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Author Ruth Hollis
Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012
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Nearly ten years down the line, what legacy does London 2012 have?

Nine years ago today, London embarked on a journey to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. While many people were optimistic, there were sceptics both in London and across the country. Remember the build up? A typical cold, wet British summer – particularly during the Jubilee River Pageant, as well as concerns about security and transport chaos in London. My commute from Norwich to London took me past the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and - over the years, morning after morning - we literally saw it grow and emerge at the trackside.

Passengers sharing the carriage with me laughed out loud when, at the start of that year, the train conductors changed their patter on arriving into London announcing our destination as “London - home of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

As the summer progressed, people around the country left their homes and workplaces in their thousands to see the torch relay as it passed. And then, as 27 July 2012 dawned, we all saw what followed on our screens, as did millions around the country and across the world – a successful, exciting Games bookended by spectacular opening and closing ceremonies which capped off an unforgettable summer of sports, arts and community. How wrong those commuters were!

The truth is that when we talk about 2012, people across the UK want to tell us their stories... on the whole, they are rooted in their communities rather than national sporting success.

Spirit of 2012 was founded in 2013 to answer the question: “What’s next?” How were we to harness the power of the moment which London 2012 created and enable it to have a lasting legacy not just in Hackney or the capital, but in communities all over the country for the next generation? With the help of the National Lottery Community Fund, we have awarded funding to projects around the UK with this in mind; all the time measuring, evaluating and learning how to inspire the same wellbeing in communities that the Games did.

As we look forward to the 10th anniversary next year, it’s time to ask ourselves: what legacy does the London 2012 Games have left and is it still relevant 10 years on in a very different United Kingdom?

We have questioned how long our name – Spirit of 2012 – would be relevant, when it might tip into nostalgia and mawkish sentiment. The truth is that when we talk about 2012, people across the UK want to tell us their stories of the summer – of the torch relay, the volunteers, local sporting heroes and gold postboxes. The beauty of these stories is that, on the whole, they are rooted in their communities rather than national sporting success.

London 2012 Closing Ceremony

In 2022, we will enjoy a bumper year of events across the UK, including the Platinum Jubilee, Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the second half of Coventry City of Culture, Festival UK as well as lots of local Great Get Togethers and Big Lunches. In a year post COVID, Brexit and following the recent vile racism in the wake of the Euros 2020, we need to take the long view of legacy and use it as a springboard to answer the following questions:

  1. How can we use the power of sport to celebrate the diversity of our communities across the UK and confront racism?
  2. How can we harness the incredible enthusiasm of the volunteers that will come forward for the events and plug them into serving their communities, as the Hull 2017 volunteers did, in their times of need as well as when a big high profile event is in town?
  3. How can we make sure we bring equity to volunteering – enabling all people to play their part as equals?
  4. How can we use the power of sport and arts and culture to help address some of the most intractable problems we face – loneliness and isolation, poor physical and mental health, the need to “level up” our communities?
  5. How can we make good on that promise to inspire a generation and put young people at the heart of the recovery? And finally…
  6. How do we make sure that events have real benefit for people in communities up and down the country as we look to the next decade as a time of renewal and recovery?

This is what Spirit of 2012 wants to focus on in the next phase of our life.  Please get in touch with us if you can help us come up with the answers.

Read our Happier People, Happier Places strategy.

Learn how to create a lasting legacy for events with our Moment to Movement report.