The Olympic Games and Paralympics Games can rightly lay claim to be the greatest show on earth. They are a unique event and thrilling experience for competitors, spectators, volunteers and the billions watching on television across the world. For the world’s best athletes, it is the pinnacle of their ambition. They leave a host of indelible memories but also long-lasting benefits for the cities and countries that host them (London 2012, 2008)
.Rt Hon Tony Blair MP
6th July, 2005 will ever be remembered in the history of the UK sports as on this very day, the UK won her bid to host the Olympic Games by defeating her close arch rival Paris. Before this historical event, the Olympic Games were last held in London in 1948. That is why the UK is hailing the 2012 Olympics decision as ‘the greatest day in the history of British sport’. London beat favorite Paris in the closest of finishes, winning the fourth and final vote of International Olympic Committee delegates in Singapore by 54 votes to 50 (Olympic Games 2012). The former Prime Minister Tony Blair declared the win as “a momentous day” for Britain while the Queen in a message to Lord Coe, the bid chairman, said: “I send my warmest congratulations to you and every member of the London 2012 team for winning the bid for the UK” (London 2012). After elimination of Moscow, New York and Madrid from second and third rounds of voting, Paris was considered the front-runner for much of the campaign, and was highly rated in the initial evaluation and also by the inspectors after their visits earlier in the year. However, the dynamic personality of Lord Coe hauled London closer to the French capital and successfully won the final round. The passion and delight of the people of England really impressed the IOC (International Olympic Committee) members and now the people of England rightly can take pride of their decision and should look forward to hosting the Games of the 30th Olympia. It is believed that this decision will revolutionize sport in the UK over the next decade and should finally bring sport to somewhere near the top of the political area. Also, the London 2012 Olympic Games will inspire the new generation to actively engage in sports so that we see a healthy nation coming up on the stage of world (Millennium Stadium, 2008).
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This essay focuses on the Olympic Games 2012 being held in London and critically evaluates their impact on local youth sport provision. For this purpose the study presents an overview of the mega event and its significance in the national perspective. Then it concentrates on a selected local authority and presents the impact of the mega event on the local youth in the context of Borough of Bexley in order to see what changes have been made in the policies and strategies at local level for the youth sport provision. The study will present the evaluation of these policies and strategies in order to highlight their significance and outcomes so that their impact on the sport provision for the youth could be realized.
2.Significance of Olympic Games
Besides attracting young for sports activities, the Olympic Games have also many other benefits like economic, social and political. These games will provide all areas across the United Kingdom with better opportunities to secure sporting, economic and community benefits. There is evidence from the Sydney Games that significant economic benefits are available. Besides, a recent Olympic Games Impact study undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the DCMS (Department for Culture Media and Sport) and the LDA (The London Development Agency) has identified many potential benefits (London 2012). According to this study about ₤3.2 billion of benefit is expected from the household living outside of London (“Going for Gold” Portsmouth 2012). Besides its economical benefits, the Olympic Games will help to enhance national pride and would create a UK-wide “feel good factor”. The sports activities will also inspire and motivate children and young ones to further take up sport resultantly creating a significant sporting and cultural legacy. As the sports activities improve physical and mental health, the mega event is believed to produce a positive environmental impact on our youth (Economic and development plan 2007).
3.An overview of the event
The Olympic and Paralympics Games are the most significant and exciting sporting event on earth where billions of people get involved and enjoy the thrilling competition among the best athletes of the world. It is expected that around 15,000 best athletes of the world would participate in this event and even billions of other people around the globe will watch these athletes throughout the festival during this entire exiting period, eyes of the entire world will be focused on London. It is not the first time that the UK is hosting such a biggest event. It has hosted some of the biggest events even before like Commonwealth Games in 2002 and the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) World Indoor Athletics Championships in 2003 successfully and with utter satisfaction of the participants coming from all over the world. Again, the management of this mega event is preparing to host it in the same style and spirit to make it a memorable event in the history of sports. As it is expected that thousands of officials, media persons and other fans along with the athletes will come from across the globe, many new jobs will be created and it will boost up the economy of the country.
