Despite all the doubts, pessimism and critique that the London 2012 Olympics received in the build up to the games, it seems that in the end it has been everything that the organisers, participants and millions of spectators could have hoped for. And in typical British spirit, it was all alright on the night, from the Opening Ceremony, to performance, to the atmosphere throughout the country and the overwhelming support that emerged as the games unravelled. But perhaps the greatest success of London 2012 has been the fulfillment of its carefully selected motto, ‘Inspire A Generation.’ Initially thought by some to be cliche and over-optimistic of the impact that the Olympics would have upon the nation, it now seems to have been if anything to have been an under-estimation. Indeed, children of all ages have been captivated by the games, encourage by sport-loving parents, local sports in celebration of the Olympics and the abundance of media material targeting children during the Olympics. Visiting my three year old cousin this weekend, all the wanted to do was learn to ride her bike after watching Team GB’s success in the Venedrome, and when the rain came she stayed glued to the BBC coverage waving her flag.
But it isn’t only the kids who are feeling inspired by London 2012, as sports organisations have found an overwhelming increase in interest since the games began from adults too. The Telegraph reports that ‘the club finder search option on British Rowing’s website has been receiving 5,000 hits a day, compared to the usual 250,’* whilst Wiggins’ successes in the Tour de France and the Olympics has inspired a surge in bike sales**. And a similar pattern is being reported across the sporting industry as the nation seizes on the fever of the games to get on their feet and jump into sport. Even iPhone exercise apps are topping the charts and showing a new found interest in getting fit and healthy, with men and women alike inspired by figures like Jessica Ennis and Tom Daley to get in shape***.
Will the legacy last? Previous Olympics have shown that host countries rarely succeed in maintaining the fitness buzz that the games bring when the excitement of the here-and-now has died down. But then again, London 2012 has defined itself differently from most Olympics from the very start. In its whole philosophy, London’s Olympics have all been about where we have come from, and where we are going. Heritage, determination and pride, both in the nation and oneself. In an age where everyone is so concerned about image, health and identity, it is remarkable that sport and exercise have lagged so dramatically behind in our priorities. It has hit new lows in schools, with sports being sidelined behind academics and the arts, whilst for adults exercise has long been made out to be an unnecessary chore when there are not enough hours in the day. Yet we all know the benefits of regular exercise, and it needn’t be a chore. Exercise classes, team sports, and even the odd run can be refreshing, social and fun; everything that the Olympics has proven to be for the UK in 2012. Now the nation is finally calling for a lasting legacy and demanding a turn around in priorities that has long been needed.**** Alongside the millions of pounds of Olympic funding that will be pumped into the UK in the wake of the games, let us hope that we can not only inspire a generation, but invigorate a whole nation.