Keeping the Torch Burning
It’s a big year for the UK: the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and, of course, the first National Sessions of EYPUK to be held at Liverpool Hope. Events of great excitement, expectation and utmost national importance! The Jubilee was a great and successful event, EYPUK Nationals will only move from strength to strength in the upcoming years, but the legacy of the Olympics remains less certain. As the last firework raises the final cheer in the closing ceremony, what will be left behind? What happens after the athletes head home and leave the Olympic Village echoing and deserted? How will the country cope with P.O.D (think ‘Post EYP Depression’, except the Olympic version)?
Of course, this is not just a problem for this country, but one which remains in the minds of past hosts and troubles those who hope to host in the future. The Olympics can bring great advantages to countries: raising its profile, attracting investment from businesses and tourists, offering employment opportunities and helping improve infrastructure for long-term benefits. However, there are also downsides to hosting the prestigious event: most notably the cost and the necessity for the newly built buildings to be used in the future. Although the Olympics is a chance for an individual country to show its own character (our ‘green and pleasant land’ will be the main theme of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, complete with live animals and a model of Glastonbury Tor with a few mosh pits thrown in for good measure), the EU still needs to play a major role in aiding and supporting a country to achieve its aims.
Currently, the EU offers its guidance through the EOC (European Olympic Committees) which works alongside the International Olympics Committee to ensure Europe’s needs are protected. The organisation’s main objective is to ‘monitor and analyse subjects of relevance to sport at European level’ and deal with issues of sport governance, impact of EU law on sport, financing and the societal role of sport. The UK itself seems to be coping relatively well with issues of a lasting legacy, with organisations such as Legacy Trust UK (set up in 2007), the ‘Places People Play’ initiative and the BITC (Businesses in the Community) all working towards keeping the Olympic spirit alive and maintaining the benefits of hosting the Games. The idea is to expand the legacy beyond London in order to impact local communities and inspire a new generation to play sport. With large businesses such as BP, Coca Cola, BT and Visa all contributing to projects, there are hopes that this aim can be reached and jobs can be created as a result. Other countries, however, may not cope so well with the pressures, and this is where the EU needs to be on hand to step in and offer guidance and expertise. It needs to ensure that preventative measures are taken well in advance so that a successful legacy remains, and that investors have incentive to support the Games in that country.
Additionally, the EU can use the opportunity of the Olympic Games to deal with other national issues to build a lasting legacy. If the 2020 Olympics are chosen to take place in Madrid or Istanbul, the EU can take the chance to work with Turkey on human rights issues and boost economic development in Spain. It is not simply about making an impact in sport, but also a lasting change for society as a whole. There can be advantages for the individual country and advantages for Europe as a whole too.
With our bunting assembled, facepaint on and Union Jacks raised high, we can hope that our own Olympic legacy is a secure one, but there is some uncertainty in the future. As a member of the European community, hosts past, present and future should be supported by the EU, ensuring that each country wins gold for a lasting legacy of the Olympic Games.