Sunday, 19 August 2012

How to become a legacy maker

Guest blog with Chris Spriggs, director of the Lifespace Trust

My daughter, who is five, complained to me the other day from the safety of her back seat in the car. I mentioned that the new football season was about to start.

“Are you going to be stuck to it like you were stuck to the Olympics?” she said.

She sighed. Then huffed. Her hands audibly dropped into her lap.

It’s true. I was caught in the act of being glued to whatever the Olympics threw our way. I had that brilliant 2012 Results app on my phone so I could track every lap of the velodrome when I couldn’t watch it live. I practiced my mental arithmetic with the medal table. I screamed for Jess, Greg and Mo on Super Saturday. I was at one with the nation.

The word on the street
A reinvigorated conversation is underway, and it is about the ‘L word’: legacy. Lord Coe probably has the word tattooed on his chest. Legacy was one of London 2012’s unique selling points in its bid back in 2005.

But what does legacy mean in practice for us non-Olympians?

L is for long-term lifespan
It was great to hear six-time gold medallist Chris Hoy talk about how Steve Redgrave (who only got five Olympic golds, shucks!) inspired him. And the photos of Laura Trott – two-time gold medallist in the velodrome – snapped at the age of 12 with her hero Bradley ‘mutton chops’ Wiggins, and then aged 16 with (Queen) Victoria Pendleton, each holding their bicycles.

Someone else’s story of heroism can be a powerful (and legal) drug to keep an up-and-coming athlete training through the English winter and pressing through the daily lactic acid build-up.

Like love and like getting gold, legacy takes time. What can we do now that will positively shift the trajectory back towards a society that is less corrosive and more cohesive? We don’t just want 2012 to be the new 1966, a moment we look back on and think ‘that was great, back then’.

The legacy of London 2012 can be to lift our eyes further, higher and to become stronger about what we value most.

E is for ethical impact
Of the many wonder-drenched moments, Mo Farah stands out for me; perhaps because I’m also a runner. I love the fact that in Mo’s post-race interview with the BBC, after he had clung on tooth and toe for that second gold, he started talking about child poverty. The next day, Mo is at Number 10 Downing Street talking about how to overcome starvation in Somalia.

"Winning my second gold last night was a dream come true,” he said, “but I'm here today for perhaps the most important race of all; the race to tackle hunger and malnutrition around the world.
"Last year I visited Somalia during the famine. It was shocking to see people in the country where I was born simply not having enough food to eat. My wife and I came back from Somalia determined to do what we can to help people there rebuild their lives.”
The legacy of London 2012 could be a bigger picture view, one that is not about medals and medal table position, but the influence we all have to transform other people’s lives for the better.

G is for glorious games makers
Few of the 70,000-strong games makers team saw any of the Olympics! Yet they showed individual flair, initiative and friendliness. London smiled; in torrential city rain and sumptuous August sun.

There is power in doing something freely and for free. What a contrast to the banking crisis and the fat cat bonus crew. The legacy of the games makers can be the reminder of what it is to be human, to welcome the stranger, to take the time to point another in the right direction.

A is for an athlete’s attitude
When we talk of inspiring a generation, I hope it’s not just the younger generation. I hope London 2012 inspires parents and grandparents to not just strive for a chunky piece of shiny metal to hang around their necks – hey, equestrians Mary King and Nick Skelton are 51 and 54, respectively, but to absorb some of the resilience and determination that the athletes demonstrated in buckets.

Piers Morgan tweeted his disappointment that Bradley Wiggins didn’t sing the national anthem from the podium and that he should respect to our monarch. Dear Bradley, with his clumsy sideburns, replied that he too was disappointed; disappointed that Piers wasn’t jailed for alleged insider dealing and phone hacking.

Too many people in our national headlines are insulting rather than inspiring a generation. So many of Team GB demonstrated a spirit that transcends what we are normally subjected to by j-list celebrities. J is for junk and, happily, there is no j in legacy.

C is for coaching and clubs
For the past year, my family of five has got up at the crack of dawn on the first Saturday of each month to an event called Kids Run Free. It has rained on nearly every occasion.

Our eldest two (aged seven and five) love using the musical megaphone to start the various races with event organiser Steve and packing up afterwards. They take part in their age-appropriate races, and my wife or I do the free 5km race, which starts in the field next door.

They give 100% and so do we. Then we all go into Leamington Spa to Starbucks, relive the races and celebrate the effort. I should invite Steve along one day.

Recently, my kids donned high-vis yellow jackets and marshalled at the adult Parkrun event. Points are given not just for running but also for volunteering (that’s ‘games making’ to us enlightened 2012ers).

The legacy of London 2012 can be more of this; more ordinary Steves in XL orange tops cheering on our kids. More Parkruns, local infrastructure and grass-root funding for musical megaphones. More involvement for kids and their (fatigued) parents on rainy Saturday mornings.

The legacy can be this: to create opportunities, develop talent and reward the effort of all.

Y is for your response
Steve reminded me that the legacy from London 2012 isn’t just down to the Graingers, Rutherfords and Ennises of our world. Lord Coe is right when he says “legacy is not a one-man mission”.

If I want a generation to be inspired I have to do something. So this is what I am going to do: I am going to complete my UK Athletics coaching course. And I’m going to let my weakness for running silly distances spill over into cheering on younger people. Whether they run a mile or 100 miles.

I’m coming to terms with the fact I won’t ever win gold at a home Olympics. But my legacy – as a husband, parent, mentor, runner – is partly down to what I do today, tomorrow and after that. I want to be the best legacy maker I can be. I want to do my little bit to inspire a generation.

That’s something my daughter would love me to get “stuck” to.


  1. AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME... what a great article; celebrating all the right things and thumbing the nose at those things that are base and beneath the levels of dignity that some of these people attained to.

    Another thing that impressed me at the games was Gabby's answer after winning gold, when questioned over her mother's battle with bankruptcy (!!@?>) answered with dignity and grace without succumbing to the ugliness that was aimed at her.

    This is a great article. Good writing, Chris.

  2. Thank you for your kind words Bev, glad you enjoyed it.