year to go until London 2012 “welcomes the world”, what are the questions we should be asking about Olympic and Paralympic legacies? Setting aside the balance sheet and economic legacies, the following nine key questions are those that we might quite legitimately ask of the UK government, of LOCOG, and of Olympic and Paralympic sponsors, each of which have, at some point, made promises in relation to one or more of the following:
- Will London 2012 inspire more people to play more sport?
- Will London 2012 get the nation moving and help increase physical activity levels?
- How can any Olympic and Paralympic effects on sport participation be measured?
- Can meaningful Olympic and Paralympic legacies be delivered in nations and regions beyond London?
- Will the London 2012 ‘Live Sites’ bring the Games alive around the UK?
- Will the tourism generated by the Games in London have a negative impact on the rest of the UK?
- Will the Paralympic Games improve understanding of, and attitudes towards, disability?
- What impact will London 2012 have on learning, physical activity and sport in schools?
- How will we know if the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have benefited young people?
Of course, the most significant question is whether any of these questions will be addressed as the media focuses attention on the one year countdown to the Games during the coming week.
If not, as the Games approach in 2012 the Centre for Sport, Physical Education & Activity Research (SPEAR) at Canterbury Christ Church University will be releasing an evidence-based legacy digest that will answer each of these nine questions. Look out for the release of Understanding Olympic and Paralympic Legacies in mid-2012.