Impact of the 2012 Decision On Local Youth Sport Provision
At present 17 of the 28 Olympic sports would be staged either in new facilities in the Olympic Park or other existing venues such as the Dome. All these venues are located just within 15 minutes from any other making it easier for the spectators and other participants to enjoy the events of their likes without bothering to travel here and there. The advantage of the proximity of central London to the venues is that the other historic landmarks and existing world-class facilities like Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square would also be available for the visitors during the Olympic events and they would be able to enjoy these historic places besides enjoying the mega event.
So far as the investment is concerned to host this mega event, it is estimated that around £18 billion will have bee invested by 2012 in order to make the transportation system even better in and around London. The outcome of this investment is that there will be around £1,067m realized during the year 2012. It is anticipated that the growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will be more in London with £925m extra GDP in the Games year, £3,362 million in the years leading up to the Games and £1,613 after the Games.
4.Borough of Bexley
The vision and aims as set in the Bexley integrated youth strategy consultation 2007-10 formulated by the Bexley Children’s Trust are to provide all young people in Bexley with access to diverse, high-quality and sustainable youth provision that contributes to their well-being and aspirations by supporting, challenging, enabling and listening to them during their transition to adulthood (BEXLEY INTEGRATED YOUTH, 2007). This policy aims at improving the sports quality in the Borough as well as providing sports activities to the young people of the borough in order to ensure the well being of the young people of the borough. Investing in young people so they become useful citizens of the state has been a fundamental policy of every welfare state. Keeping in line with this policy, the Borough of Bexley has set some specific strategies to provide its young people with the opportunities to actively participant the forthcoming mega event of the Olympic 2012. Olympic games are the sole source of driving young people to engage themselves in sports activities and it is the core policy of the Bexley borough to avail this opportunity for the well being of the young people. As evident from the policy, it aims to improve the range, quality and accessibility of youth provision in Bexley by providing a cohesive and collaborative Youth Offer, This strategy aims to improve the range, quality and accessibility of youth provision in Bexley by providing a cohesive and collaborative Youth Offer, based on a strategic approach to identifying need and the most effective response, and improved co-ordination of provision.
The demographic study of the borough reveals that 25.7% of the Bexley population is aged 0-19, approximately 20,000 young people are aged 13-19 and an increasing numbers of 10-14 years olds locally, but with a projected overall decrease in 10-19 year olds by 2015. These figures reveal the importance of sports activities in the area which can be met with through mobilising sports activities taking advantage of the forthcoming mega sports event. Keeping this necessity of the time, the Education and Inspections Act 2006 has outlined the responsibility of the Local Authority to secure sufficient universal provision for young people, which is defined via new national standards(BEXLEY INTEGRATED YOUTH, 2007). These responsibilities are to provide the youth of the local borough access to two hours per week of sporting and physical activity via both schools and leisure activities. They would also be provided access to two hours per week of other constructive activity (club, youth groups or classes). in order to enhance their participation in positive activities they would be provided volunteering opportunities as well as a wide range of other recreational, cultural, sporting and enriching experiences and a range of safe and enjoyable places in which to spend time.
The above mentioned policies as laid down through the Education and Inspections Act 2006 show that the local authority is committed to provide safe, enjoyable and accessible sporting opportunities for all residents and visitors to Bexley (BEXLEY INTEGRATED YOUTH, 2007).
Although these policies seem to contribute significantly in improving the youth participation in the sports activities, there is still a lot to be done in this direction. For instance, there are not sufficient resources available in the borough for sports activities. There is also a lack of swimming pools even to meet the requirements of the mega event of the Olympic 2012 (The Councils Who Are Failing to Make London Fit for 2012 Games, 2007). That is why, it can be siad that the Borough’s policies for the young people are not sufficietnly helping them to play their part as is expected from them.
