Last week I volunteered to help out with the nation’s biggest sports day down my local rowing club. It was a fantastic day with an impressive turn out of people wanting to try the sport. However, you may ask, what has this got to do with public relations?
I am Team GB is a fantastic initiative which encourages people to get active. ITV, one of the main sponsors, is so passionate about it that they switched off all their television channels for an hour on Saturday the 27th August to encourage people out of their homes to get active and try something new. Sports clubs across the UK were supplied with a fantastic goodie pack to make the day special including t-shirts, bunting, stickers and photo booth accessories to make the day special.
Now I can rant and rave about the obvious PR benefits that this brings the sponsors involved, how it helps struggling sports clubs around the country attract new members and funding and how it helps fight the growing obesity epidemic. However, I’m looking at PR and legacy from a slightly different angle.
Promotion of sport is beneficial to so many and capitalising on the biggest sporting event in the world makes sense.
For my Masters degree dissertation I chose to study the public relations of large scale sporting events and the balancing of stakeholders for success. I realised that a significant part of London 2012’s aim was to set up it’s legacy. The success of the Olympic’s doesn’t just stop after two weeks of sport every four years. Without a legacy the giant machine that is The Olympic’s can be of detriment to the host city and country. Look at the struggle Montreal has had since hosting.
London 2012 is the first Olympics that tried to use the Olympic ethos to create a long lasting legacy. But, it didn’t support it with the necessary infrastructure. LOCOG didn’t handle it right, it was essentially an after thought and unfortunately it was too little too late. It tried to do four simultaneously, regenerate a part of London that desperately needed, reduce and tackle the environmental impact of the games, get more people volunteering and encourage the uptake of sport for a healthier nation.
Any good PR campaign depends on having a strategy that includes extensive and effective communication, organisation, preparation and funding. You reap what you sow, and not enough was done to carry that legacy on.
As I worked as a Games Maker Volunteer it pains me to say there isn’t a stronger legacy in place as a result of the games. It was a magical time, one of the best times in my life and I’m privileged to have been a part of it as I’ll never see another home Olympics.
It’s such a shame that they didn’t manage to harness the wave of good will and motivation that bubbled around the 2012 games. Perhaps picking one legacy and doing it well would have been a more fruitful and effective option.
Rio has faced it’s own problems with corruption, construction, protests and poverty. People questioned if Rio would be ready in time to reach the starting blocks. But, let’s not focus on the negatives, they made it by the skin of their teeth and apart from a few glitches held a successful games with enough gossip and drama to keep the media and public engaged.
The organisers behind Rio did pick one legacy to uphold. They placed a major focus on the environmental aspects and impact of the games. An issue facing us all. An issue that surpasses every other – the environment.
Rio 2016 drove the idea of sustainability, reducing the total spend on the games, replacing flower bouquets with medal holders as well as addressing many other environmentally friendly issues with their Sustainability Management Plan.
London revolutionised the Olympic concept and Rio took the model and tried to run with it. It’s still not perfect, but in essence London did change the face of the Olympic Games, Rio recognised that and embodied as much of it as possible. I think London 2012’s actual legacy is about the importance of implementing a sustainable legacy. The Olympics should be used as a platform for good global and national changes. The Olympic’s need to get their PR hat on to strategically leverage holding the world’s attention to achieve their wider goals.
Although, all may not be lost for London 2012, that good wave of feeling is back after August’s Olympic fever. This time UK stakeholders are capitalising on it armed with a strategy and the tools for implementation. This is a big challenge. The major stakeholders involved in I am Team GB are gently rekindling that delicate legacy by getting people involved and engaged in sport. It’s one big PR campaign.
Legacy deals with big issues. Big issues with no easy answers. PR is one way of enabling and facilitating these legacy ideas, it just needs better implementation and execution when it comes to such a large global event.