Richard Exon is the co-founder of Joint
Richard Exon is the co-founder of Joint
A view from Richard Exon

Richard Exon: Politicians lack the long-term view for a real Olympic legacy

Big ideas. Momentum. Effect.

Three things that most of us strive for in the work we do.

Generally, we do it well, which is why the UK's creative economy is such an influential part of modern Britain.

The same three things are at the heart of good politics too.

Unfortunately, though, while Team GB was busy securing third place on the London 2012 medal table, the current political discourse reached an all-time low as politicians allowed bickering and deal-making to derail both the House of Lords reform and the constituency boundary reform.

The short-term need to appease various wings of their parliamentary parties means issues of long-term significance have been sidelined yet again.

Their only real break from the name-calling and infighting was to rush out a few soundbites about Olympic legacy and set up some ill-advised photo ops.

To be fair, since the closing ceremony, an impressive £500 million boost for Lord Coe's newly created Olympic legacy unit has been announced.

Coe has done an amazing job but, when you look behind the headlines, you can't help but worry that he's being set up to fail.

First, he's being given two jobs, not one - ensuring that Team GB continues to win big at future Olympics, while simultaneously attracting £13 billion of international investment. It will be hard to do both brilliantly. Second, his role seems highly politicised and so potentially vulnerable to a change of regime.

Third, and most importantly, the funding commitment only goes up to Rio 2016. Four years is an age in politics but, the experts tell us, building each generation of Olympians is a 12-year undertaking.

A more radical idea would be to remove the task of delivering a lasting Olympic legacy from politics altogether.

We could have a new national institution, publicly funded but with the ability to work in partnership with the private sector (all those brands could continue their support of our Olympic effort) and free from day-to-day political control.

The very different demands of elite performance programmes and effective grass-roots sports can't be answered in a single political or Olympic cycle.

We need four, five or even six Games of amazing medal hauls if we are really to change how we think about sport in the UK and how we think about ourselves.

2012 has shown us that the Olympics is a big enough idea for us all to get behind. If we take a properly long-term view, it will have meaningful long-term effect. But it will take something more than what we currently have planned to keep the momentum going.

Richard Exon is a founder of Joint.

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