Since the 2012 Olympics in London one year ago, British sporting dominance has miraculously continued. We have also had much talk of the Olympic legacy. Apart from our continued sporting prowess, has anything changed? It’s not altogether clear what we thought was going to happen. There’s been lots of talk of a more confident and realistic national mood. But was it not supposed to be about sport for regular people, as well as the elites?
Like many people, I have had a mixed 12 months in sport. It has been, as they say, a game of two halves. In November I quit the gym, after only one visit the preceding month. Three months after the Olympics and for me the legacy was a fading memory. Apart from the odd dash through the tube my levels of physical activity over the winter months were fairly abysmal. Even Christmas retrospectives of the year’s sporting success could not wake me from my inactive slumber.
January proved a turning point. That was when I started the working on a project with Nike building on the findings of our Move It report, which suggested some practical measures the government could take to encourage people to be more physically active. Over the last six months we have been studying the Black Prince Community Hub in Lambeth. We have been looking at how they’ve successfully helped local people to become more active. They run a wide range of free activities focusing on different sports (football, boxing, basketball and others) as well as a gym and fitness sessions for older people.
The prospect of working on this project brought my own lack of exercise into sharper relief. I also feared embarrassment in front of my colleagues from Nike, who are known for incorporating physical activity into their meetings. Since then I’ve successfully managed to start up running (with some considerable help from the amazing Good Gym and Nike’s running app). So what about the Olympic legacy?
For me, the past year has taught me two things about getting people more active.
Make it easy to start: The success of the Black Prince Hub is centred on its low barriers to entry. The activities available on the site are free, and open to all. For those like me with some reticence about physical activity it helps to have as little pressure as possible. You can pop in and join a session with little worry.
Make it hard to stop: On a personal level I’ve managed to sustain my running longer than any other time since I left school. This has been a mixture of the social aspect of volunteer running club Good Gym, and the competitive nature of the Nike running app (unfortunately my sister is still beating me). But the central factor in my continued exercise was linking it to my work. Everyday I was reminded and encouraged to be active, it was difficult to avoid.
If we want to truly build on the Olympic legacy I think these lessons are important. We need to get the population active not only to continue our sporting triumphs, but also to improve our quality of life. As we start the next phase of our work looking at the wider local community around the hub, I’ll keep thinking about it- and I’ll keep running, too.