Article by Alex Gordon. Edited and Researched by Mike Edwardson.
When one considers the impact the Olympic Games had on Britain, they can’t stray far from the phrase ‘legacy’. It followed the Games around all summer, acting as the Nick Clegg to its David Cameron. The motto of the Games was ‘Inspire a Generation’, and so in a few years time when nostalgia forces us to look back on the summer of 2012, the impact of a legacy is what it will be examined by. Because, if you take the word ‘legacy’ at face value in terms of the Games, without it one could conclude that the Olympics may never have been awarded to us on that joyous day seven years ago. Seb Coe rammed this message home to the members of the IOC as the unique aspect of the London Games, and with those Games now closed can this legacy develop and be sustained in the forthcoming years?
I, for one, certainly believe it will. Seven years ago, even at the tender age of 11, I’m not sure whether you would have found a happier pre-teen than me. Vivid memories of me rushing around in excitement like a boy possessed are evident in my mind and this is what the spirit of the Olympic Games can do to people. In my eyes, there is no greater way to inspire the youngsters of our time than assemble the world’s greatest athletes in one’s home city for a celebration of sport. This cannot go unstated and the achievement of Seb Coe should and rightly is being heralded. It was the same all those years ago in 1948 with Britain riding post-war euphoria and showcasing the country at it’s best. Whereas the legacy of the 2012 Games can be broken down into many different areas, the whole concept of the 1948 Games was through the idea of ‘promoting optimism’, distracting one’s attention from a time of post-war rationing and transport concerns to the power of sport. Although this was the case, both the 1948 and 2012 Games were about inspiring a new generation of sportsmen, this is perhaps clearer in 1948 when the country needed athletes to replace the ones who had tragically perished at war.
On a more positive note, I’m sure you’ve seen frequent interviews and quotes from parents saying how their child is now enthusiastic to pick up a tennis racket or jump on a horse and although some may not be literal, this is the exact effect that I expected the Games would have on people, as it is something I have experienced myself. Historically speaking, I clearly remember watching key events in the Sydney and Athens Games in 2000 and 2004, like a nation basking in the achievements of Cathy Freeman or the beginning of a journey for Chris Hoy in Athens, and being inspired to try new sports and do my upmost to make it an elitist level. Surely therefore, these quotes from parents already show ‘legacy’ in action and the impact the Games have had.
However, it isn’t only from a sporting standpoint that the Games will be inspiring. The word ‘legacy’ encompasses many things and time will only tell whether the new housing developments in the Olympic Park and the reconstruction of many venues will be successful. The cynics among us have inevitability already alluded to the Athens Games where the stands now lie derelict, the infrastructure bare and any spirit leftover from the Games quashed. But we are not Athens, far from it. I believe that in a country with the sporting prowess we have, the Olympics will only see more people participate in sporting activities and this will accelerate the growth of the grassroots game. For me, the most enjoyable aspect of these particular Games was that we got to watch and experience different sports, previously classed as minor sports and not given a voice. For instance, I became captivated by the Cycling and Handball, and how many men a few years ago would have predicted they would become captivated by an event like the Dressage at the Olympics? Probably none. See, the youth of our country are in such a fortunate position and they must be encouraged to take these opportunities and make the most of them.
Can the Olympics provide a lasting legacy in Britain? I completely believe that it will and the athletes themselves will play their part. The most inspiring talk I have ever recieved was from Paralympian Tim Prendergast. A middle distance runner from New Zealand, Tim is partially sighted but the way he spoke and the emotion he displayed touched all of us in the room. First hand stories and recollection of past historical events are a powerful tool and one, when used correctly, cannot only inspire a roomful of people, but also a generation. Sporting achievement is judged by results, that has always been the way, and so the pride people felt when seeing a British medalist is to me, incomparable to most things. This is surely inspiring and I am not the only person who would give anything to be an Olympian one-day. It is the ultimate dream for any sportsman and there is no better way to inspire a generation to achieve this than through channeling the spirit of the Olympic Games just finished to our young generation.