The London Olympics – what legacy?

Last weekend saw celebrations of the first anniversary of the start of the London Olympics and the question often asked is what impact has this had on better health?

At the time the Olympics were used to encourage take up of healthy physical activity. Figures currently show there has been some decline since last year, though still an improvement from 2005 when London won the bid.

Perhaps the problem has been  defining the improvement? There was a strong perception of some improvement in national well-being and community spirit during the Olympics itself, which has been confirmed by the latest ONS well-being results. There has also been an increase in some forms of activity such as cycling with in London easier access to cycles through the Cycle Hire Scheme which celebrated its third anniversary this week. Should we instead measure from 2005 to 2017 as a recent Lloyd’s Bank report has done?
Perhaps the most powerful legacy is still in the balance? Everyone at the time commented on the impact of the Gamesmaker volunteers. The post Olympics research showed they illustrated how organisations could make make volunteering work well through:

A specific, time-limited challenge: Games Makers weren’t asked to sign up as volunteers for ever, just to do their bit to help make this historic event happen and run smoothly..

Playing to strengths: Games Makers were carefully screened and matched to the roles that suited them best and made the most of their skills and personalities…

Something in return: The Games Makers were well briefed, properly trained and kitted out with high-quality tools for the job…Most of all, they were made to feel a vital part of something important, and got the satisfaction of knowing they’d done a job well.

Thus in order to see the whole potential legacy, one needs to be clear about:

  • the time-span one is measuring;
  • measuring the impact on well-being as well as sport participation;
  • and recognise that increasing social capital through connecting people together by volunteering can be as important as the specific sporting participation.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

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