Are International Sport Legacy Promises a Bribe by Any Other Name?

According to London 2012, International Inspiration is the flagship international legacy promise for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. On it’s own markers and outcomes it has been a success, reaching 12 million young people in 17 countries around the world. Even for skeptics, is this not evidence that London 2012 is delivering on Lord Coe’s promise in his 2005 bid presentation that “London 2012 will reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the Games so they are inspired to choose sport”?

Lord Coe would certainly appear to think so, because as Chair of the London 2017 bid for the World Athletics Championships (for which the host will be decided tomorrow), he is promoting LEAP 2017, which is vaunted as being based on London 2012’s International Inspiration programme. Lord Coe suggests: “At a time when fewer young people are participating in sport, LEAP 2017 will connect more young people around the world with the opportunity to experience, play and practise sport in their communities”. The programme is intended to reach 2 million young people in 17 developing countries, and suggests, does it not, that London is committed to connecting young people around the world with sport opportunities?

But how have these international sport legacy outcomes been achieved (in the case of London 2012), or how are they intended to be achieved (in the case of London 2017)? Are children in Uganda, Mozambique and Jordan really flocking from their seats to sport only because the Olympic and Paralympic Games are being held in London in 2012, and will more such children flock to athletics only if the 2017 World Championship is awarded to London? Highly unlikely! In fact, there is no evidence that a 2012 Games held in London, or a 2017 World Championship held in London, can be any more or less inspirational to the youth of the world than a Games or World Championship held in any other city.

However, if London 2017, like London 2012 before it, promises to invest millions of dollars in an international sport legacy programme when other candidate cities do not (although Doha 2017 has offered to “donate” $7.9m to the IAAF), then undoubtedly London 2017 will connect more young people around the world with sport than other candidate cities. But what this amounts to is: vote for London and we’ll subsidise sport initiatives in your country and on your continent. Like Doha 2017’s offer of a $7.9m “donation”, is this not a bribe by any other name?