The Olympic and Paralympic Games may be a 3-week celebration of sport, but they leave behind lasting benefits for the host city. And London is no exception.
Five years after the London 2012 Games, the city is again enjoying a summer full of sport and incredible performances as it hosts the IAAF World Championships and the World ParaAthletics Championships in the London Olympic Stadium.
This brings back a lot of memories and emotions for Lord Paul Deighton, former CEO of the London 2012 Organising Committee. “Anyone who was around at that time will always recall the experience in an enormously positive way,” he said.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has seen major changes since the London 2012 Games, with the removal of all the temporary venues and the addition of new facilities for the public.
“Housing developments have been added to the original Olympic village, which was itself an important legacy site. We have agreed that the University of London will build a campus there so we are introducing an educational component to the park as well as hopefully an additional museum,” explains Lord Deighton.
“The velodrome is still there and very successful, the broadcast centre became an industrial and business centre, and the swimming centre is still there but without the big wings on the side which accommodated the spectators. So, we are bringing culture, education and sport into the site, as well as residential, retail and office facilities.”
“This would have taken thirty, forty years to develop as opposed to the seven that we had during the run-up to the Games. And it was always the concept to bring the Games to East London, to develop an undeveloped part of the city.”
Plans for the Tokyo 2020 Games include the construction of eight new permanent venues and the Olympic Village, all of which will be used after the Games. To ensure a successful legacy, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee is formulating an Action & Legacy Plan based on five pillars: Sport and Health; Urban Planning and Sustainability; Culture and Education; Economy and Technology; and Recovery (from the devastated disasters), Nationwide Benefits, and Global Communication.
The legacy of the Games is not only bricks and mortar. London 2012 promised to ‘Inspire a Generation’, and Lord Deighton believes the experience of the atmosphere of the Games was the key reason for the fulfilment of this promise. “You need to take that positive mind-set and apply it – as a young kid you might have applied it by saying ‘I want to be the best possible swimmer I can be’ or ‘I want to be the best possible dancer I can be’.”
Hosting the Paralympic Games also had a tremendous impact on the whole of society across the United Kingdom and brought about many positive changes. “What we changed was people’s perceptions and attitudes towards disability because of the way the Paralympic Games focused on the capability of the Paralympic athletes,” Lord Deighton said.
“We did some measurements of people’s attitudes towards disability before the Games and after the Games and there was a sizeable positive shift. It was such a big change in people’s attitudes that survived well beyond people’s memories of the Games.”
Tokyo 2020’s vision for the Games is to give the opportunity to everyone to ‘Achieve their Personal Best’, to achieve ‘Unity in Diversity’, and to “Connect with Tomorrow”.
With three years to go before the 2020 Games, much remains to be prepared but Lord Deighton is sure of one thing. “It will be the most extraordinary thing happening in your city in your lifetime, so find a way to get involved. One way might be to buy a ticket, one way might be as a volunteer, and another way could be to just celebrate with your family.”