The Olympics 2012 are nearly upon us and the anticipation is tangible. For the last 4 years the London Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have been preparing to stage the Olympics in August.
Despite the controversy over the costs there are high hopes for Lord Coe’s pledge that the Olympics will inspire a generation of new athletes, and ‘Inspire a Generation’ has been officially adopted as the official Olympic slogan. David Cameron also insists the Olympics will leave a ‘massive legacy’ which will justify the £2 billion spending on the Olympic Stadium.
Are the costs worth it?
It is unarguable that London will be left with a much-improved world-class sporting venue when the Olympics are over. But what are the costs? The original £9.3 billion budget has already overrun with costs now at £11 billion. Critics claim these costs are a huge burden to the UK economy and also raise concerns about the displacement of local communities due to rising housing costs and the impact of increased police presence in local communities.
But focussing on the financial costs can distract us from the possibility of real lasting benefits to the UK. Firstly, it is certain that the Olympic Stadium and surrounding buildings will be become a major tourist attraction and provide long-lasting revenue for the UK.
Secondly, with improved sports venues nationwide and a new generation of inspired athletes, surely we can look towards a healthier, more active population who are more successful in sports, with more ambition and awareness of their own potential. Sports involvement brings a multitude of benefits such as increased self-esteem, a sense of purpose and improved health. Fitter people are less drain on the NHS and more beneficial to the workforce and economy. A new generation of enthused and energetic people in our country is what we need right now to drag us out of our depressed rut!
So how are the Olympics hoping to inspire more people into sport?
1. Improved investment in sport
This is the main way. In 2006 ministers gave Sport England £480million and the task of inspiring one million adults to participate in more sport. A second task was to get an additional million people involved in more general activity like gardening and walking.
Millions of pounds was given to sports bodies to encourage participation in sports like football, badminton, rugby and rugby league and while not all of these have seen success, many increased numbers of people taking part.
There are many stories of successful UK projects such as The Beck in Leeds which has given inactive young girls from deprived areas the chance to try sports and get help with personal issues. Sport England reports that thousands of people in Yorkshire have benefitted from similar projects, most in the last 3 months. Similarly, The Sportivate initiative gives young people over 49 counties who aren’t playing sport the chance to find one they enjoy, 6-8 weeks of coaching and a club where they can continue to participate. Almost 50,000 have got involved and many of these will receive free ticket to the Olympics.
2. The Torch Relay
Carrying the Olympic flame are 8,000 truly inspirational people whose stories of hard work and dedication are good reason for them to have the chance to shine. It is a wonderful thing to see everyday people being so involved in this historic event, and their stories show us all that you do not need to be famous, rich or successful to be of great benefit to others. The Torch Relay lasts for over a month running from Cornwall, up to Inverness in Scotland and ending at the Olympic Stadium. Running through ordinary streets and towns gives everyone the chance to see this historic occasion. What a fantastic way to bring the Olympics to everyday people and hopefully inspire and motivate people to be healthy, active and involved.
3. Improved sports facilities
After the flame has flickered out and the 10,500 athletes returned home, there will be impressive sporting facilities left for people of the UK, including:
For years we have complained about the UK’s lack of sports investment and support for young athletes. The Olympics is a powerful force. Now is our greatest opportunity to inspire young people and re-ignite the interest of older generations and we should take full advantage of it.
by Kath Webb
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