Olympic Legacy

10 08 2012

The Olympic Games 2012 have inspired the British public with a renewed interest in competitive sport. I am not a sport enthusiast but I love the sense of National pride, passion and patriotism and the buzz surrounding the Olympics.
As a dramatist the Opening Ceremony is the main highlight rather than the sporting events. After the spectacle in Beijing 4 years ago I fully expected to be hugely embarrassed by our efforts with red buses as far as the eye could see and David Beckham lobbing a flaming football in order to light the Olympic flame. However I watched the ceremony in awe at what was described by the Guardian as an “eccentric British history lesson”. It was clunky and a little disjointed for my personal tastes but uniquely British. My favourite moment was the lighting of the cauldron, a spectacular design of 204 copper petals bursting with flames representing the countries participating in the games being joined together 28 feet in the air – a fantastic symbol of the coming together of nations.
Today is day 14 and the medal count for team GB stands at 52; 14 Bronze, 13 silver and 25 coveted Gold medals. From what I understand this has exceeded expectations and smashed the targets that were set.
I look forward to watching the closing ceremony and if I am honest to the end of the London Olympics. It has been a fantastic showcase of British talent, creativity and tenacity. But despite this, there are two aspects of the Games that have truly irritated me.
Leading up to 2012 – The Games last for 16 days but for the host country there are also at least 2 years of hype. Articles about every aspect of the planning stages appear in every newspaper, magazine and news program. As a teacher I have had the Olympics forced on me for two solid years I have been forced to artificially incorporate Olympics related activities into my lessons and instil the values of the games in my students. It is an important National event and as such it should be used as a teaching aid but with every mention of the Olympics it’s as if a light goes out – the kids were bored with it long before the opening ceremony and didn’t want it in forced on them in such an unrelenting way.
The second thing that bothers me is the legacy of the London Olympics. The physical legacy of the transformation of East London and the Olympic Park has brought new life to a neglected part of our city and provided an excellent venue for future athletes training. The Olympic Village will provide new homes for sale and rent, thousands of jobs have been created and there has been a very welcome boost to the economy.
I am less enthused by the prospective legacy for our schools. This morning I was horrified to read that Boris Johnson is pushing for children to be subjected to 2 hours of compulsory PE every day. He claims that this would be wonderful for kids across this country. For some children this is true.
Sport has a massive place in our schools and like the Olympics is offers a great opportunity to bring the school community together to celebrate talent and achievement. But not all children are naturally sporty and sport should not be forced on children to the detriment of their self esteem or achievement in other areas. I am not suggesting that education is exclusively about academia, it should be about the development of the whole child including the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle. The key is to provide opportunities for students to experience a wide variety of subject areas and discover their individual talents.
The reality is that devoting more time to sport means giving up time in other subject areas. Schools also have a role in raising standards of literacy and numeracy, there is no point in having a nation of talented athletes if future generations are unable to read and write.
It is important to take inspiration from the London Olympics and look at ways of enabling future athletes to achieve the same level of success whether that’s training, funding or providing venues. But if everyone had the same ability in the sporting field it wouldn’t be called a talent. Perhaps the best legacy of the Olympics would be if we would all take time to recognise talent, creativity, determination, commitment and inspiration in whatever form these values take and allow people to chose for themselves how much or how little they want to get involved.

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