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Thursday, January 10, 2013


legacy schmegacy

a recent report said that since the olympics only 1 in 5 of the population had taken up sports. it was reported in that classic way of ‘oh hasn’t the much talked about legacy failed. to me it appears more a glass half full than half empty. a 20% increase is nothing to sneer at – especially when you consider that lots of people are broke and most sports cost money.

legacy is such a woolly concept and, for me, it has been targeted in a very narrow way. for the most part the olympic legacy is to be that of the achievements of future sports stars and the fact that we have several new centres in which to nurture those stars. a knock on effect of this is that more of us will (it is hoped and argued) get off our arses and become more active: taking up one of the sports that may have thrilled us at the olympics.

as far as i am concerned the olympics legacy should have been and could still be more than giving a few privileged sports stars the chance to become ‘elite’ performers and to chase their dreams paid for by the state.
oddly enough the olympics was probably the moment i finally fell out of love with sports stars – the level of entitlement that some olympians, past and present, displayed was pretty jaw dropping. not that it is something that is unique to the world of the olympics; just look around the sporting world and you will quickly find a sports performer who seems to think that just because they can perform at a high level they are different from the rest of us and deserve better treatment – as if the rewards they are getting are not enough

think of some of those cyclists and rowers who performed wonderfully in the olympics. many of them are getting state funding. they are being funded to pursue their dream. they will not have to pay that funding back – even if they fail to achieve the dream. now think of the nursing or teaching student who has a dream, dare i say vocation, to serve others who has to borrow their tuition fees and will have to pay it back. yes the sport star may be the idol of many but the nurse and teacher will have a more profound effect on the lives of people.
so yes i am disenchanted with sports performers. 

it is not their fault that legacy has come to mean just sports.
one of the most amazing things about the olympics was the games makers – everyone took to them, everyone cheered and applauded them. the tens of thousands who volunteered did so at their own cost and provided the games with a sparkle of enthusiasm. it is something that the commonwealth games in glasgow is going to try to emulate.
funny thing about the games makers is that they were david cameron’s big society in action. yet nothing has really been done to utilise this after the games. what a legacy that would have been if they had morphed into a national volunteer force?  what a legacy it could have been if some of the sponsors of the games had been persuaded to help fund such a volunteer force?

the olympics isn’t just about sport. so much went on in the background to ensure that the sport could take place. yet none of this background work gets celebrated, and this is where the idea of legacy could have been used to make a real difference.
in order to put on a global event such as the olympics a whole range of skills are needed and a whole range of careers are involved. these may be the less glamorous backroom jobs they were also the essential ones that allowed the games to run smoothly. while all the attention is turned on creating the next generation of rowers, cyclists, runners and such like; and while some sports cry over the fact they are not getting money to increase participation in their particular sport, a whole slew of kids are being left out.
people who were wowed zaha hadid’s aquatic centre or anish kapoor’s ‘the orbit’ could be shown what they would need to study in order to become an architect. those who were impressed with the graphics and branding of the games could be pointed in the direction of art and design or marketing.  the importance of translation services could encourage the take up of more language studies. so many of the lessons taught at school could have been linked to some aspect of the olympics; these skills all could be linked to further study or interesting important careers.

i have a couple of friends who work with children. one of them told me that there is a lack of aspiration among large chunks of the school population. the other has been involved with a project to cut down on knife crime – and one aspect of that project was to get kids doing other things. those other things were: making music or playing sports.
in a culture that has embraced celebrity these seem to be the only acceptable options.
prince charles was criticised when he claimed that programmes like the x-factor were just creating a belief that success could come over night and hard work wasn’t necessary.

the discussion over the olympic legacy should be much wider than it is currently.

still an increase in 20% of the people playing sport is a start.

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