Friday Sep 18

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The London Legacy Trip

In September, I was in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Sponsored Media Visit hosted by the Sporting Opportunities Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I was selected by the British High Commission in Brunei to represent Brunei and was involved in meetings across the 2nd to the 4th of September with key organisations involved in the building, planning, marketing and Legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The trip included a tour around the Olympic Park and focused on the legacy of the Games across all angles. There were also other media representatives; from Singapore, Qatar, Russia, Argentina, Uruguay, Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan and St Lucia.

Day One
We were coached to Stoke Mandeville Stadium where we met with Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive of Wheelpower and Ian Barham, Buckinghamshire Legacy Manager. The state-of-the-art Stadium is the national centre for disability sport and has become known as the ‘home of wheelchair sport’ and the ‘birthplace of the Paralympic Games’. 

Close by was Stoke Mandeville Hospital where we met with Sally Hills, CEO of Specialist Services. We were brought to the rehabilitation unit and saw first-hand physiotherapists and exercise specialists working with patients and athletes. Sally then elaborated about the vision of Dr Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital whose work laid the foundations to disability sports.

Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive of Wheelpower

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Ian Barham and Sally Hills (left and second left respectively)

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Photograph from Ian Barham's Twitter @IanBarham1


Following this, we met with representatives from the Global Infusion Group (GIG), a global catering, logistics and brand support company. They are a live event support specialist company and here we learned about the importance of dynamic logistics support.

We then visited Dorney Lake, the site which hosted the rowing and kayak events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Constructed and privately-owned by Eton College, Dorney Lake is managed and operated by the registered charity Dorney Lake Trust. Ivor Llyod, Chief Executive of the Dorney Lake Trust shared the Lake’s history and about how the venue was still thriving 12 months post Games.

This was probably when the penny dropped in my mind regarding the notion of “Legacy”. Until then it had been a seemingly abstract word on the front of my program guide. “Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Media Visit” Up until that point, the preceding meetings had been niceties, showing the origins of the disability sports, the importance of holistic rehabilitation, and the need for nimble operations. Those elements were part of the bigger picture, but I now started processing the trip through different lenses. I started looking for what had happened since the London 2012 Games. In other words, what legacy did the Games leave behind? Was the economic groundswell in 2012 a temporary inflammation? Or was it more akin to something more long-lasting? I would spend the rest of the trip seeking to find out.

Ivor Llyod

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Day one concluded with two meetings at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Jeff Burke, a Director from ES Global was up first. Based in London, ES Global is a supplier of temporary structures and project management services, specialising in the design, specification, management, assembly, and dismantling of temporary structures. Jeff spoke primarily around the idea of “pre-cycling”, and how the Games were planned and designed right from the start already with the end in mind. I am paraphrasing here, but to pre-cycle is to think temporarily and to identify an object’s second use before designing and building it.

I am jumping forwards here, but the notion of pre-cycling was the biggest take home lesson from the Legacy trip. Think about the proverbial white elephants around you. Permanent structures which were erected ad hoc for seasonal use, still coyly standing reminding us about former glories, worse still, structures which are now redundant and of no use.

Another way I found helpful to conceptualise pre-cycling was think about Lego blocks. Lego blocks are designed to be used over and over again. In and of themselves, the blocks are abstract, but join a few together and you have a house. Add a few more to the mix, and you have a building. Rearrange them, and you get a ship. We don’t discard the blocks after single usage. We dismantle, store them away, and then reuse them – over and over again. This was exactly how the London 2012 Games and its Legacy was planned.

Andrew Honeyman, Head of Paralympic, Sport and Communities Legacy from the Cabinet Office capped off the day speaking about the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Unit’s responsibility in the overall management of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy projects.

Again, “Legacy” was weaved into the presentation. Andrew shared how London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games included plans for what would happen after the Games, i.e. the legacy following the Games. He gave an overview about plans for lasting economic, sporting and cultural benefits that would benefit the whole country.

