Boris Johnson, in his speech outside Buckingham Palace after last Monday’s parade spoke of a ‘tear-sodden’ farewell to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and this just about summed it up for most of us. It hardly seems possible that seven years have elapsed since the Games were awarded to London, and that all the milestones that we passed – the clearing of the Games site, the creation of the logos and mascots, the completion of the venues, the planting of the Park, the inauguration of the Mobot, and so on and so forth, have now been done and dusted. Everything we did and said: the controversies, the bright ideas, the decisions, the objections, the recommendations and the action itself are officially ‘history’.
Athletes, coaches, policy makers, performers, volunteers, media, researchers, official bodies, schools, archives, museums and libraries - numerous people and institutions have played a role, large and small, in putting London 2012 on the map. How many meetings have been held to talk logistics? How many people have been ticking off items on their ‘to do’ lists over weeks, months and years? It’s impossible to imagine all that activity in retrospect.
So what are we left with, and what do we do next? The word ‘legacy’ has been used almost ad nauseam in connection with the event, but in some ways it is the most important factor of all when a country stages an Olympics and a Paralympics. If you don’t take legacy seriously the positive aspects of the Games can evaporate or decay, and neither of these things are what we want for GB.
As with the preparations for the Games, we are all involved in different ways with legacy, and we all have separate responsibilities to give it its best chance. At the BL we aimed to do what we could to enhance the nation’s archive of Olympics & Paralympics research material, working with LOCOG and other Games makers to collect the vast amount of publications produced by these organisations; searching out UK domain Games websites and archiving them, supporting initiatives like the cultural Olympiad, staging the Olympex exhibition and showcasing our collections through websites like Winning endeavours and Sport and society. We hope our contribution to the legacy of the Games will last for generations and be used by thousands of people wanting to find out more about what actually went on in those years of planning and performance from 2005 to 2012. Other archives like TNA will have done the same thing and will be hoping for the same things too. So for us, the work continues, tracking down those errant publications, keeping an eye on what’s being published as the years go by.
‘What next?’ is effectively all about legacy. The IOC & the IPC will want a thorough audit done of these Games, so that lessons learned can be passed on to the next host city. The world of academia will be particularly caught up in this next phase of the London 2012 process, analysing what happened, identifying what has changed and what may change in the future. Years may elapse before firm conclusions are reached, but let’s hope that the Games legacy blossoms like the Olympic Park.