Bexley is well placed in the proximity of London, the place where the historical mega event is going to take place. This importance of Bexley borough helps it to enjoy good participation in the 2012 Games and secure good and lasting benefits for local residents and visitors. Activities related to the preparedness for the Olympic Games have already commenced in Bexley which would be discussed in the following sections. This joint working approach is being actively promoted by LOCOG (London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games). National activity is linked to regional areas through a nation and regions group. At a regional level, work is taking place through Sport England, SEEDA (South East England Development Agency) and Tourism South East to ensure that the Borough of Bexley is well positioned to secure good and lasting benefits of the Olympic Games.
In order to implement the sport strategy, the local council has highlighted the resources of funding to sustain the activities of sport provision. The report published on “Developing communities through sport” describes that there are many agencies, organizations and individuals involved in providing sporting activates and facilities. Such provision is sometime in the form of formal partnerships, sometime loose associations and sometimes through individuals and organizations working on their own. However, for all this, Bexley council has a significant role to play. The Council plays its role in many ways. Sometimes it is the direct provider of the funds to carry out sporting strategies, sometimes it joins with other organizations for the purpose and sometime it assumes the role of controlling authority.
The Leisure, Culture and Tourism Committee have also offered its recommendations on 5th April 2006 in order to ensure that the youth of Bexley take advantage of the Olympic Mega event and they get inspiration to actively engage themselves in sports. The Committee recommended that In order for the Bexley’s residents to benefit from the Olympic Games, Bexley Council should actively seek to promote the maximum local benefits from the 2012. Besides, the Olympic Officer Steering Group and sub groups should ensure to formulate necessary and suitable policies for the active promotion of the Olympics. It recommended that consideration should be given to setting a local target for the number of Bexley residents that volunteer to help with the Olympic Games, and suggested that target of 500 volunteers. Besides, according to the recommendations forwarded by the Committee, consideration should be given to the role that local or notable sport players might play in promoting healthy lifestyle. The Committee suggested in this regard that the development of an Olympic Forum was a potential mechanism for engaging with the community on Olympic matter (Review of London 2012 Olympics, 2006).
According to these recommendations, the main objective of the preparations is to maximize the local benefits to be derived from the 2012 Olympics. However, according to the report, the development of an Olympic Forum should be considered as a potential mechanism for engaging with the community on Olympic matters.
5.The Other Side
These recommendations and preparations show that the local authorities of the Borough of Bexley are well ahead to derive benefits of the mega event and are doing well to mobilise their resources for the sport provision for the young of Bexley. However, there are some reports published in the local newspapers (The Monthly Chronicles, 2007) which describe that Bexley sports facilities will be more crowded in 2012 than they are today with an increasing number of residents packing into an already inadequate number of public sports facilities. The report quoted Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the London Assembly having revealed that despite the Mayor of London’s promise of a 2012 sporting legacy for Londoners, there are no plans to increase the number of swimming and athletic tracks in the capital. According to the report only 47% residents in Bexley are satisfied with local authority sports and leisure facilities, in contrast to 57% of residents in Greenwich and 60% in Islington. The report suggested that applying England’s Sport standards of one swimming pool for every 20,000 residents, Bexley should have 11 pools. However it currently only has 4 public pools and none are in the pipeline. Considering the increase in population it means that the number of residents per publicly run swimming and athletic facility is set to increase from 55,000 today to 57,000 in 2012. ‘When London was bidding for the 2012 Olympics, Londoners were promised that the build up to the games would inspire a new generation to greater sporting activity. But it is matter of great disappointment that instead of there being more public facilities for newly sporting Londoners, the pools and athletics tracks run by the capital’s boroughs are in decline (The Monthly Chronicle 2007).
