It’s the week after it all ended, and the lack of sport on our television screens has cast a subdued mood over those who spent every minute of the Olympic Games cheering and yelling our British sports men and women on.
But the Olympic spirit still burns bright: The Telegraph reported last Monday that 100,000 people had signed up to volunteer at sports clubs, schools and other good causes in a desire to keep the feel-good factor of the Olympic Games alive; and the government is pushing hard to implement its international sports development programme, the first-ever scheme by a Host city, which aims “to use London 2012 to reach young people all around the world and connect them to sport” (Seb Coe, Chair, London 2012 Organising Committee). In the wake of the Games, the Government has promised to “inspire a generation” by implementing a £1 billion strategy to improve educational performance and develop leadership skills amongst young people. The east-London area is also set for rejuvenation, with the Olympic Park set to become the Queen Elizabeth Park by July 2013, with new housing, recreational spaces and waterways; along with the Westfield shopping centre, Europe’s largest, right next door.
With all this going on no one could argue that Britain’s enthusiasm for its Olympic legacy is anything but sincere. However, this week saw ministers intending to scrap the legal requirement outlining how much outside space each school must provide for their pupils; a development that threatens to undermine David Cameron’s promise to boost competitive school sport in the wake of the Olympics’ success. Woe betide us if we fall foul of the same fate as past host, Australia, whose disappointing medal-haul in the Olympics this year has been blamed on a lack of funding for sport in the country. Despite being championed as the “best Olympic Games ever” by the then president of the International Olympic Committee, the Sydney Olympic venues were left heavily under-used for several years after the Games and cost the tax-payers millions of dollars to maintain. Let us hope that preserving the ‘goodwill’ factor from our own Games will remain a priority for the British government and that funding promises will be kept in the years to come.
Meanwhile, as much of Britain is busy investing in the sporting future of new generations, others elsewhere are looking across the pond to Brazil and its investment opportunities ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. With the country’s economy now bigger than the UK’s, infrastructure investment prospects are attracting a high level of interest from the UK and the rest of the world. Such is the huge investment in Brazil – the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics seeing proposed infrastructure investments of $90bn and $30bn respectively – that The Economist devoted an issue to the nation’s boom under the cover headline of “Getting it Together Again”. The country certainly seems to be on the right track: in 2011, Brazil began a four-year growth acceleration programme to invest more than $500bn in logistics, including transportation, energy and social development.
Judging by their performance at the Closing Ceremony last Sunday, we can expect great things from Brazil in 2016. Not as great as our Olympic Games, of course. But pretty great, nonetheless.