I’m excited to have been asked to be part of a new blogger collaboration Run with an Idea which aims to stimulate debate among fitness bloggers – exploring the numerous different views that are held on subjects from the banal to the essential across the blogosphere.
Every fortnight the panel members will post their own views on the topic for the fortnight and we hope that you’ll join in the debate with us. I love a good discussion and to be stimulated or challenged by other people’s opinions so I’m looking forward to getting things started.
For our inaugural discussion, since it’s nearly a year since London 2012, we’ve decided to share our thoughts a year on from the Greatest Show on Earth. Did the Olympics achieve its aim of ‘Inspiring a Generation’? Are children or adults more active as a result of the Games? What legacy have the games left behind?
As a Londoner living less than 3 miles away from the Olympic Park (I can see the tip of the Orbit ‘sculpture’ from my bedroom window) I’ve decided to focus on the legacy aspect. I’ve lived in East London for 18 years now so I think I’m reasonably well qualified to talk about how things have changed on this side of the City, for better or worse as a result of the Games.
I remember very well the day that it was announced that London had won the race to hold the Olympic Games. It all seemed a bit odd – I think I’d assumed that we’d lose the bid to the French and it was all such a long way off that it seemed a bit surreal. The Olympic Games coming to London, and not just any part of London but in my backyard.
Then 7/7 happened and all thoughts of celebrations went out of the window as the city reeled from the after effects of the senseless acts of that day. We had been attacked, we felt threatened and vulnerable yet determined not to let it change our city. However, my already slightly paranoid mind made a connection between the Games and the threat of terrorism that lingered.
I went from being quite happy about the Games coming to town to being full of cynicism about the whole thing. We’d never pull it off, it would be a total shambles and even if we did manage to run it smoothly it would be a massive target for terrorists, a security nightmare.
Then bit by bit a large area of waste ground near Stratford, that I passed every day on the way to work, started to be transformed. I watched the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics centre and the rest of the Olympic Park rise from the earth and it was fascinating. I admired the project management and organisation but I still felt detached from it all.
When the tickets went on sale I was one of the only people that I know of that didn’t even bother to apply. I had no interest, still convinced that the whole thing was going to be a shambles and make an international laughing stock of us all.
Only when the torch relay reached our shores did I feel any sense of excitement about it at all. And then the mascots started appearing across the City and at last it felt real.
As the time drew closer and closer it started to reel me in. Something amazing was going on in my City and at last I felt like I wanted to be part of it.
Watching the opening ceremony made me burst with pride. As well as with slight disappointment that I hadn’t figured out that the only way that David Beckham could get his speedboat from the Thames to the Olympic Park was via the marina that we live next to. I realised too late to run outside to watch! We could see and hear the fireworks from our balcony – it had started and we were living right in the middle of it!
The two weeks of sport that followed along with the subsequent Paralympic Games were fantastic. The television coverage was amazing. The Olympic Park, London and the rest of the UK looked beautiful – we put on our very best show. Everyone did the country proud and none more so than Team GB.
London was a wonderful place to be during those 5 weeks – the feel good factor was palpable. Strangers were talking to each other on the surprisingly quiet tubes. Talking to strangers on the tube. No-one EVER looks at another person on the tube, let alone TALK, unless you’re a tourist/northerner who doesn’t know the London code. Or a nutter!
And then it was over.
The Olympic Park closed and we soon realised that we weren’t going to be allowed in there for a number of years while it was all redeveloped. I thought it was a shame that it couldn’t have been left open for a while longer to allow people the chance to visit and reflect on what had gone on.
And pretty soon London went back to normal. The mascots disappeared from around town. The smiling and chatting on the tube stopped as the City resumed business as usual.
So a year on what remains?
Well there’s a great new shopping centre in Stratford that is rammed full of shoppers each weekend. I have no idea where they all come from and you would never know that we were supposed to be in a recession.
Interest in sport is perhaps increased. The crowds on the street for the London Marathon this year were without a doubt bigger than the year before. But that could also have been a show of solidarity with Boston following the bombings there.
The Olympic Park itself now lies empty while it’s being redeveloped. The stadium is used now and again for events. I’m taking part in the National Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run next weekend along with thousands of others. The demand for entries was incredibly high, so much so that the online registration system crashed in the first minutes of it being open. So people still definitely feel a connection to the Games. I for one can’t wait to run around the park and in particular into the stadium where Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis did their thing so brilliantly.
It was a brilliant summer that I’ll never forget and the feel good factor that it brought to the nation was priceless. But I’d be fascinated to see the cost benefit analysis that must have been done as part of the approvals process for the original bid. I struggle to see at the moment how it could possibly add up.
I think it will be a good few years until we are really able to say whether or not the Olympics left a lasting legacy. Perhaps when the next generation of athletes cite watching Mo win his double gold as the thing which made them take up sport, then we’ll know whether London 2012 really did ‘Inspire a generation’
So, what do you think? If I in London don’t feel that much of a sense of legacy then what about people in the rest of the UK? Do you as a fellow Londoner disagree with my assessment of how the Games affected the city and what’s now left behind? Is there anyone out there living in cities that have previously hosted Olympic Games – what’s your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.