During the last week or so, the final touches were added to the “Olympic dream” as numerous successful British Olympians received royal honours in the form of Knighthoods, OBE’s, MBE’s and CBE’s. Last week’s events saw London 2012 sweetheart Jessica Ennis become a Commander of the British Empire, Dave Brailsford, Team GB Cycling boss, who masterminded numerous medals during the summer, received a knighthood and a long list of other athletes were rewarded for the contribution by the Queen.
The games was no doubt a success, David Cameron, Prime Minister said after the games:
“You only need two words to sum up these Games: Britain delivered. We showed the world what we are made of, we reminded ourselves what we can do and we demonstrated that you should never ever count Team GB down and out.’”
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson also gave a glowing review to London 2012:
“London has put on a dazzling face to the global audience. For the first time since the end of the empire, it truly feels like the capital of the world.”
Throughout the games radio shows and television interviews were packed full of unlikely commentators ranging from pensioners, to mums of four previously uninterested in sport. Whether they were commenting on how the games had sparked their interest in sport, or their pride in being British due to the conduct with which British athletes held themselves during the games, the reach of the games was undeniable.
However, the success of these athletes, and public interest, during the home games of last summer was surely the first step in the much coined term “Olympic legacy?” The next stages of this legacy must then inevitably be; to continue to get youngsters interested and involved in sport, to maintain funding of a range of sports allowing the best and upcoming athletes to continue to train and compete, and fundamentally a marked improvement (barring London 2012) in the performances and medals won in future games.
At the conclusion of the games David Cameron dismissed a policy of making two hours of sport per week compulsory for every school student. This was strongly opposed by Dame Kelly Holmes, and didn’t necessarily bode well for the young athletes who had been inspired by the likes of Nicola Adams, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah. The counter argument is however that in the long run would an extra hour a week make any difference to an aspiring young athlete? The commitment of someone aiming to become a national sportsman would far outstretch the resources that most schools could offer, and the majority of training would have to be extra-curricular, taking place at some form of club. In that instance the work is already done, the athletes have inspired, and now the responsibility is on the individual, and their parents to fund any further endeavours.
This issue is one that was always going to prove difficult to deal with. The Coalition aim to diminish the budget deficit, and this is encapsulated by the public sector job cuts, staggering increase in student fees and VAT increases.The reason for these cuts, and rises, is to stabilise national finances, with the end goal that Britain can come out of recession. These austere measures, which aim to benefit the nation in the long run make it difficult to justify spending money on funding for athletes when some may argue the money would be better invested in the NHS or on education. On the other hand these athletes have dedicated their lives to their sport, with some of them under the impression funding would continue after 2012 with a view to extending the legacy. To not deliver on that promise seems more then unreasonable.
Rio de Janeiro 2016
Despite most debate on the subject, the proof will be in the pudding at Rio 2016 and beyond. If there is a drastic drop in the medal haul and there are reports of a lack of funding then there will be no place for the Government to hide. Yes, a successful and memorable games was delivered, but there is a feel about it that the Government didn’t want to be shown up at their own party. The brilliant foundation and successful games that Johnson and Cameron have so enthusiastically complimented is exactly that, a foundation. A similar medal haul should be the target in Brazil, and if achieved then people can start talking of a ‘legacy.’