3 04 2011

Within the pages of this blog, I have already discussed the failure of government and sporting bodies to deliver the legacy that was promised to the IOC and to the world on our behalf. Among the recent spin and pretence that legacy is being delivered, the government admitted that the promised legacy has now been dropped.

The clock has stopped for the promised legacy

Spin comes in many forms, one of the most calculating being that of accusing your critics of being against something when, in fact, all they are doing is suggesting you are not delivering as promised.

Following my recent blogs on the absence of the promised London Olympic legacy I was accused of being ‘anti-Olympics.’ Let me state categorically that is not the case. I am extremely proud that the Olympic Games are to be held in my home town next year. I want them to be a huge success, to reflect well on London and on the UK and I want them to be the great sporting spectacular many of us are looking forward to.

The next piece of spin has been that the legacy is on course and being delivered. But that simply isn’t true, a legacy is being delivered but not the legacy, the one that was promised.

Over the last few weeks we have seen a host of news stories, articles and blogs all applauding the fantastic legacy hosting the Olympics will leave behind. Top of the list has been that of the ‘buildings legacy’ and that we will have some superb facilities post 2012 cannot be questioned. Another popular theme is the ‘legacy of world-class events’ which, rightly, boasts of the number of international championships in a number of sports already coming to these shores, as well as those being attracted and bid for in the future. And then there is the huge positive of a ‘sustainability legacy’ – also to be welcomed, a real positive from our hosting the Games.

I’m a fan, I really am. But, I keep coming back to the legacy which was promised, the legacy on which the London 2012 bid was built and which Tony Blair promised the IOC that all political parties supported. I’m talking about the legacy of increasing participation in sport.

Despite Blair’s promise, no genuine strategy was ever put in place for achieving this although a target of one million more adults taking part in sport was announced. The previous government’s laughable and failed policy of ‘initiative-itis’ has been adopted by the current government and, surprise, surprise, it hasn’t worked.

Measurement has been shambolic (but expensive) with Sport England’s  ‘Active People Survey’ costing an eye boggling £11.2 million (Sports Management Magazine, Oct 2009) while including nonsensical statistics telling us that (e.g.) 1.8m people regularly participate in athletics. Think about that figure; 1.8m people equates to 1 in 21 adults in England regularly participating in athletics. Even when you find out that in Active People ‘athletics’ includes anyone who jogs and ‘regularly’ means once a month, the figure is still barely credible.

If the survey cost £11.2m, how much public money the various initiatives thrown at increasing participation in ‘sport’ have absorbed is frightening (Sport England’s 2009/10 accounts reported for that year alone combined Exchequer and Lottery funding ran to £261.3m).

It is fair to say then, that in excess of £250m a year has been spent chasing a target by doing little more than throwing initiatives at it. Neither the previous nor the current government felt our promise to the IOC and to sport was worth putting in place a proper, dedicated strategy.

Now, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Jeremy Hunt, the Olympics Secretary, has confirmed the target (one million more adults taking part in sport) had been quietly dropped shortly after the coalition government came to power.

The promise made on behalf of all of us was that London 2012 would provide a legacy of more people taking up and participating in sport. No matter how proud I am that the Olympics are coming to my home town and no matter how great the achieving of other legacies from the Games, I can’t help but feel we have broken our word to those who entrusted the world’s greatest sporting festival to us on the back of a promise we only half-heartedly tried to deliver and have now given up on.

Related Blogs:

Initiative-it is – A Welcome End?’- 26 May 2010

Initiative-it is Returns Before It Had Even Left’ – 29 June 2010

Is It Initiative-it is? The Minister Says Not’ – 15 July 2010

The Public Funding Of Sport And A Legacy From 2012’ – 31 October 2010

Sports Strategy Still Absent While Initiative-it is Continues Unchecked’ – 18 December 2010

Legacy Or Smokescreen?’ – 31 January 2011

Now The Stadium Is Decided Can We Please Debate The Legacy?’ – 13 February 2011

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2011

Twitter @cowanglobal