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Days of the London 2012 Olympic Legacy


John Bicourt
London’s Olympic Games’s “Legacy” failure.


An article by John Bicourt.

Former Head of Department teacher and lecturer at St. Mary’s College Twickenham (University of London) UK Athletics level 4 coach and international athletes’ coach.

Former English record holder in the 3000mts steeplechase and double Olympic athlete for GB, Munich ’72 and Montreal ’76.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Lord Sebastian Coe's rhetoric from when London was awarded the 2012 Games back in 2005, right through to the Olympic Games closing ceremony was all about the “Legacy” and “the fantastic inspirational effect it will have on future generations of young people to take up sport.” Fine words, fine ideals but it hasn’t happened and Government now admits the so called “Legacy” has failed.

But it’s worse than that:

Clear evidence from recorded participation across most sports and especially athletics (www.britishathleticsclubs.com) is that numbers and standards of competitors, including the number of voluntary coaches and officials, across the board are dropping not increasing.

The vast majority of young people at 16 and over are clearly not interested in seriously taking up or continuing in competitive sport; they are simply not motivated enough. The London Olympic Games has not made any difference to more than just a tiny percentage and there is an overall drop from previous levels of competitive participation prior to the Games.

There will always be a small number who will do sport seriously but even that number is in decline. Yet the Olympic Games were sold to the nation (who paid for it) on the false premise of “increasing participation and inspiring our young and future generations to take up sport.”……. So what happened?

The Olympic stadium was to be “a home for British athletics” with numerous and regular national and international events for schools, clubs and Universities. However, LOCOG (London Organising Committee Olympic Games) and Lord Coe, quietly knew all along it could only survive as a football stadium, as it has inevitably become, with just one athletics event a year, the IAAF Diamond League and the Athletics World Championships in 2017.

Certainly, the Games were perceived as a great success and a wonderful spectacle for a couple of weeks but where are the real benefits? Has it encouraged thousands to take up sport and join specialist clubs? Has it reduce drug taking, smoking, binge drinking, obesity and computer games playing? Has it provided a useful, readily available and regularly used infrastructure of sport facilities for the general public in the way it was promised? The answer is a resounding NO! A number of athletics tracks and swimming pools around the country have been or are closing down.

The only area that has shown any real increase in sport ‘participation’ is in recreational jogging, cycling and those joining a gym, mainly from the 30's plus, who suddenly realise they're ageing and getting fat; but it's had very little to do with the London Olympics. The trend for going to the gym and jogging and cycling has been increasing for years.

The London Olympics were meant to be “The People’s Games" with affordable tickets for ordinary folk, old age pensioners, kids, ordinary families and local people. But what did they get?:……a lottery, flogging off as many outrageously priced tickets as LOCOG (London Organising Committee Olympic Games) could. They were the most expensive tickets of any previous Olympic Games and went mainly to the well-heeled and huge chunks of best tickets to corporate sponsors who were obviously and absolutely first in line....

.....But hang on; the biggest sponsor was the British public which is why LOCOG were so secretive about the ticket distribution (and unaccountable, as the London Assembly discovered) because they knew full well there would be a massive backlash if they dared to give out the exact breakdown of numbers for each price category, seating position in the stadium, which sessions, morning or afternoon and for which events. No other major sporting event does this. And as it was, the “lucky” ones only discovered they had been successful in the lottery draw for their previously paid, exorbitantly expensive tickets, just a few weeks before the start of the Games.

The ticketing was all about maximising revenue from those with the money with no regard to the ordinary people who, in the vast majority, couldn't possibly afford tickets at anything from £250 - £750 (for just one morning or afternoon session and not for the whole day or the whole event) yet they in their millions have paid for it all! (There were apparently some tickets for pensioners at a lower price but very few were available and the exact allocation sold is still unknown?)

The Torch relay was another con by LOCOG (a private limited company) about who was going to carry them based on public application. Money men and mainly third rate celebrities counted before the many ordinary people; like society’s unsung volunteers throughout local communities in all areas of help. Those, plus inspirational teachers, nurses, care workers, voluntary sport coaches and officials, and so on, far more deserving, were mostly ignored because they wouldn’t create the media publicity LOCOG craved.

The chinking of champagne crystal in the VVIP hospitality lounges (yes, that “Very, Very Important Person” category, above the VIP, does exist) and the rubbing of shoulders with discredited government ministers, captains of Industry, corporate high fliers, bankers and celebrities were far more important to LOCOG than the ordinary British public sports fans.

Of course, the London Olympic Games were a brilliant success in themselves and wonderful entertainment, but they came at a vast cost to the British public, five times more than the £2.2 billion Tessa Jowell claimed they would cost in the bid process and, it has to be said, largely for the profitable benefit of the few.

In ten months the next Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro. Lord Coe and LOCOG have already been giving advice to Rio’s organising committee and Coe said in a TV interview about Rio in referring to London’s success, “we’ve been very creative” and he’s certainly right there but not in the way he meant!

No previous Olympic Games have ever left a legacy of value or a stadium of use to athletics the flagship sport of the Games.

Will Rio’s Olympic Games prove better value and of greater benefit for their nation’s aspiring young people and their communities? Will it leave a tangible legacy? .........Or will it just be another two weeks of mass entertainment and mainly a commercially driven money opportunity for the few, paid for by the many?

John Bicourt



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