Day Two
Day two started with guided tour of the North Park at the Queen Elizabeth Park by Peter Tudor, Director of Venues from the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), an agency of the Mayor of London. They took over responsibility for the Park from the Olympic Park Legacy Company in April 2012. During the tour of the North Park, one thing was obvious. There was not much to see – some remnants from the Olympics, but beyond that it was bare…and that was the whole point.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - One Year On Timelapse video

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Peter spoke about the LLDC’s £300 million construction project to transform the Olympic site into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The project began following the Games and it involves removing temporary structures and venues, transforming permanent venues into everyday use, building new roads and bridges and the first neighbourhood. In fact, North Park was opened to the public just recently on 29th July 2013. The rest of the park will be fully open around the end of March 2014.

Peter Tudor

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By the North Park Timber Lodge

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"The creation of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be one of the biggest construction projects in Europe. The 18 month transformation programme marks its first phase, laying the foundations for further development across East London over the next 20 years. The transformation has three main objectives: To clear Games-time structures including temporary venues, bridges, walkways and roads; to connect the Park to the surrounding area with new roads, cycle and foot paths; and to complete permanent venues, bridges and parklands ready for residents’ and visitors’ everyday use." (Source: From the London Legacy press release)

The overall aim of the project is that within 20 years the East End of London will have the same social and economic opportunities as other established precincts across London.

The flythrough of how the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park could look in year 2030

We then visited the Copper Box arena, which was reopened in July 2013. It has 7,000 seats and it was the site for the handball preliminaries and modern pentathlon fencing during the Olympic Games, and for goalball during the Paralympic Games. It is the only permanent indoor sports arena which has been retained. It is the third largest arena in London and asides from sports, it will also be used for concerts, shows, exhibitions and conferences.

There we met with a couple of members of the London Lions basketball team including their very tall forward, Adrien Sturt. As a break from the media interviews, they ran us through a few basketball drills which I happily participated in. The basketball drills also helped to break the ice, and it felt as if that was when the extended media team finally settled and started connecting with each other. I remember thinking to myself as I squared up to take a free throw, “Man, it isn’t every day you get to shoot hoops at an actual Olympic venue!”

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The last meeting of the day was at Visit Britain where we met with Director of Strategy and Communications, Patricia Yates. Visit Britain is “the national tourism agency, responsible for marketing Britain worldwide & developing Britain’s visitor economy.” This meeting was of special interest to me as I am interested in all things Marketing.

“From the moment the bid was won, our intention was not just to promote the few week of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but to make full use of the opportunities to promote Britain.” ~ Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain

Patricia spoke about strategies pre Games, during the Games and post Games, and about their ambitious four-year marketing program aimed at attracting visitors to the UK over the period 2011 to 2015. You can more about the mechanics of the UK marketing machine here. What struck me was the size of their marketing budget. They have a £100 million budget for their public and private tactical campaigns, and a £25 million budget for their image campaign. Personally, I consider this a small budget for such a comprehensive campaign!

They also shared about the GREAT campaign. Launched in February 2012, the GREAT campaign was an international marketing campaign which showcased what Britain had to offer in areas of tourism, education and business with the UK. To date, the campaign has yielded £600 million of revenue to the UK and is used in over 100 countries. It’s immediately recognisable, catchy and, I must admit, very clever. It really is a GREAT campaign!

The meeting at Visit Britain also highlighted the importance of tourism to the UK economy.

It accounts for approximately 10% of GDP
It contributes £115 billion to UK GDP
It provides employment for 2.6 million people [Note: one in twelve jobs in the UK is currently either directly or indirectly supported by tourism, and one third of new jobs created between 2009 and 2011 were in tourism]
Overseas visitors spend around £18.6 billion a year in the UK

One of their objective goals is for Britain to welcome 40 million visitors per annum by 2020 (currently, the numbers hover around 30 million per annum) Their tourism strategies include to enhance Britain's image, ensure that Britain is packaged and sold in relevant markets, ensuring that the country continues to meet the expectations of new visitors from growth markets, and making it easier to visit Britain.

