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Evaluating the impact of the Games

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Rob Turner

Manager at Grant Thornton

Rob Turner, manager at Grant Thornton with 10 years evaluation experience, considers what the recently published meta-evaluation can tell us about the impacts and legacy of the Games.

Olympic fans celebrating Olympic parade
For 45 days between July and September the UK felt different. There was a buzz and feeling that something special was happening. And public transport worked better than anyone expected! There was an influx of pink: pink signs, pink kiosks, pink uniforms. London and the entire UK was gripped with Olympic fever. The positive mood started with the Opening Ceremony and went right through to the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic Games. There were many peaks – the first Gold, “Super Saturday”, Jonnie Peacock in the T44 100m and Mo Farrah in the 5,000m and 10,000m – however even the troughs never dipped, it seemed, below euphoric. The 2012 Games are considered to have been an overwhelming success. The public were proud of the athletes. The public were proud of the UK’s ability to organise and deliver. The public were proud of London.
With the Games now over and visual references to London 2012 being removed, life has gradually returned to normal. The Games however remains a strong and positive memory with many looking forward to Rio in 2016 and wondering if we will manage to repeat our exceptional medal performance. Those who live, work in or visit Stratford and indeed East London, can see and feel the transformation, and with the Olympic Park due to open to the public in 2013, it seems that a real legacy may be being created. Which brings us to the question of legacy. What difference have the Games made to the UK? What will the lasting impact on London and the UK be? How will we deliver a lasting legacy, one of the key commitments in London’s bid?
detail from the meta-evaluation doc

Report highlights

While these are not easy questions to answer, it is, in part, the job of the meta-evaluation to begin to do so. It is too early to draw any definite and concrete conclusions on the extent to which the Games have delivered a ‘lasting’ legacy but, the recently published interim evaluation does take a first, and early, look at the impacts and legacy emerging from pre-Games activity.
By examining and synthesising a broad range of available evidence, the interim evaluation provides an initial assessment of the emerging legacy for each of the four legacy themes: sport, the economy, community engagement and the regeneration of East London. In doing this, the focus of the interim evaluation is on what was achieved up to the Games themselves, while also providing a sense of direction and scale in terms of what can be expected post-Games over the medium and longer term.
The summary of the interim evaluation provides a concise overview of the major legacy impacts that have been identified to date, with some of the key highlights being:

  • The way that the Games have created opportunities for young people and adults to participate in sport and encouraged a greater level of physical activity, whether through investments in facilities (such as the Inspired Facilities programme or investment in Pre Games Training Camps) or through direct opportunities to participate (such as the Schools Games or Sportivate). The evidence indicates that these 2012 related activities may be impacting on general participation trends which appear to be increasing, with over 7% of sports participants indicating the Games had motivated them to do more.

  • The economic impact of £6.5 billion of Olympic Delivery Authority spend on the construction of the venues and Olympic Park infrastructure. This expenditure is estimated to have resulted in a gross impact of £8.2 billion of Gross Value Added (GVA) and approximately 177,000 job years of employment in the UK between 2007 and Quarter 1 of 2012. Even taking into account the potential displacement of activity that would have otherwise happened, it is estimated that this expenditure would have resulted in £7.3 billion of GVA and 160,000 job years of employment.

  • Widespread community engagement – the Games have successfully captured the interest of large numbers of people across the country whether it was seeing the Torch Relay (witnessed by 15 million people); volunteering to be a Games Maker (which saw up to 70,000 people recruited); attendance at a Cultural Olympiad event (with an estimated 16 million attendances at events); or engaging in activities through school, college or university (with over 26,000 schools registered with the 2012 Get Set scheme). London has also been commended for hosting the greenest Games yet – from the use of renewable energy sources and energy saving technologies through to carbon-reduction schemes and the creation of an expanse of new green space.
  • The dramatic change to parts of East London that have resulted from the Games, not least the transformation of 2.5 sq km of largely derelict, polluted and inaccessible land into a highly functional and accessible Olympic Park. It is a process of transformation that has only just begun with significant transformation still to happen with the creation of nearly 10,000 new homes, two primary schools, a secondary school, nine nurseries and three health centres all still to happen.

In March 2012 Jacques Rogge the President of the IOC commented that London had “raised the bar on how to deliver a lasting legacy by incorporating long-range planning in every aspect of the 2012 Games” and in doing so had “created a legacy blueprint for future Games hosts”. It is a comment that, even at this early stage, appears to be backed up and supported by robust evaluation evidence.
The next stage for the meta-evaluation is to gather and synthesise the evidence emerging from during the Games and post-Games – up to the end of 2012. Although some legacy impacts may not emerge for a number of years, it does provide an ideal opportunity to say more, and to go further in analysing the impact of the legacy of the 2012 Games.
The Grant Thornton consortium, includes Ecorys, Loughborough University, Oxford Economics and a number of academics.

Further information

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