Tech comment: A sporting legacy that’s fit for purpose
A survey shows that the Olympics really have inspired people to commit to more active lifestyles – and that we have the facilities to accommodate the demand, says Geoff Aucock.
A central part of London’s winning bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was its promise to “inspire a generation”, but do we have the infrastructure to cope with a big increase in participation?
The good intentions of Britain’s youth should give us hope. Deloitte surveyed 2,000 16 to 35-year-olds during the Olympics and half said they intended to become more active as a result of the Games: 18% intended to take up a new sport or exercise; 27% planned to participate more often in the exercise or sport they already played; while 5% said they would do both. The inspirational impact was felt across the country with at least 40% of respondents in every region saying they would do more sport and exercise as a result of the Games.
However, there is a difference between good intentions during the Games and the making good on those intentions when the Olympic flame has left London.
One of the biggest concerns was whether we would even have the facilities to cope with hordes of suitably inspired kids doing the Mobot as they queued outside their local sports centre. Is the infrastructure in place to meet this demand? Our research into the state of play across London suggests it is.
More than 350 new sports and fitness facilities have opened in London since 2005 when the capital was awarded the right to host the 2012 Games, according to the latest Sports Crane Survey from Drivers Jonas Deloitte. This includes 100 entirely new sites, while the rest are extensions to existing facilities. There have been new openings in every London borough.
The rate of openings accelerated as the Games grew nearer, with the number of new sites increasing each year since 2008. Indicative of just how much growth the sector has seen, in five years out of the past six, sports facility openings have outpaced central London commercial office completions.
New developments have been led by the private sector, but public sector provision has also been solid. Just under two-thirds of new sites have been privately funded in the past six years, including almost all of those that opened in 2011. However, 35 publicly funded sites have opened since 2006 and six of the 18 due to open in 2012 will be publicly funded. It is extremely encouraging to see growing investment from public and private sectors in new and modernised sports facilities across London.
The sporting legacy of the Games should not just be about inspiring the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians, but rather encouraging those of every ability to get more active. The survey results show that, to some extent, the new facilities going up are reflecting demand.For example, dancing is becoming increasingly popular, and gyms and dance studios made up 67% of London’s new sports and fitness facilities opened from 2009 to 2011. However, while swimming is still one of the most popular sports, only eight new public swimming pools have opened in London in the past three years.
We need more imaginative and flexible ways to persuade Londoners to become more active, and that requires a concerted effort by local authorities, sports governing bodies, schools and employers. London 2012 has given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kickstart this change and our research shows that better facilities and infrastructure are in place to cater for a post-Games increase in demand.
Geoff Aucock is head of sport, leisure and hospitality at Drivers Jonas Deloitte, the official construction programme management provider to London 2012