To a breakfast hosted by Editorial Intelligence to discuss the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games. From which I drew three conclusions:
The good news: As the always impressive Neale Coleman (the Mayor’s senior advisor on the Olympics) outlined, the building project is going well. One in ten of the workers on the site were previously unemployed and one in five lives in the surrounding area. The innovative and sustainable techniques being used to clear, equip and build on the site are setting a new benchmark for major development schemes.
The mixed news: The main legacy will be the redevelopment of the Lea Valley into a pleasant, modern quarter with many good facilities. But some of the hopes for a life for the Olympic facilities beyond 2012 are starting to look forlorn. In particular, it looks increasingly unlikely that an investor will be found to ensure that the media centre turns into a permanent facility.
The bad news: When London bid for, and after it won, the Olympics much was made of the intention massively to increase sporting participation, particularly among disadvantaged groups. This intention seems to have been largely abandoned. It is true that there has been improvement in school sports but central London is lagging even in this. Meanwhile the costs of sports at the grass roots – whether its athletics or kids’ football – continue to rise with little or no extra revenues funding going in.
This issue was raised this morning by Professor Stefan Szymanski from the Cass Business School and then reinforced by me from the floor. But the reaction of many others there was a mixture or complacency and indifference. To give one example, my own sons play for a really good Sunday youth football team but with rising referees’ fees and pitch costs already three teams in our league have folded and the fees we have to charge are at over £100 per child - making it really hard for poorer kids to stay involved. To be told in the face of this that the issue isn’t really about facilities and funding but ‘that’s its all a matter of parental commitment’ rather gives the lie to all those videos emphasising social inclusion that accompanied the London bid.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.