After six months of relative silence, the debate about the Olympic Legacy reappeared on front pages yesterday with a joint article by David Cameron and Boris Johnson. And it appears that they have been reading our report “A Marathon, not a Sprint” that we published in September.
In our report we looked at the experiences of past Olympic cities to see what London can learn from them. In their article the PM and the Mayor used the same approach to show that London is already taking lessons on board and to restate their commitment to the 2012 Olympic legacy.
Here are some of the recommendations we made and how they have been reflected in Cameron’s and Johnson’s article:
- Use the success of the Games to help business grow. The agreement announced yesterday between the British Olympic Association (BOA) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow businesses to promote their Olympic experiences will benefit suppliers across the country and is likely to unlock more export-led growth. The fact that the Prime Minister is engaged in conversations about getting British firms involved with future Olympics is also a sign of the Government’s commitment to making the most of business opportunities created by the Games.
- Develop a clear legacy vision for the Olympic park. The speed with which the conversion of the Olympic Park and venues is progressing is also good news. With a number of venues reopening this summer and several events already scheduled, the threat of these venues becoming white elephants appears to be receding.
- Use the Games to deliver a social legacy for east London. The commitment to deliver more jobs and apprenticeships, housing and social infrastructure as part of the legacy is welcome. Yet it is still unclear whether any of the new development will be located outside the Olympic Park, and whether local communities will benefit from new developments. In our report we showed that most of the direct Olympic interventions were limited to the Olympic Park and its immediate boundaries. East London remains one of the most deprived areas in the country. The challenges of low skills, unemployment and poverty are deep rooted and can’t be resolved through developing the Olympic Park alone. The Host Borough Unit is committed to narrowing the gap between Olympic Boroughs and the rest of London, and has seen some success. But broader initiatives focused on addressing deprivation are still missing from the Olympic legacy framework.
- Be patient and be ready to invest more. A long term plan for legacy development outside the Olympic Park needs to be put in place, and the Government needs to commit to it and be ready to invest more to make it happen. It remains unclear whether any progress has been made in this regard. It took Barcelona’s Olympics over a decade to be recognised as a legacy success, and that was based on considerable political commitment and more investment. There is no reason to believe that it will take less than that in London.
The Olympics produced a once in a lifetime summer of sport. Its legacy is likely to take more than a lifetime to realise.