Current Magazine

Inspire a Generation: Will the Olympic Games’ Legacy Last?

Posted on the 09 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Head of Legacy and Head of Sustainability in the BBC Comedy twenty twelve Head of Legacy and Head of Sustainability in the BBC Comedy Twenty Twelve. Photocredit: BBC

The background

The Olympic Games in London have been a resounding success. Now athletes, including gold-medal winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis, and politicians are calling for the Games’ legacy to be made: competition should be brought back into schools, and more people should volunteer at their local sports clubs. The motto of the Games is “Inspire a Generation” – but can this hold out? Sports stars are now replacing musicians and footballers as role models, with Jessica Ennis in particular winning hearts and minds. Legacy is a troublesome idea – and something that has been parodied to perfection by the BBC comedy Twenty Twelve, in which the Head of Legacy and the Head of Sustainability are constantly at odds.

In a time of obesity and few opportunities for sport – only four in 10 children take part in sport regularly – will Britain be able to hold onto its dreams of gold? Government targets for children taking part in at least two hours of sport have been dropped;  playing fields have been sold off. Commentators are welcoming the new surge of interest in sport, but are questioning the way it’s being used as social engineering. Is the answer more money in schools, or is it that we need to change society’s attitude to competion? Or should we just stuff it all and enjoy the Games?

Competition should be encouraged, but money’s not the answer

Jessica Ennis, quoted on The Telegraph,  said that she thought it was important that children knew it wasn’t bad to be competitive. David Cameron said that whilst we were enjoying a “golden summer”, we will need soon to “focus on the legacy.” He added, though, that spending more on schools was not the answer (though they’re investing £1 billion in school sports): we needed to change society as a whole – “more competition, more competitiveness, more getting rid of the idea you can’t have competitive sports days.” He blamed teachers for not wanting to get involved – something which the National Union of Teachers was up in arms about.

Opportunity’s the thing, and money is the answer

The BBC rounded up a few comments from people in “grassroots sport.” Graeme Maw, director of sport at Millfield School, which has nine former pupils competing int the Games, said that everyone at the school did three hours of sport a week; but that “opportunity” was most important. The Youth Sport Trust said that schools shoud engage everyone and should broaden the types of activities done after hours. David Mansfield, the headteacher of Cooper’s Company and Coborn School, one of the few state schools that can compete with public schools in sports, said that funding is the most important thing.

But we will need excellent leadership to bring the legacy to fruition

And we will gain from the Games’ legacy, said John Tizard, on the Guardian’s Profesional Network. Regeneration of East London; more green spaces; better transport, for example. But we need more: communities should be “resilient and empowered,” with “greater cohesion and opportunity.” This plan should become “a reality”, which means that we need “bold leadership across the community, business and public sectors.” We musn’t let “rising unemployment, increasing poverty or fewer public sports facilities scupper the post-Olympic ambition.” Gold medals in sport “must now be matched by gold medals for collaborative, focused leadership.”

Stop wittering about legacy and enjoy the Games!

Tim Black on Spiked was not very interested in the legacy; in fact, he suggested that we “stuff” it. It’s all about sport. All the “bureaucrats and quangocrified officials” are silly. They think the Olympics is all about realising “a whole host of social and economic ends.” It’s not. Trying to use them to engineer society is wrong. Plus, the area around Stratford has hardly been regenerated. In reality, using the Olympics for these ends is anti-democratic – it allows the state to follow “certain policies, certain objectives, without any public questioning.” You can’t debate things, because they’re “justified and authorised in the name of the Olympics legacy.” Ultimately, the Games “should inspire awe, not engineer new, government-approved social attitudes.”

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Paperblog Hot Topics