It has been 100 days since the closing ceremony marked the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The British public, and those involved in sport across the world, went from watching elite athletes at the highest level of competition to waiting to see what impact the games would have on upcoming athletes, grass roots level sport and general participation in recreational activities. The strapline of the London 2012 Olympics was “Inspire a Generation”. It’s safe to say that the two weeks of Olympic sport provided its fair share of inspiration, but legacy goes far further than just raising initial interest in sport.
London 2012: Top Class Venues
The London 2012 games matched the athletic talent on display by delivering the very best in sporting facilities. Eight of the venues created for the games are permanent structures. Six of these facilities had secured futures before the games even started, with just the Olympic Stadium left with a promising, but currently uncertain future.
What about rowing?
Dorney Lake, venue for the Olympic Regatta, was not purpose-built for London 2012 and was already in use as a multi-sports venue before 2012, hosting
major British rowing regattas every year. British Rowing celebrated the success of the Olympic Regatta by creating a new regatta. Dorney Lake hosted the Diamond Jubilee Rowing Championships in October, giving Olympians the chance to race for their home clubs, and club rowers the opportunity to race against them.
Legacy: More than just facilities
While the events of London 2012 delivered the initial inspiration, the world’s best venues can only provide the potential for true legacy. Real development in sporting participation, at all levels, over the next decade relies on equipping sports clubs to manage new levels of demand and them being able to provide for every one of their new members at an individual level.
“…the debate about legacy is not about whether West Ham United take over the Olympic stadium or whether the velodrome becomes a centre of excellence. It is about the Pedro Youth Club in Hackney and whether it can get enough funding for its “Volunteer it Yourself” programme for its boxing gym, dance, art and music development programmes.
“To bring the issue closer to home, it is about my 11-year-old daughter, Josie, who swims for the Wycombe District Swimming Club, and whether she has the strength of character, the drive and the passion to stick with her sport against the inevitable pressures of teenagehood and the X-Factor generation.”
Greg Searle (GBR M8+), “Now put Kids on the Right Track”, The Sunday Times, 12 August 2012 (£)
While rowing didn’t gain any new facilities as a result of the games, it did capture the interest of the public.
“On the day that British Rowing won the first gold of the games for GB we had over 5,000 searches on the website. Over the course of the whole regatta we had nearly 33,000 postcode searches.”
Rich Stock, British Rowing
“British rowing authorities say 32,000 people signed up for ‘learn to row’ courses around the country following the success of London 2012.” GB Rowing’s London 2012 Olympic Success Inspires Thousands – BBC Sport
“Record numbers of students sign up to row” British Rowing
Many rowing clubs around the country were flooded with interest in the sport, following GB’s success at the Olympic Regatta. My club, Gloucester Rowing Club saw a huge number of enquiries about our adult ‘Learn to Row‘ course as soon as the Olympic Regatta began. With five applicants per place, we are currently running two beginners courses in parallel, with a ‘Fast Start’ programme for those with previous experience on rowing machines or other sports. Like most clubs around the country, we’re stretched to the limit but enjoying bringing new people to the sport.
British Rowing’s ‘Explore Rowing‘ initiative has provided clubs with stable boats to aide their beginners programmes as well as giving a new route to recreational rowing for those who want to enjoy the sport outside of competition.
The interest in rowing is not just confined to the UK, it has been global. The incredible success of Rowing New Zealand has had a massive impact, bringing new people to the sport and inspiring rowers to get out and race.
“South Island Rowing chairman James Sheehan said while he was pleased with the interest in the sport, it was causing him a headache too. […] Getting so many crews on the water could be a challenge. He did not view the problem negatively. “It’s a good problem to have,” he said.” Hundreds Take Up Oars After Olympics – Stuff.co.nz
“More than 300 crews were competing at the Aoraki 1000m regatta at Lake Ruataniwha in South Canterbury on Saturday. Organising committee chair James Sheehan says registrations for the event, which was aimed at new rowers, have boomed since the Olympics.”
Rowing Regatta Numbers Boom after Olympic Success – RadioNZ.co.nz
Equipment and facilities are nothing without volunteers. Fortunately, it wasn’t just the athletes of London 2012 who provided inspiration. The Olympic Gamesmakers showed us all what can be achieved by dedicated volunteers. Their role was crucial to the success of the Olympics and highlighted not just the abilities of volunteers but also their value.
With so many new people wanting to take up rowing, clubs have called upon all of their members to help. Many previous rowers have been coming back to the sport as coaches, and current rowers are investing time in the development of future rowers.
“so many new starters at #ardingly that folks are discovering coaching skills they didn’t know they had #legacy “ @rocktheboatrow
Volunteer coaching and club management not only have an important role to play in delivering the future of sport, but these previously thankless tasks have, themselves, benefitted from the Olympic legacy.
How have Olympians spent the time?
Events, dinners, fundraisers and media appearances have been a major part in the post-Olympic lives of every Olympian. How else have they spent their free time in the last 100 days?
A well earned rest…
“Has it been 100 days? Christ! I remember how much we got done in the last 100 days before the games.” @PeteReed (GBR M4-)
Enjoying racing of a different kind…
“Aside from those races at Eton Dorney this summer, no regatta this year will feature more Olympians than the Head Of The Charles. Fifty-four veterans of the London Games, including at least 29 medalists, are scheduled to compete in the 48th running of America’s largest and most popular fall regatta.”
Olympians and Internationals Highlight Full-to-the-Brim Head Of The Charles – Row2k.com
Back to the day job…
“When Heather Stanning put down her oars, slipped back into her military uniform and joined her former unit for training on a cold autumnal morning it was like she had never been away.”
Heather Stanning, Olympic Rowing Champion, on returning to the Army – BBC Sport
Back to the grind…
“training this morning was a bit of a teaser of the winter to come.. #numbtoescoldnose ” @Helenglovergb (GBR W2-)
“I love the smell of lactate in the morning. Who’s ready for 4x4K at ouchie pace?? #ParkingLotErging #RiseAndShine ” @EstherLofgren (USA W8+)
“Finished first of what will probably be many runs in the snow. #helloupstateny #gottawantit ” @MegMus (USA W8+)
Seeking new adventure…
“I want to embrace this exciting world outside sport with the energy I discover I have when I’m not training three times a day. I want to step into the unknown, ignoring my fears and forgetting the roadmap to perceived success. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’ll find.”
Anna Watkins (GBR W2x) “Why I’m walking away from the boat to explore a wider world”, The Sunday Times, 18 November 2012
The next 100 days…
For a minority sport, mainly run by volunteers, the 100 days since the Olympics have been demanding, but encouraging and already hugely rewarding. Rowing has already changed a lot in the last 100 days. New people are finding the sport every day and new talents are being discovered and nurtured. The opportunity to transform the sport, by capitalising on rowing’s Olympic success, has never been greater.
In the next few months thousands of people will go from ‘non-rower’ to ‘novice rower’. Some may be Olympians in just four years’ time. Many will spend the rest of their lives enjoying the sport.