The Commonwealth Games ended on Monday, just a week or so after the women’s football Euro 2022 tournament. Both events served up a feast of high-quality sporting entertainment and were outstanding adverts for popular participation, inclusion and diversity. But the Commonwealth Games, in particular, was more than just a sporting event. It continues (present tense) to be a celebration of Birmingham and the West Midlands – its history and heritage, its art and culture, its people and communities. Like all such high-cost, high-profile events, legacy is built into the planning. The word ‘legacy’ is, of course, shorthand for ‘building a better future for all’. But, as we wrote last week, legacies don’t take care of themselves. It obviously isn’t feasible to put on marquee events on this scale all the time. Nevertheless, the imagination, creativity and ambition shown by the event organisers indicates what we can achieve when we put the future at the centre of our thinking.
The immediate impact of the Games on the public consciousness has been significant: an estimated 1.5 million ticket sales; more than 13,000 volunteers; impressive TV audiences – 57 million streams, 28 million viewers – across the eleven days of competition. There is also the economic benefit of the huge influx of tourism and the boost for the region that comes with new investment, such as the specially built Sandwell Aquatics Centre. And the full integration of the para-games – part of not separate from the main Games – also marked another step forward for inclusion in sport.
The Games’ Legacy Plan cover ten separate areas, including:
What is striking is how closely these areas match Life-Based Learning themes. LBL is, in a way, all about legacy: it aims to organise learning around the modern-day challenges we face so that we build a better future for all.
For example, in our blog Ensuring children lead active lives we reported in May the findings of the latest survey from Sport England: 27% of adults are inactive – defined as taking part in less than 30 minutes of activity a week on average – activity levels for those aged 16–34 continue to fall “at a worrying rate” and the overall numbers “hide stark inequalities”.
Local sports clubs – from running to basketball – reported a surge in interest during the Commonwealth Games, as happens after many high-profile events. But what do we do to sustain interest and participation levels once the event itself disappears from our screens?
LBL emphasises the importance of ensuring that children are encouraged to lead active lives, understand the importance of participating in regular physical activity and have regular opportunities to do so. Not only is it good for them here and now, it will also help them learn habits that will serve them well throughout their lives.
One basketball club chief executive was quoted by the BBC calling for investment from the government and local authorities “to ensure that those young people that want to play our wonderful sport are able to do so”. Funding is hugely important, of course, but people are also required – people to run the facilities, to offer their skills and expertise, to provide the necessary drive and encouragement to turn ambition into reality. That means people who understand the value of community, people prepared to do their bit to help build community pride and cohesion.
The Commonwealth Games showed the power of communities pulling together. Talking about the response of the people of the West Midlands to the Games, Team England’s chef de mission (the person in overall charge) gave an idea of what is possible when a community comes together:
It has been nothing short of outstanding. It is not just those that bought tickets, it is everybody in the West Midlands – from the taxi drivers to the volunteers to the members of the public that have been high-fiving everybody. Everybody should be very, very proud of what they have contributed.Mark England, in overall charge of Team England, quoted here
The Games has been supported by a six-month cultural festival showcasing the creativity of Birmingham and the West Midlands. Their website talks about bringing people together, inspiring people to engage with arts and culture, and creating a more diverse, more representative audience for arts and culture in the region. It also emphasises the importance of communities and bringing people together: “Entwining sport, culture, and community the Games will provide us a tremendous opportunity to accelerate and strengthen community cohesion and inclusion.”
Community is also a key focus of Life-Based Learning — one of its nine life themes. We blog regularly about the need to promote community pride and cohesion. For example, in our blog Vibrant communities enrich us all and need to be strengthened we highlighted and celebrated the amazing community work of a small selection of young people. And we wrote about the importance of community education to ensure that our children and young people have the knowledge, skills and values to contribute positively to community life — to the mutual benefit of the children and the community.