The Olympics is the largest sporting event in the world, with an average of 3.64 billion people watching globally (Statista 2020). The Olympic vision is to build a better world through sport and they to do this through three main values rooted in the philosophy of Pierre de Coubertin: Striving for excellence, Demonstrating respect and Celebrating friendship (Olympic.org 2021). Three missions ensure they are working towards their vision, are: ensuring each game is unique and celebrated, the athletes are the center of the Olympic movement and that sport is promoted alongside the Olympic values, with an emphasis on the younger generation, there are also principles to ensure all of their values and visions are aligned (Olympic.org 2021).
One aspect of all Olympic host cities is to create a legacy for future generations. There are five categories that Olympic legacies cover including sporting, social legacy, environmental legacy, and urban and economic (International Olympic Committee 2012), along with the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic games.
Legacy does not have a single definition, but Preuss (2007) looks at legacy as a concept of three dimensions, a legacy could be planned or unplanned, positive, or negative, and tangible or intangible. Preuss (2007) also stated that the duration of a legacy is not determined and therefore difficult to quantify. What can be positive for one aspect, such as economic tourism boosts, through building new stadiums, maybe a negative on the environmental side of a legacy (Agha et al 2012)? London was granted the Olympics on the basis of its vision, including regeneration, new jobs, homes within the area and opportunities for business (Guler and Holden 2010).
Sport is the main aspect of the Olympics and Paralympics, and a spectacle that everyone wants to watch. The sporting legacy was a huge factor in how Britain would be viewed globally, including world-class sporting facilities built specifically for the games, such as the Olympic Stadium, Lee Valley Velodrome and London Aquatic Centre. The Olympic legacy aim was to ensure that these facilities do not become white elephants and are used into the future. Today these facilities are home to West Ham United Football Club, Lee Valley is used for high-performance cycling and the Aquatic center is a public venue, and since opening has had over 2.5 million visitors (londonaquaticscentre.org 2021).
But alongside the developments, there was a massive increase in sport participation and investments. 35 new strategies and policies were put in place, including a new youth sport strategy, which had a significant investment of around Â£1 billion over the 5 years after the games (International Olympic Committee 2013). School sport was developed with the school games being expanded in 2010 and £150 million added to school sport throughout England (International Olympic Committee 2013). This shows the overwhelmingly positive impact that the London 2012 games had on Britain with investments encouraging the younger generation to become involved in accessible sports. This is also linked into how the Road to Rio initiative was pushed to the younger generation to get involved in sports (Gov.uk 2016). Surveys show that from December 2011 to December 2012 participation numbers had increased by 750,000, including female participation increasing by 500,000 (International Olympic Committee 2013). This shows that sports can be played by everyone with endless benefits. The investment in the sport continued in the Road to Rio 2016 games where over Â£150m in contracts were secured, this shows that the success of London 2012 was pushed into the next Olympics in Rio (Gov.uk 2016).
Socially the Olympics is about coming together to play sports, and celebrate excellence, develop, and encourage lifelong friendships, and ensure respect for all participants inspiring the younger generations to get involved with sports. A volunteering legacy was also formed with volunteering at the games and local clubs greatly increased.
The Olympics also embraces other cultures and the UK ensured that this was a key aspect when leading up to the games, there were many events hosted, workshops and festivals that more than 14 million people attended (International Olympic Committee 2013). It was clear that culture within Great Britain was and needs to be celebrated and accepted.
With 38 world records and 99 Olympic records being set at the games (International Olympic Committee 2013), London 2012 inspired the younger generation by watching world-class athletes achieve success through dedication and commitment. Three other core values within the Olympic Games include Friendship, Respect and Excellence (IOC 2017). Friendship is encouraged throughout the Olympic movement and it pushes others to see sport as an instrument to develop mutual relationships between individuals and people from around the globe (IOC 2017). Respect involves both respects for each Olympian personally but also respect within their chosen sport, through rules, regulations, and the game itself (IOC 2017). Excellence is each athlete striving to be the best they can be, both within their sport and outside of their sport (IOC 2017). Including participation of a global stage, but also the progress and lessons that can be taught throughout and celebrating the successes of everyone (IOC 2017).
Volunteering which is defined by Wilson (2000 p. 215) as any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group, or organization was a big part of the Olympic games with some 70,000 people from all over the country wanting to be involved as Games Makers. Within the Olympic movement, it was said that to ensure that the games were a success they believed that volunteers would be the difference between the failure and success of the games (MetaValue 2015). Prior to the games, research had suggested that 1.2 million people would apply to be volunteers at the games (MetaValue 2015) showing how the home nation wanted to get involved and therefore boost the community aspect with people encouraging the Olympic spirit. By getting involved in the games many volunteers continued afterward within their local clubs, communities, and projects. When looking at the social aspect and legacy this can help small-town clubs grow as they rely on volunteers to run them. The game, makers volunteering aspect of games they all followed the I DO ACT which stands for Inspirational, Distinctive, Open, Alert, Consistent, and Team, with the aim to ensure that everyone was engaged and shared the same passion and support to the games (MetaValue 2015). This shows that each legacy that is created at the games and after are all interconnected and important to the home nations.