[Note: I could go on and on about VisitBritain’s marketing strategies but for the sake of brevity, I recommend you visit their website which has a lot more information about it.]

Day Three
So far the Legacy meetings had revolved around the notion of pre-cycling, nimble logistics, astute business management and ambitious marketing strategies. Day three started focused on another pillar in the Legacy ecosystem – the volunteers, in particular, those who were involved at local sports clubs.

[Note: The London 2012 volunteers were called ‘Games Makers’. The recruitment process began in September 2010. After screening through 240,000 applications, 70,000 were selected as Games Makers, involved in all aspects of the Games.]

The meeting was held at Brothers and Sisters, an advertising agency engaged by Join In to harness the momentum in the interest of sport following the Olympics, “to recruit a new generation of local sports club volunteers.” Join In, an official London 2012 legacy project, is managed and run by the registered charity, The Join In Trust Limited. The aim of Join In is to encourage people to help out at sports clubs and community groups around the UK.

At Brothers and Sisters

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Will Watt, Join In Creative Director, explained why local sports clubs were significant to the bigger picture of sports in the UK - many great sporting champions can trace back their roots to their local sports club. And who are behind these sports clubs? Most of the time, volunteers.

I found the meeting with Join In interesting because it is an example of mobilising people towards something worthwhile, driven both from the top-down and the bottom-up. Sure there would have organic growth across the local sports clubs anyway, but the concerted Join In effort served as catalyst.

The Join In 2012 results speaks for itself. But to measure the campaign by sheer numerical measurement would be missing the point. The learning from the Join In meeting for me was about the importance of volunteers and having a charitable spirit. You cannot objectively measure everything.

The final Legacy meeting was with a team from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). UKTI leads on delivering on the economic legacy from the 2012 Games. By then, the media team, myself included, had formed impressions about Legacy. The UKTI team started the presentation with a question. “Where would the UK be today without London 2012?” They let the question sit for a while.

They announced that London 2012 was the safest, most sustainable, most accessible Games ever, and went on to say that delivering the Games “on time and on budget” was only the first half of achieving a lasting legacy. They echoed Lord Coe, the London 2012 Legacy Ambassador, and spoke about the second half of the delivery; a ten-year mission to create long-term economic and sporting benefits for the UK.

They then shared the following numbers:

31,0000 additional jobs created since the 2012 Olympics by foreign direct investment influenced by UKTI Olympic activity
£9.9 billion of economic benefit from the Games so far
£120 million of contracts already won by UK companies from the Brazil 2014 World Cup and Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games
Over 60 contracts won by UK companies for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Russia 2018 World Cup

The Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Sponsored Media Visit was full of lessons. Each meeting told a different part of the same Legacy story. Legacy activity is being driven towards the following five broad themes: sport and healthy living; the regeneration of East London; economic growth; community engagement; the Legacy from the Paralympics.

I must admit. At this point, it would be easy to surmise that the British have done a good, nay, a GREAT job with London 2012 and with Legacy progress and achievements to date. However, it would also be careless of me. I believe in evidence based conclusions and opinions, and in taking a few steps back to see the bigger picture. After all, in 2005, the London 2012 bid team made a bold pledge: “Choose London and we will create an extraordinary legacy for the UK and the world.”

Of course the Foreign & Commonwealth Office wants to keep reminding the world that, “if you want the best, if you want professionalism, if you want jobs done on time and on budget: then think British.” They also believe that results speak louder than intention. Have a read of the report released by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport of a Post-Games Initial Evaluation produced by an independent consortium led by Grant Thornton. 

The writing is on the wall and from what I have read and heard so far, they are making GREAT progress.

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