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Spirit of London 2012 Games must be recaptured if next year’s summer of events are to have a lasting legacy

Hull volunteers, inquiry into power of events

Spirit of London 2012 Games must be recaptured if next year’s summer of events are to have a lasting legacy

A major new report ahead of the tenth anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has called for the spirit of the Games and their volunteering legacy to be recaptured to deliver positive social and economic change across the UK.

With the return of large-scale events next year, including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, a year-long inquiry supported by the funder Spirit of 2012 has been launched today.

It is being chaired by philanthropist Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett and will look at how events can have positive impacts on people’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing, local economies, and social cohesion.

The launch report explores how events can encourage more people to volunteer, or volunteer on a regular basis. The 70,000 ‘Games Maker’ volunteers were seen as the lifeblood of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Given the right conditions, occasional volunteering at events can be a route to regular volunteering. But the new report argues that without a coordinated effort, the events of 2022 may not leave a volunteering legacy.

It draws on an ICM poll which shows that 40 per cent of UK adults had volunteered before or since the start of the pandemic, and 9 per cent of adults (4.8 million people) were regular volunteers.

The polling shows what motivates people to give their time. Some 86 per cent of volunteers say that it helps to improve their local community and 85 per cent think it improves people’s own mental health and wellbeing. Four-fifths of volunteers agreed that it helped improve people’s skills and job prospects.

The report concluded that volunteering brings many benefits to the individuals who give their time and to the organisations that receive help. Sectors such as heritage and grassroots sport would not be able to function without the help of volunteers, as would most of the UK’s smaller charities. Volunteering also strengthens social connections and give people a stronger stake in society.

But these benefits will not be realised without action to address barriers to volunteering. More than half of poll respondents said they would be more likely to volunteer if they knew there were things they could do that would interest them – including 44 per cent of those who have not volunteered. And 52 per cent said more flexible volunteering opportunities would be key for them, such as tasks they could do in their own time, or from home or online. The poll showed that 86 per cent of volunteers have helped out at sporting, cultural or community events.

Next year’s Commonwealth Games will involve 25,000 volunteers, while further opportunities to recreate the Olympics spirit include the Rugby League World Cup and Women’s European Championships, the 75th anniversaries of the NHS and the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 2023, and the announcement of a new UK City of Culture for 2025.

Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, chair of the Spirit of 2012 inquiry, said: 

“Events such as the Olympics and Paralympics, major sporting competitions, Royal Jubilees, street parties, festivals and county shows are occasions that bring people from all walks of life together to take part in moments of importance in national and community life. As well as the pleasure this brings, such moments can act as a catalyst that leads to social and economic changes, some of which may be realised years after event has ended

Ahead of the tenth anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this is a moment to reflect on the power of events to transform communities and prepare for the return of mass participation events across the UK in 2022. We must recapture the spirit of 2012. The new inquiry will create a blueprint for future events so that they deliver happier people and happier places.

He added: “Volunteering brings many benefits, to the individuals who give their time and to the organisations that receive help. It also strengthens social connections and give people a stronger stake in society. But these benefits will not be realised without action to recognise the importance of volunteering, which is why the Spirit of 2012 Inquiry has already produced practical ideas for action to help achieve these aims.”

Download the full report and the executive summary, find out more about the Inquiry and its work, and submit evidence.