London celebrations

Spirit of London 2012 essential to event’s legacy, report says

A new report ahead of the tenth anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games called for recapturing the spirit of the Games and its legacy of volunteering to bring positive social and economic change across the UK.

With the return of large-scale events next year, including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, a year-long investigation supported by backer Spirit of 2012 was launched on the 25th. November.

It is chaired by philanthropist Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett and will examine how events can have positive impacts on people’s social, emotional and physical well-being, local economies and social cohesion.

The launch report explores how events can encourage more people to volunteer, or to volunteer on a regular basis.

The 70,000 “Games Maker” volunteers were considered the “vital movie” of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Under the right conditions, occasional volunteering at events can be a path to regular volunteering. The new report argues that without a coordinated effort, the events of 2022 may not leave a legacy of volunteerism.

The report is based on an ICM poll which shows that 40% of UK adults had volunteered before or since the start of the pandemic, and 9% of adults (equivalent to 4.8 million people) were regular volunteers.

The survey also shows what motivates people to volunteer their time. About 86% of volunteers say it helps improve their local community and 85% think it improves people’s mental health and well-being. Four-fifths of the volunteers agreed that it helped improve people’s skills and employment prospects.

The report concludes that volunteering brings many benefits to those who volunteer their time and to organizations that receive help. Sectors such as heritage and grassroots sport could not function without the help of volunteers, as most small charities in the UK would. Volunteering also strengthens social bonds and gives people a greater interest in society.

These benefits will not be realized without action to remove barriers to volunteering. More than half of survey respondents said they would be more likely to volunteer if they knew they could do things that would interest them, including 44% of those who did not volunteer. Additionally, 52% said more flexible volunteering opportunities would be essential for them, such as tasks they could do in their free time, at home or online.

Next year’s Commonwealth Games will involve 25,000 volunteers, while other opportunities to recreate the spirit of the Olympics include the Rugby Union World Cup and European Women’s Championships, the 75th anniversary of the NHS and the arrival of the Windrush Empire in 2023, and the announcement of a new UK City of Culture for 2025.

Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett (Photo), Chairman of the Spirit of 2012 survey, said: “Events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, major sporting competitions, Royal Jubilees, street parties, festivals and county performances are occasions that bring together people from all walks of life to participate in important moments in national and community life. In addition to the fun it provides, such moments can act as a catalyst for social and economic changes, some of which may come years after the event has ended.

“Ahead of the tenth anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, now is the time to reflect on the power of events to transform communities and to prepare for the return of mass participation events across the UK in 2022. We must regain the spirit of 2012. The new survey will create a plan for future events to deliver happier people and places.

He added, “There are many benefits to volunteering, both to people who donate their time and to organizations that receive help. It also strengthens social bonds and gives people a greater interest in society. But these benefits will not be realized without taking action to recognize the importance of volunteering, which is why the Spirit of 2012 survey has already produced practical ideas for action to help achieve these goals.