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Friday, July 26, 2013

London Marks One-Year Anniversary Of The Olympics

Inside the London Olympic Stadium in April 2012. (jeffowenphotos/Wikimedia Commons)

Inside the London Olympic Stadium in April 2012. (jeffowenphotos/Wikimedia Commons)

A new poll shows two-thirds of UK residents believe the country got its money’s worth from the Olympics, even though the $13 billion cost was three times the original budget.

London is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the games this weekend with a big international track and field meet in the Olympic Stadium, featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

The BBC’s Alex Capstick looks at the legacy of the London Olympics.




From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. This weekend, London is marking the one-year anniversary of the 2012 Olympics. The price tag for the games was $13.4 billion, about three times the original budget of four billion. But a new poll found two-thirds of the public believe the money was well-spent. And part of the Olympic Park will reopen for the first time this weekend, and sellout crowds are expected to fill the International Stadium for track and field and Paralympic events. So ahead of that, the BBC's Alex Capstick reports on the legacy of the London games.


SEBASTIAN COE: London 2012 made in Britain.

ALEX CAPSTICK: Sebastian Coe at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics, and shortly after that speech the gates to the Olympic Park here in East London were padlocked. It became a building site again, and there's still plenty of work going on around me, the makeover necessary to ensure the park will be accessible for everyone. The temporary venues have been dismantled. Those that have stayed are being converted for permanent use. Their futures have all been secured so no white elephants here, much to the delight of the sports minister, Hugh Robertson.

HUGH ROBERTSON: It's difficult to argue when you look at Stratford that that has been anything other than a great success. We are the first home nation ever to have eight big projects and to have them all left in legacy mode a year after the games.

CAPSTICK: But another important commitment was made, one which is much more difficult to judge. It was that the Olympics would inspire a generation into taking up sport.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One, jog, jog, jog, jog, jog, jog.

CAPSTICK: This is called a block workout, the 40 to 50 mainly young men and teenagers taking part are here to get fit. And already right at the start of the session, it looks really grueling. It's happening in a park in South London, near Brixton, an area which has had its difficulties in terms of unemployment, crime, drugs and gangs. The man barking the orders is Terrell Lewis(ph), and this was his brainchild.

TERRELL LEWIS: We've got professionals of different careers. We've got people that just come out of prison. We've got people that's dropped out of school all mingling together and they look at each other as a family. And, you know, they run together. They work out together. And we move as one. No one gets left behind.

CAPSTICK: Has London hosting the Olympics help with this, help grow the numbers here?

LEWIS: It's definitely made an impact, made a lot more doors open for the kids to get into sport. It's definitely something that has actually made an impact in a lot of the fitness movements and definitely in block work out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Come down, touch the ground.

CAPSTICK: We're told an extra one and a half million people play sports at least once a week since London was named as host city of the 2012 games. But the vision of a fitter, more active population as a result of the Olympics isn't all glowing. Baroness Sue Campbell, who in her previous role as head of U.K sport, was the architect of Britain's record medal haul last year, strikes a note of caution.

BARONESS SUE CAMPBELL: There is no question the games inspired young people, no question that it fascinated them, intrigued them and inspired them. The challenge is, can we turn inspiration to participation? And no nation has successfully managed to do that. And I think it requires a really focused strategic, long-term approach.

CAPSTICK: Experts agree that a realistic verdict on legacy can't be reached for another 10 or 15 years. And this weekend is also about remembering and celebrating the Olympics. Some cynics have said it's impossible to recreate the euphoria of last year, so why bother looking back? Sir Keith Mills, who was the deputy chairman of London 2012, thinks it is worth it as long as people capitalize on the feel-good factor.

SIR KEITH MILLS: It was an extraordinary achievement last year. The country was pulled together in a way that I don't think anyone of us have ever seen before. And we shouldn't forget that. But, you know, I think it's incumbent on all of us that we're involved in it to make sure that we build on it and make sure that that enthusiasm we had is captured and maintained.

YOUNG: The BBC's Alex Capstick. Up next, the ramifications of bankruptcy on other cities, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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