Are Inner London Boroughs feeling the effects of the Olympic legacy?

The London 2012 Olympics were won on a bid promising a legacy for the next generation. The Youth Agenda explores if the legacy program is being felt by young people in the inner London boroughs which aren’t hosting any events.

Chris Membu (21), Rochelle Gidden (17) and Joel Rust (15) from the Lewisham Youth Council spoke with The Youth Agenda about what they have seen from the Olympic legacy team in Lewisham so far. Jennette Arnold interviewed with The Youth Agenda to give an insight into how the Olympic legacy was being felt in North East London. This article also draws on government press releases about the Olympic legacy.

About the legacy

The legacy planning for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games played a significant role in why London won the bid to become the host city in 2012. Our bid included leaving a legacy after the games had come and gone. The following legacy objectives were outlined:

– Building a passion for sport and creating a more active nation
– Creating and exploiting new opportunities for economic growth
– Promoting community engagement and involvement through the games
– Regenerating East London
– Improving the lives of disabled people in the UK

The host boroughs of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games are Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

The legacy objectives of regeneration and, to some extent, the creation of opportunities for economic growth, are specific to the host boroughs. The other objectives cover legacy issues which should be felt outside of the host boroughs as well though, especially in their near neighbours – inner London boroughs which aren’t hosts.

Living with ambition

Jennette Arnold AM, Chair of The London Assembly, told The Youth Agenda that she expected young people living near the Olympic sites now to be ‘growing with the transformation’. She said:

‘The ambition that was there from the beginning was about a place where young people could live, they could have the ambition to live there, to get the jobs that are there and to be involved in sports and leisure that isn’t there now, but will be there.’

Asked if the Olympic legacy was just for young people in host boroughs, Jennette said she believed ‘the games are of London and for Londoners, but they were located within some specific boroughs’.

Young advisors to The Lewisham Youth Council, which neighbours two of the host boroughs, were slightly more sceptical though. Joel Rust said ‘I personally don’t know anything about the London legacy team’, while Rochelle Gidden expressed a desire to have a closer relationship with the legacy team, hinting at a lack of involvement and engagement:

‘Even if representatives don’t come down to us, they could organise for more outings for us to go to them to see what they do.’

Chris Membu spoke with pride about an upcoming sports day which Lewisham were hosting and which didn’t previously exist. However Chris said the sports day was driven by young people in Lewisham who ‘came over to us at the Young Mayor’s department to find out if we can do something about it with our connections’.

Although such desire from young people clearly ticks the box of the first legacy objective (building a passion for sport), it was clear that the young advisors wanted more direction and input from London 2012 officials.

Rowing in Islington

The success of the Olympic legacy can only fairly be judged in the future looking back. The success of the Olympic legacy could even be measured using factors such as comparing employment rates in East London, national obesity figures or even sports club memberships.

There are some immediate indicators that the Olympics legacy could use though, albeit not direct measurements. One of these is the variety of sports young people in inner London boroughs are involved in. Jennette Arnold recounted a story from when she was a councillor at Islington when she was asked to meet somebody. She asked:

“Who is it?”
“He’s from Islington boat club.”
“Oh, I didn’t realise we had a boat club.” Jennette continued.
“Well we’ve got enough canals, so it’s really useful that we’ve got a boat club!” Came the reply.

Joel commented that he hadn’t seen any new Olympic sports being introduced to his games lessons, but that ‘athletics has become a lot more common now, whereas before we used to do a lot of football’. Rochelle added ‘we’ve been doing shotput and high jumps at my athletics club for a while and you do start to see other groups and teams that have started to do that as well.’

The greatest prize on offer from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics games is not the size of Team GB’s medal haul, but the pride felt by young people watching the games who can be inspired by the performances, but also supported by a long term change in the society around them.

It is important for young people outside of the host boroughs to feel like the games are a part of their lives, rather than a short term event which just happens to be happening near to them.


Related linksFor more information about the London 2012 legacy

London 2012 Young Leaders

Department for Communities and Local Government

Lewisham Young Mayor

London Assembly asks “What are the costs of funding and delivering the legacy once the games are over?”

House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport report on Olympic and Paralympic legacy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: