Leading article: A puny Olympic legacy

The idea that the Games would help to turn the tide against obesity was always suspect

Share
Related Topics

The Olympic Games, for which the torch has been carried during this weekend's Diamond Jubilee, will probably be a great festival of pre-emptive whingeing followed by people having a surprisingly good time. We have been in training for seven years and have high hopes of winning a record number of medals in complaining about the Olympics. Yet, when the Games start in 54 days' time, most people, we confidently predict, will enjoy the show that Britain puts on to the world.

Yes, we know that the Games will cost more than the original bid. Quite a lot more. But, since the present budget was set at a realistic level in 2007, it has been held steady, and, as far as we can tell, the management of the project has been exemplary for a public sector venture.

Yes, we know that the Olympic ideal of amateur endeavour has been compromised by the emphasis on corporate sponsorship. But that is one way of reducing the cost to British taxpayers – and it is a saving well worth making.

Yes, the organisers have been heavy-handed with copyright, imposing petty restrictions on the informal use of the five-ring symbol, for example, but that is, to some extent, part of the deal with sponsors.

And, yes, there have been problems with tickets and public transport, and the inevitable disruptions of big-event preparation. But, on the whole, the Olympics have been well organised and, if we were not British, we would have every expectation of the Games going smoothly.

When it comes to it, few of the cavils will matter. The Games will be a celebration of national pride, of international sporting excellence, and, in the Paralympic Games, of the diversity of personal achievement. The spectacle, the competitive spirit and thrills of winning and losing will take over. The twisted tower of Anish Kapoor's strange imagination might even become a popular landmark.

We hope that the Games will inspire a cohort of young people to take up sport. This was one of the promises of London's bid to host the Olympics – that it would leave a legacy of enthusiasm for sport and greater participation in it. As we report today, however, this is the one aspect of the preparation for the Games that really has fallen short of expectations. Participation in most sports has fallen in recent years. The prospect of the Olympics has not yet prompted an increase in the number of children wanting to try new sports, and the Government has short-sightedly cut back on some of the opportunities for them to do so. Where public money has been spent, it has too often been "commandeered by advertising gurus and PR executives", as Michael Calvin argues in his column today. So, when a successful Games does fire the imagination of young people, it is less likely to be harnessed.

Calvin's view is blunt: "The Games will not produce leaner, fitter children." Perhaps it was naive to imagine that they would. There is certainly a big difference between supporting elite athletes, at which this country is getting better, and encouraging mass participation and general fitness, at which we are not.

The Olympics may well provide two weeks of fine spectacle, at the venues and on television, and its legacy of urban renewal in east London will be welcome. But the idea that it would prompt a renaissance in mass-participation sports and help to turn the tide against obesity was always suspect. Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport – to give him his full title while he still has it – told this newspaper in 2010 that he had "real concerns about the lack of a sporting legacy for the whole country". After the fun and games, that is the one doubt that will endure.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific