Shropshire is already experiencing the benefits of the 2012 Olympics and more are on the way. The Games are creating a real difference not only in London but also across the country.
Major sporting events have a history of boosting economies and inspiring people. Talking at a conference in Stafford, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke about the potential of the games: “Never underestimate the power of the Olympics and Paralympics, they have the power to inspire and unite.” The legacy of the games will give people greater access to more sports and exercise facilities and will help to change people’s lifestyles: “Young people will grow up witnessing the ambitious 2012 Olympic and Paralympic vision becoming a reality.”
Dame Tanni expressed her belief that in order to get the best out of the games people needed to start acting now. Shropshire is already using the Olympic Games as a platform to deliver many social and economic benefits. David Hinves, South Shropshire District Council’s Sports Development Officer, has started a scheme to help inspire and develop local athletes: “I decided to invite nominations annually for those athletes who are intending to be at the London 2012 Games and identify the ten who are closest to achieving this dream.” These “Talented Performers” are receiving financial help to improve their training and are acting as local role models to inspire others. Utilising the Olympics to get more young people active will have a positive effect on society. Sport acts as a way of teaching people responsibility and helps them to be more disciplined. Also it can help to reverse the trend of an ever increasing obese population.
Andrew Jones of All Stretton is one of the talented performers identified. At just 16 years of age he has finished in the top five positions at numerous events on the Under 20 men’s section of the 2005 athletics season: “The Talented Performers Scheme has encouraged me to think about the games in 2012. As part of a Shropshire group that is looking forward to the games, it is giving me something to aim for. The scheme has acknowledged my achievements to date and given me the confidence to go forward and aim higher.”
Ben Carless from Wistanstow is another local young person benefiting from the talented performers scheme. He has captained the Welsh under 16 hockey team and the games are acting as a real inspiration for him: “The Olympic Games are inspiring me to try and achieve success at the highest level. Of course, it is my dream that one day I will become part of a GB team at the Olympics. It gives me and other athletes a great target to aim for.”
Other benefits for Shropshire won’t be seen until nearer the time of the games. However, Mr Hinves has already made sure plans are being put in place now to make sure Shropshire is in a position to maximise them: “We have already been involved (that is in the sports world along with our tourism colleagues) with identifying potential benefits of these games.”
It is estimated that tourism will account for 50-75% of the net benefit of the games. Not many people know that the origins of the modern Olympics stem from Much Wenlock. Shropshire can use this fact to draw attention to itself, and along with many more of its fantastic tourist attractions, benefit from the money generated by a mass increase in tourism.