Five years after the close of the London 2012 Olympics, the BBC has reported that despite the promise of more engagement in sport, the lasting legacy of the games has seen no rise in participation of exercise for the general population. The promised dream of an games that would reignite people’s interest in keeping fit has turned out to be a lie.
I remember when the results of the hosting country were announced, with London and Paris head to head to win. When we knew that London had won, we thought it would offer an opportunity for us to visit an Olympic games for the first and possibly last time. How wrong we were. Tickets couldn’t be purchased without using a VISA card, as the company were a sponsor. The only way to get a ticket was to bid for way more events than you ever could hope to attend, then sell back the places you didn’t want. That meant taking a risk on spending thousands of pounds with no guarantee of recouping that money. We bid for around £600 as we had no VISA credit card (only debit), and taking a risk of spending more seemed too much. In the end we won nothing. What was more annoying to see was people from other countries easily buying tickets for events. It’s clear the games was organised purely as a money making venture to bring tourists and money into London. In the end we left the UK and spend 3 weeks of the games in Australia.
Now, if the government’s intention was to make money, then fine, but the Olympics was always sold on the legacy of the games and how it would create more inclusion in sport. Call me cynical, but at the time I could see that was never the intention. UK Plc simply wanted to swell the coffers with more tax money. According to the BBC article, Sport England were given £1 billion to spend on developing sport at the grass roots. Yet this year and last we’ve experienced how that simply isn’t happening. Both of my sons were lucky to play football, one to a high level in Luton’s academy program. The youngest was “dropped” by his team and has struggled to find a team. This year he has nothing. Teams are folding. Coaches don’t return phone calls or emails. The local Bedfordshire FA couldn’t find a lit torch in a dark room and have no organisation in place whatsoever to help those looking to find a team, other than an out-of-date list of coaches and phone numbers.
If the government really wanted more participation, they should have looked at how sport was being played (or not) across the country and encouraged certified organisations like the Beds FA to meet targets for inclusion. I imagine none of this has been done. We’ve missed an opportunity and a chance that won’t be seen again. So the next time the government tries to sell a great “social plan” like the Olympic games, treat their motives with a touch of cynicism; it’s much more likely that the cynical view is the right one.