In the above sections, an overview of the preparations, objectives and recommendations has been presented in the context of the London Borough of Bexley. The data has been explored from all the possible means, i.e., journals, official as well as non-official websites, magazines and newspapers and other reports published in accordance with the decision 2012. The reports published on the official website of the Borough of Bexley reveal there are some committees organised to review the aim and objectives of the decision 2012 and offer their recommendations. So far as the realization of the importance of the Olympic Games is concerned, no matter the council members are aware of it and doing their work in the line of offering recommendations. In the previous
section these recommendations have been quoted which show there is awareness of the provision of sport for the youth. However, it is not fully realised as it should have been. It is obvious that the advantages of this mega event are multifaceted and economical aspects of the event need greater attention, but after all the major aim of hosting sports festivals should be to promote sports in the country. But unfortunately this aspect of national importance has been ignored and on the ground there are not much activities visible that could contribute significantly to promote sports for the youth of the local authority (“The councils who are failing to make London fit for 2012”). As has been quoted, the report published in the Bexley Chronicles of October 2007 show that there are not so many sports facilities as required. The same position is in relation with the job opportunities that are likely to be generated in the consequence of the Olympic Games. Although the official website of the Borough of Bexley has many job announcements, there is none related to the sport provision or any that could have been linked in anyway to the matter under discussion. Similarly funds allocations have not yet been specific to the event which show the Borough lacks due enthusiasm as is supposed to be manifested considering the fact the Great Britain has made an historical win over her arch rivals to host the Olympic Games 2012.
The obvious reason for such lethargy seems to be the time factor in this regard. As there is yet a wide gap of five years for the event to take place, the authorities seem to take all this with ease and without any hurry. That is why there is visibility of only organizing meetings, discussing the possible benefits and formulating strategies to derive the possible benefits from the event. Anyway, one cannot conclude at this very stage that no significant and concrete steps are being taken. Certainly it would be a hasty conclusion as it has been only two years that the Great Britain has won the bid and yet 5 years to come to stage the festival. Considering this important time factor, at present, what we can expect from the local authorities of the Borough of Bexley is at least to set before them certain goals, objective and targets that have to be achieved most probably by the next one or two years. If the local authorities succeed to achieve these very goals and targets, one can say that the Borough is going in the right direction even if at a slower pace. The facts described in the previous sections show that the process of meetings, key findings and formulation of relevant strategies is on the way and it has to be realised on the ground. As has been described in the previous section, the Leisure, Culture and Tourism Scrutiny Committee (2006) has presented its recommendations on 5th April 2006 and in the light of these recommendations necessary measures are being taken and the results of these recommendations would be visible in the next coming years.
7.Conclusion and Recommendations
After evaluating critically the impact of the decision 2012 on the local authority youth sport provision, and examining various sources of information, the following recommendations are offered to improve the state of affairs:
As the five-year period is not enough to completely and perfectly arrange such the biggest event, the pace of preparations should be accelerated in order to avoid any in time embarrassment.
As the main purpose of organizing such mega events is always to promote sports in the region, it should be ensured that this very purpose is realized in its true sense, the youth of the local authority as well as whole of the country should be involved in the process and there should be new sport facilities in order to facilitate them in healthy activities.
In order to promote sport activities among the youth of local authority there should be well planned publicity of the mega event so that the people should be attracted toward this positive activity. The impact of such festival has been witnessed from the previous such events and they rightly have improved the healthy activities among the youth. So, the people of the London Borough of Bexley should also take advantage of the event and there should be visibility of it on them.
All the relevant information about the event, necessary preparations being made in this direction and any other progress should be published on all the electronic as well as print media so that the people of the local authority should be aware of the progress. In this way, it is expected that greater involvement of the public would be possible to be derived and this would result in heartier outcome.
And finally, the public should be invited to offer their suggestions, recommendations and comments on the preparations for the mega event. This would also result in active involvement on the part of the public and would possibly result in improved activities also on the part of the local authorities as it would necessarily require them to show positive outcomes of the their measures.
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