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Environmental and urban legacies involved the regeneration of East London which was seen as a poor neighborhood with high levels of unemployment (Davis and Thornley 2010) so within the regeneration process benefits included, land use changes, new housing, transport benefits and new urban park (Department for Communities and Local Government 2015), all of which significantly improved the area as well as contributing to the games. By upgrading public transport links and not having car parking spaces at the Olympic venues, encouraged visitors and spectators to use public transport and reduced emissions (Cameron 2013). Â£17bn was spent on improvements which in an area that is poor, and disadvantaged was a massive boost (Royal Geographical Society n.d.).
The Olympic Park was built on a brownfield site which has benefits to the environment over a greenfield site such as value, investment benefits and social services through health benefits (Bardos et al 2015). This shows how sustainable the Olympic planning was by reclaiming land which was previously contaminated. Also, by creating new parks and being environmentally aware that biodiversity is conserved throughout, there was zero waste and a reduction in carbon emissions (Royal Geographical Society n.d.). The Olympic Village comprised 9,000 homes which have now been transformed into housing for locals and key workers such as nurses and teachers (Royal Geographical Society n.d.) evidencing that the environmental and urban legacy has continued long after the games.
London 2012 also left a lasting economic legacy with more opportunities, jobs and an increase in tourism all boosting the economy. Opportunities ranging from design, construction, game officials and sales resulted in the unemployment rate within London reducing by 1.2% leading up to the games (International Olympic Committee 2013). The legacy also allowed for locals to benefit from jobs for years after the games, with 17,900 additional jobs per year being created (International Olympic Committee 2013). It was important for the games to involve the locals, with 98% of contractors involved being UK-based companies (International Olympic Committee 2013) ensuring the event not only benefited the country as a whole but also local businesses also. Estimates of 4 million visitors coming to London after the games were made to boost the economy, with increased spending to around Â£2.7 billion in the years after the games which will continue for many years to come (International Olympic Committee 2013).
Paralympics is about changing the perception of disability in sport, and London 2012 was no different, they wanted to allow individuals on a global scale to understand diversity and within the Paralympic, a committee to respect, encourage and promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects (International Paralympic Committee 2017 Pg.3). London 2012 Paralympics was the biggest ever, with over 4,000 participants from 160 countries entered (International Olympic Committee 2013) breaking the stigma of disability in sport and encouraging others to get involved. The Olympic park was totally accessible involving gentle gradients, colors for the visually impaired and ensuring that not only were the athletes taken into consideration but also the spectators ensuring that they could watch with good viewing (International Olympic Committee 2013). It was important that the London 2012 Olympics was inspiring people all over the world, but also those who had different backgrounds and that respect in terms of diversity was accepted (Gov.uk 2012).
In terms of the Paralympics, long-term legacy aims were set, these included, changing attitudes towards disability sports, and generating new opportunities, and possibilities in culture and business (Gov.uk 2016). Since the London 2012 games more than 222,000 disabled athletes are now involved in sport (Gov.uk 2016). However, in a survey completed after the 2012 Games, 20% of disabled people felt that attitudes towards them had deteriorated (Walker and Topping 2012) showing not everyone benefited from the Olympics and there were also negatives. The London 2012 games was also the catalyst for the creation of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust (Gov.uk 2016) which began in 2015 and aims to change attitudes to disability. This legacy is breaking the stigma and allowing for participation levels to increase and allowing the government to generate policies and strategies for years to come surrounding disability sports. Sainsbury`s is one of the main sponsors for the Paralympics and have been involved in the active kid Paralympic challenge which allows every child to experience Paralympic sports (Gov.uk 2016). The aim in 2016 was that 2.5 million children were involved (Gov.uk 2016). This all occurred from the legacy which London 2012 left in regard to the Paralympics. When looking ahead to the Rio 2016 Olympics it was clear that the aim to break the stigma was prominent in planning and during the 2016 games in the British, Paralympic association hosted carnivals based around the Brazilian theme to draw attention to the GB Paralympics and disability in sport (Gov.uk 2016). This shows that there is a lot of attention to changing perceptions around this legacy.
It is clear that across Great Britain there were a range of different attitudes towards the games, both positive and negative. Many studies, surveys, and research were done to see what the people actually thought and felt about the games. 75% of the UK population felt proud to be British (International Olympic Committee 2013). Seeing their country celebrated and showcased on a global scale generated a sense of pride in the host country.
A negative attitude towards the games which happens over a range of host cities was researched by Collins (1999) who stated that there would be a surge in the pricing, particularly for housing with higher demand, meaning local residents couldn`t afford it.
When looking at the Games from a gender perspective, 79% of males and 77% of females stated in the study that the games were worth it in all aspects (International Olympic Committee 2013), so although there may be negatives they are positively outweighed.
Linking into the Paralympics, research showed that 75% of the UK adult population agreed that the successful Paralympic games has changed the perceptions on how disability sport is viewed, with respect and equality (International Olympic Committee 2013). Although from a disability aspect, Braye et al (2015) explained that whilst the Paralympics was an overall positive in relation to sport, disabled people do not benefit massively from the event directly.
In conclusion on how great is Britain following the London 2012 Olympic games, it is clearly a fantastic legacy has been left on many aspects including sporting, social, environmental, urban, economic and the Paralympics. London was regenerated and policies and strategies were formed to shape the way sport is viewed today. The impact of being a host city is an overall positive experience for the locals and for the countries within Great Britain.
- Agha, N., Fairley, S. and Gibson, H. (2012) Considering legacy as a multi-dimensional construct: The legacy of the Olympic Games. Sport Management Review, 15, 125-139.