London 2012 Olympic Games legacy called into question
Last Updated: 06/07/15 1:57pm
The deputy chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Games organising committee has called on the government to do more to ensure the legacy of the summer’s tournament is not lost.
London was awarded the Games 10 years ago today (July 6) with a slogan of ‘Inspire a generation’ but Dame Tessa Jowell said she thinks a generation of children have been let down by the government, with fewer British youngsters currently participating in sport than they were in the autumn immediately following the Games.
Now Sir Keith Mills, deputy chairman of the organising committee in 2012, has called on the government to do more to ensure that sport takes a more prominent position in national thinking, to safeguard that Olympic legacy and ensure progress.
Figures released by Sport England’s Active People Survey in June show the number of people over 16 participating in sport at least once a week stood at 15.5 million in April this year, down from 15.9 million in October 2012 following the conclusion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
While that is still 1.4 million more than in 2005/6, that figure was also 222,000 fewer than October 2014, leading to fears over a trend of decline and a failure to capitalise on the success of the Games.
Sir Keith told Sky Sports News HQ: “Since the bid 10 years ago, participation is up 1.4million but we could do a lot better. There are some amazingly positive things that have come out of the Games, a lot of amazing initiatives.
“My own sporting foundation works with 3000 clubs across the UK which helps nearly half a million disadvantaged youngsters and that’s just one of a number of initiatives.
“But we could do better and I think the government could do well in connecting up the different departments in government, particularly in education to get school sport higher on the agenda.”
Sir Keith was keen to point out the positives from the Games and said that the money invested in infrastructure in and around East London in particular was done so wisely.
“I think it was incredibly well spent,” he said. “In fact all the economists show the financial payback of the Olympic Games to be well into the billions and the impact in East London has been huge.
“I think across the country when we look back three years from the opening ceremony, the Games were a tremendous accomplishment for the whole country.
“Not just the Olympic Park itself but it’s spread out across East London now. This part of London was one of the most deprived parts of the UK and investing the money and infrastructure there has paid huge dividends.”
West Ham are set to move into the Olympic Stadium from the start of the 2016/17 campaign and Mills said there had been delays in utilising the stadium after the Games after a change to the original plans.
“The original idea was that the Olympic Stadium would have its top taken off and reduced down to a smaller athletics track,” he said. “The original idea was that it would just be a 25,000-seater for athletics.
“Boris Johnson came in as mayor and decided the stadium was so magnificent that it ought to be kept and transformed into a football stadium and that’s what has taken such a long time.”
Team GB are now preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio next summer and Mills believes the athletes can use the success of 2012 as a springboard to greatness once again.
He said: “I think elite sport in this country generally is on a high. 2012 was certainly a high watermark and all the information I have back from the teams is that we should do really well in Rio.
“The Rio Games will be another high point in our sporting calendar and I for one am really looking forward to the Games down there.”