Time to Get Behind the Games? Lessons Later.
Posted: Fri, 27 Jul 2012 09:17
As the "Greatest show on Earth" begins in London tonight it is a time for the nation to get behind the 2012 Games. I am aware there still remains a rump of people who will never buy into the concept, commercialisation, cost, ethos, sport or something else about the games but the fact that we are at the start of this enormous event with relatively little pain should act as a moment of some pride for our nation.
I have been fortunate to be involved in the journey to today in a very small way – as have thousands of others. But being involved in any journey when you see the High moments and the low points makes the destination even more special.
Before we bid there were a number of in Parliament who loved sport and were very supportive of the idea of another bid. We set about trying to convince Tony Blair, his advisers and Ministers that we should bid. The idea of the cost and 7 years of bad headlines of the building not going to be ready on time and £cost were enough to put most Ministers off. However, we stuck to our mission and in particular Tessa Jowell fought hard from inside. We bid – we won against Paris and as they say the rest is history.
I ended up sitting on the Olympic Bills (now Acts) setting the legal framework for the Games (including Olympic Lanes & protected marketing!) I have had lots of complaints along the way about planning for legacy (community sport soft legacy mainly) and the over commercialisation of the Games as whole – not the LOCOG element.
In Leicestershire I was of course lucky to be MP for Loughborough during the build-up. Securing Team GB for the University (despite the hiccup when they were possibly going to Aldershot!) and Chairing Inspire Leicestershire – our 2012 response in the County and City
It has been an amazing journey and great fun. I have been further in the margins in the last 2 years since losing the election – but as Chair of the Sport & Recreation Alliance and my involvement with a number of NGBs I have been fortunate enough to stay reasonably close to some elements.
There will be plenty of time after the Games to learn lessons. There are numerous questions to ask about the Games and what can and should have been done differently. I don't mean a good old moan and whinge period. I mean a genuine look at what has worked well and what in future we would want to do better. It is relevant because in this golden decade of international sport in the UK it is best that we get the most out of every major event.
Hopefully at the Sports Think Tank we will do an objective look at the many claims made about the Games and assess the reality. What will the legacy be (Perhaps we can even agree on a definition)? Will or can major sporting events really inspire people enough to move from sofa spectator to participant. If not how can we change that or is it impossible and therefore we stop making the claim. What are the genuine costs of hosting a Games – and what are the genuine benefits. For Team GB to come 4th in the medals table will cost us around £100m per annum into a small number of elite sports – is this right and how do we debate these subjects. There are of course many more subjects which we would hope to unpack in an evidence based series of projects.
However, whilst I am hoping our Think Tank can provide the evidence for future policy making in and around sport there is also the bigger question. Even if the Olympics doesn't deliver every one of the objectives set out in Singapore in 2005 and proves to be quite expensive – was it still the right thing to do? Personally the Olympic delivery would have to be so rubbish and the negatives outweigh any positives by such a wide margin to convince me that we should not have done this! The confidence and boost that Britain has received by delivering on time is worth a lot in itself. We have proved to ourselves – Yes we Can!