November 4, 2014
Back in 2005 I worked for Newham Council trying to encourage local residents to back the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Bid by volunteering in their local community. Was I an Olympic enthusiast…NO, did I play sport…NO, did I realise what an impact the games would have on me ABSOLUTELY NOT.
I can’t ever remember watching an Olympic Games on the TV growing up, nobody in my household was particularly sporty but its likely we did, even if it was just the highlight on the news, the point is I can’t really remember any one particular athlete that stood out for me or being inspired at all in anyway, although I liked watching iceskating.
But the London 2012 buzz kinda got me, not straight off but gradually over time. The more I tried to inspire others, the more I started to believe the hype myself…and believe you me there was a whole heap of hype knocking about especially when you consider the fact I have lived in Stratford for the past 8 years, just a short walk away from the stadium where all the action took place.
I was only at Newham Council for 2 years, and went on to do various roles supporting the development and delivery of the 2012 games, but one of my favourite jobs was a freelance one working for a big consultancy firm tasked with engaging residents of London on the potential plans for the post 2012 Olympic Park. My job specifically was to accompany an interactive board game around various festivals during the summer of 2008 and to garner opinion.
But this was no ordinary board game, this was a huge table sized map of the proposed park highlighting all the games time venues and the transport infrastructure and stuff, and then there were hundreds of perspex squares representing moveable things like parklands, retail, education, leisure, industry. It was like a cross between Monopoly, Sim City and battleships but ultimately with no right or wrong to play and no way to win, it was all down to priorities…how well you could imagine this new space working, how you would piece together your dream neighbourhood.
At the time I can remember thinking how awesome it would be to live there with all these new facilities, beautiful parklands, funky bars and restaurants and all the thousands of new jobs it would create. It was really hard to believe it would ever happen though, as Stratford had been a dumping ground and then a building site for as long as I could recall.
Looking at the plans for the park all those years ago felt quite surreal and I wasn’t sure if being involved in the way I was warped my sense of reality somewhat. Especially seeing as we kept being bombarded with computer generated images of what this new piece of city might look like, there was even this awesome animation created which took you on a virtual tour almost like you could step into the future…the problem was it all just looked to perfect to me.
So I figured a good test of this so-called 2012 legacy would be if I could still afford to live in the area after the games, have a job that inspires me, feel comfortable sending my kids to the local schools and swim in the local pool for a reasonable monthly price. So this morning whilst doing backstroke in the Olympic sized pool at Aquatic Centre I all of a sudden realised I was there, I am living the much promised post London 2012 dream, the legacy that everyone spoke so sarcastically about. I had just cycled the 5 minutes from my home into the park, whizzing past the stadium with Westfield in the distance, swiped my card and went for an afternoon swim…just like anyone else in the country would at their local pool.
There are so many parallels to be drawn here.
Sometimes you have to believe the hype that is being whipped up around you, even if you can see the flaws in the plan and not only that you also have to run alongside it and start creating and believing your own hype too. You have to raise your aspirations and jump on board the regeneration train in the hope it will take you somewhere new and exciting. I mean what else you gonna do? Sit back watch the change and moan that “things ain’t like what they used to be?”
In 2005 I didn’t know to what extent the 2012 games would change my life, I never imagined that I would be working in the health and fitness industry, or inspiring others to get fit…seriously, before the olympics came to town I was a heart attack waiting to happen (read my post about THAT awful picture here). But it just goes to show what the power of sport can do to inspire not only personal change but movements of change.
Recently I have been really dissecting what my ultimate goal is, really breaking it down…so here it is…
By 2020 I want to have inspired a million inactive women in the UK to have taken up the sport of running, I want to radically change the landscape of sport for adult women by redefining what health and happiness looks like and show the world that obesity is not a death sentence and being slim should never be seen as the ultimate goal, being active and well throughout life is.
Is that a ridiculously unachievable goal?
Maybe? But so was turning an abandoned, forgotten area of East London into the vibrant piece of city that it now is and inspiring a generation. Anything is possible if you dream hard enough, and inspire enough other people to come along with you on that journey.
The first image used for this blog features me running in front of the Aquatic Centre and was taken by Charlie Cliff for Healthy Magazine earlier this year when they wrote an article on me.