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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Why the London 2012 Olympics had limited impact on volunteering across the UK

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When London was getting ready to host the 2012 Olympic Video games, 250,000 folks signed as much as volunteer as official “Video games Makers”. Of those, 70,000 folks had been finally chosen to put on the distinctive purple-and-red volunteer uniforms. For 40% of them, it was the primary time they’d accomplished something like this.

Within the run-up to the Video games, Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, highlighted how necessary this type of group engagement was. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Olympic Video games,” he stated. “The 1948 Olympics in London noticed the start of the Video games volunteer programme, and we’re decided that London 2012 can be an exquisite alternative for tens of hundreds of individuals to assist ship probably the most spectacular Video games ever.”

From the start, the thought was not solely to get folks concerned within the occasion however to encourage them to maintain volunteering properly past the 16 days of the Video games themselves. Additional, this engagement was seen to be a strategic technique of getting folks into full-time, paid employment.

One key goal was to convey folks in addition to companies, establishments and metropolis authorities collectively to focus, because the Division for Media, Tradition and Sport put it, on the long-term growth of London. Volunteering at mega-sport occasions just like the Olympics can provide folks a way of delight and enthusiasm, and encourage them to search out different avenues for staying concerned locally within the long-term.

Video games Makers took on a variety of roles on the London Olympics.
Frederick Wooden Individuals | Alamy

However subsequent analysis has discovered that if folks continued volunteering within the decade for the reason that London Olympics, it was not right down to any formal or coordinated effort on the a part of the Video games’ planners. In truth, many volunteers had been unaware of such plans. Reasonably, their enthusiasm was born in additional advert hoc methods out of individuals’s constructive recollections, private experiences and London 2012 nostalgia.

What London 2012 volunteers did

For some folks, volunteering on the London Olympics was largely in regards to the free tickets to one of the best sporting occasions on the planet. For others, “sporting purple”, as one volunteer put it, additionally meant you had the chance to develop key abilities.

Video games Makers’ duties lined a variety of duties, from being occasion stewards, drivers and welcome employees to supporting athletes and checking tickets. Others supplied help with costumes, tools and accreditation, or carried out on the occasion ceremonies.

For a lot of volunteers, this meant taking over strategic and managerial roles with the view that this could give them additional employment alternatives down the road. And certainly, some have since spoken about how abilities developed presently have proved helpful in work-related conditions or future volunteering. London 2012 appears to be like good on a CV.

Authorities figures launched in 2013 confirmed the proportion of people that volunteered at the least every year rose from 65% in 2010 to 71% in 2012. This was to be anticipated: the keenness and anticipation within the lead-up to a significant occasion creates what consultants time period the “inspiration impact”. Figures from 2021, nevertheless, revealed a dramatic decline in volunteering in England in contrast with 2013/14.

People in life jackets on inflatables in the waves.
Volunteers in a mountain rescue workforce on the north Yorkshire coast in 2019.
Tom Woollard | Shutterstock

In 2016, one in every of us (Niki), along with colleagues, did a survey of London 2012 volunteers to analyze whether or not the Olympics had impressed them to hold on volunteering. Of the 77 folks spoken to, 44 stated that they had certainly carried on volunteering in different sporting occasions or locally.

For others, nevertheless, their London 2012 expertise was extra complicated. Some stated they felt like simply “one other pair of fingers”, or that London 2012’s organisers had not invested in correct coaching or position allocation that might meet their distinctive wants.

Notably, many reported not being conscious of Be a part of In, the official legacy organisation arrange in Could 2012 by the Division of Tradition, Media and Sport to supply alternatives for former volunteers in native sports activities golf equipment and communities or at sporting occasions after the Video games. (These alternatives had been circulated inside the Video games Maker database by way of electronic mail, and had been additionally posted on the official web site.)

Legacy plans want larger consideration

Though London 2012 promised a powerful volunteer legacy, analysis means that these accountable for supply prioritised the execution of the occasion itself versus longer-term social growth targets. It is not uncommon for Olympic organisers to take their eye off the ball on the subject of several types of legacy, from funding post-Video games regeneration tasks and defending reasonably priced housing inventory to abilities growth related to the Video games’ volunteering programmes.

One of many key issues is that London lacked the fitting governance plans to make sure that its promised legacies would stay a precedence for the nation, and thus have a long-term affect. Regardless of tasks like Be a part of In being arrange, there wasn’t sufficient cautious consideration of how Video games Makers would take up post-Video games alternatives, and no clear abilities growth programme to construct on what that they had gained from London 2012.

It might due to this fact be stated that the inspiration impact Olympic planners had been angling for didn’t come up because of a coordinated effort by any official physique – be that the London Organising Committee, the UK authorities, the native volunteer sector or some other establishment. That is partly as a result of legacy plans are sometimes defunded after the Video games’ closing ceremony.

These accountable for planning London 2012 aimed to leverage the volunteer programme for group progress. But analysis reveals that some segments of the UK inhabitants (folks of low earnings; ethnic minorities; folks with disabilities) had been underrepresented within the Video games Maker workforce.

London 2012 volunteers had been primarily white-British (80%) and employed full-time (50%). Simply over a 3rd had been from London (34%), with a fifth from the south-east (21%) and an extra 13% from the east of England. About 4% had a incapacity. Scotland and Wales, in the meantime, each contributed 2% of the volunteers.



Learn extra:
London’s Olympic legacy: analysis reveals why £2.2 billion funding in main college PE has failed academics


This highlights that whereas the Olympics generally is a helpful one-off challenge to simulate short-term advantages, until such an occasion’s objectives are absolutely aligned with the host metropolis and nation’s long-term growth methods, a lot of the nice work and momentum the occasion generates can be misplaced.

Volunteering has been proven to be a stepping stone to additional volunteering, paid alternatives and getting folks again into work. If the sort of hefty funding in mega-sport occasions that London 2012 required is offered to the general public on the premise that it’ll end in this type of wider group engagement, precisely how that is realised wants far more cautious thought. Recruitment must be inclusive, folks want higher coaching – and crucially, legacy plans have to be funded and attended to.

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