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London Legacy - 12 months since the Games

26 July 2013

LONDON 2012: For 16 days in 2012, the sun shone, the volunteers smiled and the world witnessed the most incredible sporting feats. It is hard to believe that 12 months have passed since Queen Elizabeth sky dived into the Opening Ceremony and the London Olympic Games began.

One of the key factors that helped London secure the Games was its bid commitment to create an ongoing legacy. So, a year down the track - how are they faring?

At the end of the Games, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron made a key appointment, naming Lord Sebastian Coe as the Olympic Legacy Ambassador. Coe has been charged with advising the Prime Minister on how to make the most of the Games in reaching the Government target of £13bn economic benefit, how to best attract new investments and partnerships and ensure sporting, volunteering and regeneration legacies are maintained.

One of the priorities of the bid was to avoid leaving ‘white elephants’ after the Games. With this in mind, a number of venues were temporary or recyclable and, 12 months on, have now been removed from the park. The basketball stadium was to be shipped to Rio in the perfect example of sustainability. However after running into difficulties with the steel contractor not wanting to ship to Rio, it was officially put up for sale.

With the basketball stadium and water polo arena dismantled, and the hockey centre relocated to its permanent home in the adjacent Lee Valley Regional Park, the transformation of Olympic Park is well underway.

Now officially known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, it is to be reopened to the public in phases, with the full opening due in 2014. The Copper Box, home to handball at the Games, opens to the public on the 27th and the main stadium will host the Anniversary Games- three days of elite athletics competition.

Perhaps the most controversial venue legacy with years of bitter dispute over ownership, the main stadium will become the home of West Ham United FC from 2016 as well as serving as a venue for live music and other major cultural and sporting events.

Bringing major sporting events to the UK by 2019 was an important commitment and some of the key events set for the future include the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2017. These events and others like them to be held in venues such as the Velodrome and Aquatics Centre are intended to generate ongoing capital for the area providing an economic legacy for the future.

The sporting legacy of the Games is intended to have a lasting impact on the residents – both locally and across the country. The mantra of turning “inspiration into participation” was much used by the Organising Committee, and as such an investment of £1bn has been committed over five years in the Youth Sport Strategy, linking schools with sports clubs in a bid to promote sporting habits in young people. With figures showing that one third of British children leave primary school overweight or obese, it is hoped that this sporting legacy will also have lasting impacts on health and lifestyle.

Despite Coe and his team insisting that legacy is on track, a recent Active People Survey published that the number of adults playing sport in England has in fact fallen, with a major decrease in the level of sports participation. The survey, conducted by Sport England, showed decreases in 20 of their 29 funded sports, including those in which Great Britain performed well in at the Games. Seemingly the legacy corporation have work to do to ensure this trend is reversed.

Coe is often quoted as saying the legacy takes a long while to take effect, and it will be some 10 years before London really can appreciate the benefits of the Games. Notably, Sydney Olympic Park has just playing host to three major sporting events in one month, enjoying its biggest sporting and economic boom since the 2000 Games.

In a project similar to that of the Sydney Games, the Athletes’ Village has also undergone a dramatic redevelopment in order to provide affordable housing. Now known as East Village London, the first residences will open in August 2013, with 2818 homes to be eventually developed. The Village is designed to be not only affordable, but also provide sustainable, cultural and spacious living with easy access to transport, retail and community assets such as the Chobham Academy for sporting and artistic excellence.

Overall, it would appear that despite some public grumblings, the legacy of the London Olympics is well and truly on track and the city is set to enjoy sporting and economic gains for years to come.

Alice Wheeler

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