Tessa Jowell, minister for London 2012
With plans for the legacy of London’s Olympic Games now published, The Leisure Review asked the minister with responsibility for London 2012 about some of the key aspects of the Games, the legacy and what it means for UK leisure
The 2012 site in the making
The 2012 site still in the making
How have the aspirations for legacy from the 2012 Games had to evolve since London was announced as an Olympic host city?
The big prize from the Games is of course a great summer of Olympic and Paralympic sport – but even more the chance to galvanise people and communities across the UK to be the best they can be. These are the UK’s Games – in London. There is something for everyone in our plans – every part of the country, every section of the population.
We always said that we would make the legacy UK-wide and that it would bring significant social and economic benefits to East Londoners through the regeneration of the Olympic Park area. Our aspirations have remained constant, but now we are able to be specific about what these benefits will be and how we will achieve them. The legacy action plan published earlier in June, called Before, During and After: Making the Most of the London 2012 Games, sets out, under our five legacy promises, a number of headline ambitions that provide this definition and the programmes that will deliver them.
What lessons on legacy have 2012 organisers been able to take from Beijing and previous hosts?
We have been learning lessons from many previous host cities, particularly Sydney, about all aspects of planning and delivering a successful Games. But our approach on legacy is more ambitious than in any other Games because we have been planning legacy into the designs of the venues from the start, as well as setting in place the Cultural Olympiad, the London 2012 Education programme, and the 2012 Business Network that will deliver the social aspects of a UK-wide legacy.
Many leisure professionals were surprised by the announcement of free swimming as "the spearhead" of legacy plans, given that it has been a regular feature of local authority thinking for many years. Are concerns that this initiative suggests a lack of inspiration on the part of 2012 organisers valid?
You only need to look at our ambition to get two million more people more active by 2012 to realise that we are being genuinely ambitious. After all, this represents a 1% year-on-year increase in the active population – equal to the highest level ever achieved by a developed country. Free swimming is the first step on this journey, and one for which we have received very positive feedback. We know it will be popular and we know it will work because it is based on successful schemes run by some local authorities. We are taking a bold approach but we are also making sure that interventions are integrated within existing infrastructure.
Many see the Cultural Olympiad as central to a successful legacy from London 2012. Given the focus on swimming and increased physical activity, can the cultural sector be confident that their contribution will be allowed to flourish?
Yes. The Cultural Olympiad is something that’s very important to me and we will be launching our plans in the autumn. We have appointed a creative programmer in every English region, with equivalent arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is their job to make sure every region has fantastic celebrations by identifying and helping develop local programmes so that they can be part of the UK-wide cultural festival, and also to help deliver all aspects of the Cultural Olympiad around the country.
The Leisure Review runs a regular feature called Olympic Price Watch, drawing attention to the many things in modern government that by necessity cost huge sums yet draw little comment; the feature suggests a favourable comparison with the cost of the London Olympic Games. Do you regret the extent to which the cost of the Games has been allowed to overshadow the legacy benefits? Why has this happened?
It is important to remember that, included in the budget for the Games, is funding for the long-term regeneration of East London. 75p in every £1 of the budget is being spent on regeneration – infrastructure, transport, housing and community facilities that the Games will leave behind. We are investing in the UK’s future by redeveloping one of the most run-down parts of our capital and turning it into a new centre for business with new housing and new parkland for generations to come.
Given the very strict limitations on the use of the Olympic brand, to what extent will local sports organisations, clubs and events be able to link their activities to London 2012 as they try to engage the non-active public and encourage physical activity and so maximise the Games’ legacy?
For the first time in Olympic history we have developed a mark within the 2012 brand family, called the Inspire Mark, that will be available to selected high-quality non-commercial initiatives that are clearly inspired by the London 2012 Games. This is a great opportunity for local sports clubs and organisations to get more involved in the Olympics. The Inspire Mark logo is being rolled out from this autumn, starting with nationwide programmes, but we anticipate that it will be available at a local level closer to the Games. To this end, we are working closely with every UK nation and region, funding a network of staff to ensure that opportunities to use the brand are available as far as possible to local projects.
Tessa Jowell was appointed minister for the Olympics and London in June 2007. Before this she was secretary of state for culture, media and sport.
The Leisure Review, July 2008
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“It is important to remember that, included in the budget for the Games, is funding for the long-term regeneration of East London. 75p in every £1 of the budget is being spent on regeneration – infrastructure, transport, housing and community facilities that the Games will leave behind.”