Written evidence from Taking Part (UK) Ltd (OLL 31)
Thank you for the opportunity to submit the following note. My comments are based on experience of the Olympic Movement, as the former head of communications for the Olympic Games at the International Olympic Committee (IOC). To this is added experience of the policy framework for British sports delivery, as researcher to Lord Pendry of Stalybridge. I have also experienced both the wealth of West London’s natural and built sporting infrastructure and the relative deprivation of that in the East.
You ask several vital questions:
2. “Whether the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will deliver a lasting legacy of social, physical and economic regeneration”
All Olympic and Paralympic Games leave a lasting legacy in these areas. London 2012 will do so more effectively than any previous host.
Legacy, in all its guises, was made a priority even before a bidding decision was reached. The Committee deserves no little credit for this, together with an IOC bidding process that has given ever-greater priority to the lasting impact of the Games upon the host country.
Outstanding progress has been made by all involved in the delivery of London 2012, most notably by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). This progress, which should be neither underestimated nor taken for granted, has enabled the wider consideration of how the Games’ impact might be maximized for long-term social, physical and economic benefit. It is important to recognise this achievement. Had the preparations for Athens 2004 been carried out at this phenomenal pace, for example, there would clearly have been more scope to consider the longer-term impact of permanent Games infrastructure on that city.
The economic and social legacies of London 2012 are being handled admirably by groups and partnerships that include the Strategic Regeneration Framework. I will limit my comments on physical legacy to Olympic Park venues.
While the work of securing the best possible impact for London 2012 continues apace, the scope for shaping that work diminishes with the time remaining until the Games. If adjustments are to be made or additional programmes are to be added, right now is the time to do so.
3. “The use and management of the Olympic Park and venues after 2012”
With only two and half years remaining before the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games return to London, the scope for shaping the physical legacy of Games venues would appear to be limited. Structures have for the most part been well defined and in many cases are nearly built. For the most part, the work carried out reflects great care and consideration with regard to post-Games use, again influenced by delivery bodies, the Committee’s scrutiny and suggestions and the IOC’s recommendations and continued flexibility. Plans, work and contracts are years ahead of previous Olympic hosts.
I suspect the work done around the canoe / kayak slalom course, for example, is likely to be serve for many years as a case study in best legacy practice. Questions of the Olympic Stadium’s post-Games use, meanwhile, are best handled by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).
The shaping of the public domain parkland around the Olympic Park’s competition and non-competition venues will hopefully reflect the needs of all sport, recreation and physical activity, not just the needs of the best-funded national governing bodies of sport. Petanque and capoeira are likely to be just as interesting as some Olympic sports to many of the people who will live in and around the Park. Neither needs more than a properly prepared patch of gravel or grass.
4. “Progress towards meeting targets to increase grass roots participation in sport”
As noted by Sport England, according to its Active People survey, there has been clear progress towards the target of fulfilling the Olympic and Paralympic pledge to get one million people taking part in more sport by 2012/13. This target is measured by the number of adults (16+) found to have undertaken sport and active recreation sessions of 30 minutes or more, at moderate intensity, on 12 or more of the previous 28 days.
From 2007/8 to 2008/9, the aggregate total of men and women in the target category rose by 115 100. This progress falls somewhat short of the annual average needed to achieve the target by 2012/2013. But it should be noted that the programmes designed to achieve the targeted progress are still coming into effect, following a period of significant change in community sports delivery. And the closer we are to the Games, the stronger their inspirational power will be.
There is little doubt that the Olympic and Paralympic Games have strong potential to inspire those already inclined towards sport to do more of it. The process whereby this happens is commonsense and has been given a title, “the demonstration effect”, by Professor Mike Weed of Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sport, Physical Education & Activity Research centre. Prof. Weed identified the demonstration effect as part of his work for the Department of Health: “A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base for Developing a Physical Activity and Health Legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
What approach should be taken, however, for those completely disconnected from participation in sport? According to the Active People survey, the number of adults doing zero sessions of at least moderate intensity, for at least 30 minutes in the previous 28 days rose from 2007/8 to 2008/9. The increase of 225 000 adults in this category took the national percentage of those doing no sport up to 57.1% (slightly above the previous year, although down from 2005-6). This is the size of the group whose lack of participation is likely to result in long-term issues of health, productivity and wellbeing.
Prof. Weed’s research found that for those disconnected from sport another effect was likely to stimulate participation: “the festival effect.” Prof. Weed observes: “Festival, and the communality or ‘communitas’ that it engenders, creates in people a desire, if not an urge, to participate in some way, and that this desire is stronger if the event is perceived to be bigger than and beyond sport.”
In this regard, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have a significant advantage over other more ordinary sports events. The Games already have dimensions that transcend sport: the Olympic Torch Relay, the Cultural Olympiad, educational programmes and the Olympic Truce are key examples. It follows, therefore, that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are uniquely placed to help generate a festival effect aimed at reconnecting the sedentary with sport (particularly that of an informal nature) and physical activity. Prof. Weed continues: “To be effective, the process must harness the ‘festival effect’ through a series of events, initiatives and programmes during the next four years that are associated with the 2012 Games as an enjoyable and prestigious festival, at which physical activity and very informal sport-related activities are promoted and/or encouraged. Such events, initiatives and programmes should be convenient in both timing and location, involve minimum cost at the point of use and be relevant to the lives of local or cultural communities.”
Following a seven month consultation with every level of sports and physical activity delivery in the UK, and with the full support of the International Olympic Committee, Taking Part has prepared a plan to deliver a series of community festivals throughout the UK, associated with the Games.
A single festival in 2010 will be accompanied by extensive programme development. This will allow for the testing of operational issues arising from the choice of anchor location for 2011.
Subject to approvals, in 2011, Taking Part will be anchored by a community festival in the newly-completed Olympic Park, one year out from the Games. Further festivals will be held throughout the regions and home countries on the same day.
Plans for 2012 are dependent on the resolution of a daunting series of operational issues. But there is clear scope to accompany the Games with a series of community festivals.
For 2013, Taking Part plans to complete a resonant arc of legacy support: a festival could be created during which Olympians and Paralympians would hand over the newly reopened Olympic Park to the community, in its legacy configuration, again anchoring a national series of festivals.
5. “Ways of maximising the value of the Olympic legacy both within the host boroughs, London and across the UK”
To paraphrase Lord Coe’s oral evidence, much great work is being done on legacy. More attention could, however, could be brought to tell the stories of work. The Committee can do much to help in this regard, by continuing to regularly bring legacy work before the public eye.
6. “The aim of leaving a lasting legacy that improves cultural life”
Others are far more qualified than I to contribute to the Committee’s work in this regard.
7. “How success in delivering lasting legacy can be measured”
LOCOG, together with partners including the Economic and Social Research Council is engaged in work on the Olympic Games Impact Study. The Study is a long-term project established by the International Olympic Committee that aims to collect data across a wide array of environmental, social and economic indicators. This data will inform four reports: Initial Situation Report, Pre-Games Report, Post-Games Report and Final Report. And with London 2012 being the first Summer Games to have undertaken the full study, London’s hosting of the Games will leave an important legacy even in the measurement of legacy.