Has the Olympic dream lost its fire? Improving the life chances of local people in east London played an important role in London’s winning 2012 Olympic bid. Five years on from London 2012 there is a mixed picture of progress. The 2012 Games provided an initial focus for new investment, but it was short lived. While education and employment have improved, the gap in other quality of life indicators between the host boroughs and the rest of London hasn’t been closed.
The prospects of people living in the Olympic host boroughs (Barking & Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest), were meant to improve, to ‘converge’, with the London average over a 20 year period.
The London Assembly Regeneration Committee investigation into convergence found:
- The earnings gap in 2015 is greater than it was in 2009.
- The gap in physical activity and sports participation has worsened.
- Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and Newham have some of the highest proportions of children living in income deprived households in the country.
The report ‘Relighting the torch: securing the Olympic legacy’, makes recommendations to the Mayor of London and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC):
- The Mayor should commission research on factors affecting convergence and look at the effects of people moving in and out of the area.
- To keep momentum going, the Mayor needs to include convergence in the new London Plan, the upcoming Economic Development Strategy, and his final Health Inequalities Strategy.
- The LLDC should revise its local plans to take into account areas beyond the boundaries of the Olympic Park to ensure the legacy of the 2012 Games is secured.
Navin Shah AM, Chair of the Regeneration Committee, said:
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games promised a legacy of improved prospects for people in the host boroughs. In the long term, the life chances of local communities were meant to come closer to the average for London.
Five years on, we have seen some improvements, but the performance has been patchy. Shockingly, the gap in physical activity and sports participation has widened. It really is unclear whether local people are truly benefiting from the Games.
What we can say is that the Olympic Park has truly transformed the area as a place to live and to do business. More and more investment is coming to this area, but there is a real risk that local people are missing out on opportunities, in terms of housing and jobs. The Mayor of London is uniquely placed to ensure local people aren’t side-lined. He needs to take ownership by reigniting the Olympic torch and making sure the Olympic legacy is fully secured.