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#What2012Legacy? How can we assess the success of London 2012 legacy strategy?

There is no legacy!  This is what the weight of evidence from two worldwide systematic reviews suggests about the socio-economic legacies most often sought from major multisport events such as the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Or, to be more precise, there is no inherent legacy.  Rather, ‘advanced planning and long-term legacy goals are required’ to secure legacy benefits, ‘merely hosting the 2012 Games is not enough to develop a sustained legacy.  Legacies must be leveraged’.  This tells us that, contrary to much political belief, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are not in and of themselves an intervention to secure legacy outcomes.  Rather, it is the strategies employed to harness the Games to seek to deliver legacy outcomes that are the intervention.  So, social and economic legacies are potential benefits NOT inherent effects.
 
No addition to the Games funding package for legacy.
 
The potential legacy of an Olympic and Paralympic Games in London was articulated to the International Olympic Committee from the outset as the raison detre of the London 2012 bid.  No previous potential host had been so ambitious or explicit about seeking to use the Olympic and Paralympic Games as a catalyst for economic and social good, not only in the host city, but across the host country and beyond. However, in 2008, the UK government set out a strategy which stated: ‘Many of the benefits will come from enhancing existing programmes, and within existing Departmental budgets. There is therefore no addition to the total Games funding package of £9.3 billion’.
 
How ‘additionality’ works – Distinctiveness and Difference.
 
While it is possible to criticise the above approach on the basis that it does not provide additionality because it is reliant on financial resources already committed to existing programmes, it is not just additional financial resources that signify the additionality of programmes.  The additionality of programmes is also derived from the additional political and practitioner support and enthusiasm generated by the Games and, most significantly, from additional specific thematic emphases that would not have been possible in the absence of the Games.  In short, additionality is related to the distinctiveness and difference of programmes. This means that genuine legacy strategy will either add value to existing programmes, making them distinctive as a result of their association with the Games, or will create new programmes that will be distinctive as a result of their association with the Games.
 
Attributing additionality to legacy programmes.
 
Distinctiveness should be clearly articulated in the objectives for legacy programmes, which should outline how programme inputs (financial resources, themes and support) will be deployed in a way that makes distinctive use of the Games to generate legacy outputs and outcomes. If the Games have led to additional financial resources being made available for a programme, or to additional specific thematic emphases being made possible for a programme, or to additional practitioner or political support and enthusiasm that materially affects programme outputs, then that programme might legitimately be attributed to legacy strategy.  Any investments or programmes for which additionality cannot be demonstrated should not be attributed to legacy strategy, rather they should be regarded as parallel programmes that would have taken place anyway, but that just happen to be taking place in and around a time at which an Olympic and Paralympic Games is being hosted.
 
Two legacy strategy questions.
 
In seeking to establish what might legitimately be claimed as legacy strategy there are two questions that might be asked, one of attribution, and one of additionality.  The attribution question is ‘would this programme have taken place in the absence of the Games?’  If the answer to this question is yes, then it is a parallel programme that SHOULD NOT be attributed to legacy strategy.  The additionality question is ‘could this programme have taken place in largely the same format without the Games?’  If the answer to this question is yes, then SERIOUS QUESTIONS MUST BE ASKED about how far the Games are making the programme distinctive, and thus how far the programme should be attributed to legacy strategy.  Of course, some programmes that could have taken place in the absence of the Games would not have done so because funding would not have been available for them, and in such cases the Games has made a difference to programmes in terms of making financial resources available for them, but has NOT made programmes distinctive as a result of their association with the Games.
 
How can we learn from London’s legacy experience?
 
The distinction between distinctiveness and difference is an important one, because a programme to which the Games has made a difference in terms of financial resources should be replicable given the same level of financial resource in the absence of the Games, whereas a programme which has been made distinctive as a result of an association with the Games is unlikely to be replicable in the absence of an Olympic and Paralympic Games.  This obviously has important implications for those seeking to learn from London’s legacy experiences.
 
This blog is the first in a series that will explore what legacies have been leveraged from the London 2012 Games.  These blogs will show that, on the basis of the above approach to assessing London 2012 legacy strategy, much of what is being claimed as London 2012 legacy success by politicians is not actually legacy at all.  Follow #What2012Legacy for this series of blogs, coming up in the next few days and weeks.
 
The content of this blog is derived from “London 2012 Legacy Strategy: Did it deliver?” by @ProfMikeWeed, chapter 20 in volume two of the Handbook of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
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About ProfMikeWeed

Professor of Applied Policy Sciences | Head of Human and Life Sciences | Strategic Director, Centre for Sport, Physical Education & Activity Research (SPEAR) | Editor, Journal of Sport & Tourism

Discussion

2 thoughts on “#What2012Legacy? How can we assess the success of London 2012 legacy strategy?

  1. Sam – my answer on sport participation legacy, which is reasonably simple, will be up on here as part of this #What2012Legacy series soon. In the interim, take a look at my pre-Games view at “Blame the Data and Remove the Goalposts: How to Mask National Olympic Policy Legacy Failings

    Posted by ProfMikeWeed | November 28, 2013, 9:28 pm
  2. So what’s the simple answer – the Olympic games have increased participation as intended or participation levels have remained stagnant? At ground level I’d say all the previous problems exist and a lot of money has been wasted on programmes which fundamentally don’t work.

    Posted by Sam P | November 28, 2013, 9:20 pm

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