Yesterday HM Opposition held a debate in the House of Commons about the legacy of the 2012 Olympics. Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP made clear that the Conservatives have supported the London Games from the bid stage onwards. But he also made this observation:
"Our concern is not primarily about the economic legacy, and our motion is not about that. We recognise that the project will bring huge and vitally needed regeneration to five of the poorest boroughs in London, although there are concerns about the possible reduction in the number of houses being built and the threats hanging over the money being invested in upgrading the North London line. Our motion is about the sporting legacy, which divides into two distinct areas. The first is the so-called hard legacy, which is the one that will be left behind by the venues built for the Olympics. The second is the soft legacy, which is the increase in sporting participation that should happen in not only the Olympic sports—that increase is welcome—but all sports. That will provide a challenge, because, as the Government’s own report acknowledges, participation in sport has decreased in a number of the host cities after they have held the Olympics.
"Ensuring that the reverse happens is a challenge that we must meet, because these Olympics will cost every household—every family—in the country £500. They will cost the equivalent of £7 million every day from today until the opening ceremony, and that cost is being borne by taxpayers throughout the country. Thus, it is only right, proper and fair that the benefits should also be felt throughout the country. With a sporting legacy, the 2012 games can be a huge success; without it, they will be a gross betrayal of the promises made by Britain both to the world and to its own people."
atMr Hunt added that the facilities for a number of the sporting events at the Games had been due to be temporary and relocatable, but that there has been backtracking on this. He also said that the Government had reannounced a series of sporting initiatives, and commented:
"We should not plan the 2012 legacy by cobbling together every single programme with vague links to sport and the Olympics. This is not about looking at what we are already doing, but about what we could do."
The 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are meant to be more than two magnificent sporting festivals. As well as speeding the regeneration of a very deprived part of the country, they should inspire a new generation of young people to make sport a central part of their lives. There are fears that the raid on the National Lottery to compensate for the mushrooming budget of the Games has hit grassroots sport. The Conservatives are right to highlight these issues.
Declaration of interest: Tom Greeves, who wrote this post, was a speechwriter for Seb Coe at London 2012, and advised Boris Johnson on the Olympics during the London Mayoral campaign and as part of the Mayor’s transition team.