The Olympic Legacy
Concourse’s Sports Editor, Peter Stojanovic, considers the impact of London 2012 on students and the wider community.
If you ever happen across the Reader’s Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder, 1993 and turn to page 871, scroll down to the third word on the first column and you will find the entry for legacy. You are informed that it has two meanings: on the one hand, legacy can be used in reference to a gift left in a will; on the other hand, it can be a ‘something’ handed down by a predecessor (ironically for us, the example provided is a legacy of corruption). Once doomed to be used only by old spinsters accidentally mishearing and thus reiterating their grandson’s new partner’s name Lucy, and backbenchers in Parliament in reference to their pensions, the word legacy was having a rough ride. That was until 2012 had anything to say about it.
The word legacy, particularly in conjunction with the better known word of Olympics, has been bouncing around the country for a good few months now. Just like the particularly energetic final of table-tennis last month in London, this rally between Olympic officials and ministers and the general public over the reliability of the legacy to come, has been at best mystifying and at worst predictable. So many different types of people have stepped forward proudly to offer their own words of wisdom as to what they think, what they know legacy means, and what it will provide for us…no wonder half of us haven’t a clue what it means and the other half have stopped caring (if they did in the first place). We at least know who it will involve: hopefully everyone. From primary school playgrounds, to Nursing Home gardens, from penthouse private gyms to the community parks in inner cities, the legacy that the Olympics, and it’s rather upmarket price, can provide should be felt by anyone who tries to reach out and touch it. However, the very institution that promised to provide has now turned around and effectively stabbed itself in the foot. It is now looking ever more dubious that the Olympic legacy will be felt by as many people as hoped, but have University students avoided such a fate?
For those of you that live under a rock, or within the Keele bubble, whichever you prefer, the United Kingdom and its residents are in a recession. Perhaps even a double dip recession reading today’s news online. In order to save what’s left of our economy, the Government has cut spending on (don’t take this too literally) everything, and ‘sports’ have not come out unscathed. Hark back to 2010 when funding for school and grassroots sports faced a 33% reduction and programs such as the Youth Sports Trust lost its entire £160m a year (and seven million pupils) budget. Fast forward two years and times have not changed. All over the country local authorities are finding it harder and harder to keep the price of swimming pools and leisure facilities within the price range of ordinary workers and many are facing closure. One such example is Atherton Leisure Centre in Newham; about 750m away from the Olympic village. The coalition government, when questioned about these issues, simply – and some say rightly – state that these cuts are, ironically enough, a legacy set by the previous Labour government and a necessary medicine for the sickness we are entrenched in.
However, resembling some sort of common cold virus, University sports is seemingly for now, immune to this medicine and is carrying on nicely – thank you very much. Let us ignore the increase in University fees for the moment (an entirely different kettle of fish) and just concentrate on how the Olympic legacy can positively affect us, the humble University student.
Starting with the real game changers, if someone were to start a new sports team or society, all they would realistically need is a large reserve of drive and enthusiasm, a fair amount of imagination and a pinch of support from the Athletics Union and the University. For the mere mortals, joining a sports team is a simple matter of arriving to induction on time with some money in your pocket (the amount differs with different sports). However, students have been doing this since the birth of the AU, so legacy in the Olympic sense cannot claim a victory here. The problem is that not enough people, let alone students, are engaging with the amount of exercise recommended by Sports England – about 30mins of moderately intensive sport a day, if you’re curious. Summer 2012 will mean different things to different people and even if Boris Johnson slapped legacy in your face and sprinkled it with a mixture of chocolate and gaffes, some people would remain ignorant. By that, I mean they will still carry on with their semi-sedentary lifestyles as if £200 000 worth of gold plated discs had not passed hands (legally) in their capital.
Legacy, whether it be a collection of stamps left to you in your great-aunts will, or a chance to build up on an incredible summer of sporting achievements, is entirely what you make of it. Every David, Boris and Michael in the land can try and tell you what it is, or how it will arrive and what it will create but realistically speaking, it’s the you and me; the individual that really gives legacy that special connotation, that “je ne sais quoi” italic style.
At Keele University, or wherever you study or live, I hope you will capitalise on the enviable position we are in as students regarding the foggy world of sports. Whatever age you enter in on, you have a clean slate in which to start something new and exciting; something you’re experienced in and want to build upon; something that gets you up off your chair and inspires you to achieve or at least let loose with. Within these paragraphs there are thirteen ‘legacies’ (now, fourteen). Unlike myself, don’t waste time and energy dissecting and repeating it, just get out there and make sure it doesn’t get left to the old spinsters and backbenchers again; otherwise we’ve all paid a lot of money to see the Spice Girls sing on top of taxis and Clare Balding constantly on television.