do not mention the war

Olympic Legacy

In Britain, Identity, Media Analysis, Olympics on August 14, 2012 at 15:21

The London Games of 2012 are history and they have made history as London was the first city to host Olympic Games (summer or winter) three times. The LOCOG have argued that the games would all be about the legacy and it certainly was this fact that made gave London the games ahead of Paris when the decision was made in July 2005. Was this idea of a legacy just a smoke screen?

Legacy – for Sport? For London? For Whom?

When the LOCOG decided to build their bid around the term legacy, it was not made clear for whom the games were planned to build a legacy. A legacy for sport would see an increase in sporting activity after the event and sales figures going up significantly for equipment. According to this article in the Guardian newspaper, this has been the case. Bikes and bike wear are big sellers due to the success of Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France and the Team GB in London. This has been written while the event was still running and it is open if this early promise sees its fulfilment and actually gets British people off their couches. Doubts remain.

To build a new Olympic Stadium and all the other Olympic Sites in London’s East End and across Britain, 9 billion pounds had to be spent. This is serious money. Simon Jenkins argued that Lord Coe expected to ‘make 13 billion’ from the Games. That is in revenue from tourists and visitors. Robert A. Baade and Victor Matheson have examined the cases of Salt Lake city and Atlanta and concluded that ‘Economic theory casts doubt on a substantial windfall for the host city from the Olympic Games.’

Then there is the stadium. North London does already possess two great arenas: Wembley Stadium, the home of football and the Emirates, home of Arsenal FC. Within a small vicinity there is now a third big venue but more importantly it is not sure who is going to use it afterwards. West Ham United appear to be certain to move in but they have been relegated to the Championship and thus will not attract big gate figures except for top games. There have also been complaints by the club closest to the stadium, Leyton Orient which demanded a stop for West Ham’s move. Nothing is clear yet.

It looks as though London has to deal with a white elephant for the time to come. There is a word in German which was heavily used after East German factories were closed and de-contaminated: Altlasten. It describes costs and damages that were caused by the Communist regime in the GDR. Athens hosted the Games in 2004 and it was said to be ‘cleaner and brighter’ afterwards. At the same time, it has become clear now, the city and Greece were close to the edge of collapse.

What Lord Coe thinks of a legacy, he made clear in a statement on Monday. He said that he urges government to invest heavily in élite sport as this will most certainly will drive grassroots participation. From an idealistic point of view he might be right but this is not an ideal world and therefore this statement must sound like music in David Cameron’s and chancellor’s ears. It is almost a call to cut funding to grassroot sports instead of a statement in support of participatory sports. While some people went to buy new sports equipment during the Olympics sales figures for fast food went also up because people have spent plenty of time watching élite sports eating ready made food and snacks. This is where the real problem lies. Getting ordinary people out and running will be the biggest problem in fulfilling the Olympic legacy.

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