The Olympic and Paralympic legacy
Six months ago today the world looked on in awe as Danny Boyle’s stunning Opening Ceremony heralded the start of a spectacular London 2012 Games that we will never forget.
The Games showed that Britain can deliver: on sport, with a record medal haul from Team GB and Paralympics GB; on construction, with the Park built on time and under budget; on people, with our Games Makers welcoming the world in their own unique style; and on creativity, with spectacular opening and closing ceremonies and the Cultural Olympiad enjoyed by millions up and down the country.
The Government is determined to continue to deliver on the back of the Games with a real, tangible and lasting legacy.
That word ‘legacy’ though has arguably been over used and ill-defined by many in the run up to and in the immediate aftermath of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It has been a catch-all term used to attach to anything with a vague connection to London 2012, the Olympics or sport in this country generally.
So I want to be clear what we mean when we talk about legacy and what we’re focused on achieving.
Firstly, I must stress that the legacy from the Games is not something that people should expect to be realised overnight. Strong foundations are in place but just as the Games were delivered over 10 years, from planning for the bid to the closing ceremony, much of our legacy will be delivered over the coming decade.
The building blocks are there though for our five ‘legacy pillars’: sport; the economy; communities and volunteering; East London regeneration and the future of the Park; and a disability legacy.
On the sport front we are continuing to back our elite athletes all the way up to Rio 2016. Public funding for elite sport is up on the four years to London 2012, as we look to become the first host nation to win more medals at the next Games.
In youth and community sport we are investing £1 billion of public money to continue to build on the participation hike that has been delivered since the bid was won in 2005. Over 1.5 million more people are playing sport once a week since then. It’s now at a record 15.5 million with 750,000 joining the ‘ranks of the sporty’ in the last 12 months alone. This is a fantastic start but I want to go further, sustain the increase and to ensure we have a culture in this country where people have a sporting habit for life.
The Games have given us a huge opportunity over the next 10 years to maximise benefits for the economy. British businesses played a huge role in building the Olympic Park with 98 per cent of top level contracts in the construction phase going to firms registered in the UK. And they have an opportunity to build on that knowledge and expertise to give them a competitive edge against international rivals. We have announced today that we have struck a deal which means that the British companies who worked on the Games will now be able to boast of that to help win more contracts.
To date British businesses have won more than 60 contracts for the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 and for Rio 2016 over £70 million deals have already been struck. There will be a lot more to come. The GREAT campaign, promoting Britain as a tourist destination and an obvious country to do business with, has already boosted the economy by £1 billion. And the forecast Olympic economic bounce for Britain in the run up to Rio 2016 is a huge £13 billion.
Communities and volunteering
One of the abiding memories from London 2012 was the torch relay before the Games. It showed communities coming together across the country, embracing the positive spirit of the Games. And the purple and beige army of Games Maker volunteers continued where the torch relay left off, embodying the feel-good factor the Games created. We want that culture of volunteering to continue. With the many major sporting events being hosted in the UK over the next decade there will be opportunities for more people to get involved while the Join In campaign will encourage volunteering far and wide.
East London regeneration and the future of the Park
The transformation to create the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is well underway and the London Legacy Development Corporation has already struck deals ensuring a permanent legacy for six of the eight venues on the Park, with the future of the press and broadcast centres and the stadium to be settled shortly.
The Copper Box and North Park will be open to the public this July and the Wireless Festival, Hard Rock Calling and Diamond League Athletics Grand Prix are all landed for 2013, kicking off a wonderful legacy of events on the Park.
Chobham Academy and the new Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health Centre are also due to open this year to support the new families moving into East Village - what was the Athletes’ Village. When the rest of the Park reopens in spring 2014, it will complete the transformation of this vibrant, exciting, new part of London where people will live, work and play.
No-one can argue with the fact that the Paralympics made the whole nation see disabled people in a different way. The focus changed to what disabled people can do rather than what they can’t. And we want to do all we can to continue to champion disability sport. With an annual disability sports festival to be held at the Olympic Park, the IPC World Athletics Championships to take place at the Olympic Stadium in 2017 and sports governing bodies committed to raising participation levels among disabled people, we want one of the legacies of the Games to be more sporting opportunities for all.
The future is exciting. We are clear about what we want to achieve and how we are going to do it. No other host country had such strong foundations in place to realise such a legacy over the next decade. The IOC gave us strong praise when they said our legacy was a ‘blueprint’ for future Games. Now it’s about making sure that in the years to come we live up to that praise. With what’s on the horizon I am confident we can do it.