London 2012 is falling short on regeneration legacy
Dee Doocey is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly, and chairs the Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee, the lead committee for monitoring the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The 2012 Olympic Games in London will cost an eye-watering £9.35 billion. Is it worth it? Certainly not if we only get a six-week sporting spectacular. But if this money is invested with an eye for the long term then the benefits will be enormous.
London won the bid to host the Olympics largely because of the promises made by Lord Coe about the ‘legacy’ the Games would provide – economic regeneration, help for local disadvantaged communities, a new deal for disabled people and increased participation in sport.
Preparations for the Games are ahead of schedule and on budget, which is great news. But you can’t say the same for many of the promises made about the legacy.
No other Olympic host city has managed to achieve a sustained increased interest in sport – not even sports-mad Sydney – and evidence so far reveals that there have actually been significant drops in participation in many sports.
But perhaps the biggest let-down has been the promised legacy of the Paralympic Games. London’s disabled people will reap few benefits. When Coe made his promises, did he in turn have a promise from the government of extra funding to provide a better deal for disabled people?
If so, he must be feeling as let down as they are! Most disabled children are educated in mainstream schools, and are sidelined from sports provision because their teachers have no specialist training in teaching sport to disabled children.
And if disabled children feel inspired by the Paralympics to take up a sport, they will be frustrated by a severe shortage of sports clubs with special facilities – and a lack of dedicated disabled transport to take them to the few facilities that do exist.
The basic mistake has been to emphasise a ‘hard’ legacy of venues and buildings over the ‘soft’ legacy of economic and social regeneration targets. London will inherit a marvellous Olympic park, and some great buildings including the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre. But no post-Games tenants have yet been identified for these.
Baroness Margaret Ford was recently appointed to Chair the Olympic Park Legacy Company. If anyone can pull off a good legacy, she can. But when Britain is grappling with an economic downturn and all budgets will be subject to severe squeeze, it is doubtful that any government (of whatever party) will regard investment in the Park as a priority.
The key to long-term success is ensuring that local people get their fair share of houses and jobs, which requires a big increase in the targets for giving skills to the local workforce. Boasts by the Olympic authorities and the government that they are exceeding their targets are meaningless when the targets are so pitifully low.
We were promised a legacy of skills, jobs, homes, and a better deal for disabled people. It is essential that the Government and the Mayor deliver on these promises.