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Written Statement - The London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games: The Legacy for Wales

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The Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales

London 2012 has been an outstanding sporting event and as we prepare to welcome our Welsh Champions home to Wales today, it’s worth reflecting on the legacy that the event will leave in Wales. The intention was always to ensure that Wales benefited from the Games before, during and after the event, through maximizing the economic, sporting and cultural impact on our nation, boosting tourism and enhancing Wales’ global reputation. 

First of all, however, it falls to me to congratulate the 68 Welsh Olympians and Paralympians on their outstanding sporting achievements. The 2012 phenomenon of a home games is one that truly inspired the athletes, their coaches, support teams and the governing bodies to some once in a lifetime performances and Wales, along with the rest of the UK, will look back on 2012 as a definitive milestone in the development of sporting excellence. 

London 2012 has undoubtedly been a fantastic achievement for sport. It’s now up to us and our partners to harness the resultant interest and ensure that all those who have been inspired over recent weeks get the chance to get involved with their favourite sport or try new ones. With 30 Welsh athletes contributing to the Team GB presence at the Olympic Games and 38 at the Paralympic Games, Wales was presented with a vista of home grown talent that will serve to inspire more people to become involved in sport – either simply just as a means of staying fit and healthy, or as a route to elite sport and national, or even international, competition. 

With the Games only just over, Sport Wales is already reporting that Welsh sports governing bodies are receiving new enquiries from people wanting to start, or renew, their relationship with sport, either as athletes, coaches, support staff or volunteers. To this end, Sport Wales will continue to drive forward its Community Sport Strategy, helping to create better quality sporting opportunities in our communities and promoting grass roots sport throughout Wales. Our Coaching Strategy will deliver the leaders, volunteers and coaches who are essential to sport at all levels and our Elite Sport Strategy is already investing in our teams and athletes so that Wales continues to enjoy the type of success we have experienced in the last two months.

We cannot underestimate the importance of schools in getting our children playing sport.  The Welsh Government has set up a new Task and Finish Group, chaired by Baroness Grey-Thompson, which will recommend what more we can do to get all of our children physically active.  We look forward to hearing the Group’s recommendations in due course.

Working further with young people, Gemau Cymru, a special and fully inclusive multi-sport event, delivered by the Urdd in a unique public, private, third sector partnership was launched in 2011 and staged for the second time in 2012. It provides a platform for talented young athletes in Wales to compete against their peers in an environment designed to bridge and support the competitive performance pathway towards senior international representation at events such as the Commonwealth Games, delivering vital early experience for young and talented Welsh athletes.  The Welsh Government is providing financial support in the next two financial years to the Urdd to deliver Gemau Cymru and to grow it as a national signature sporting event. 

The Paralympic Games will help to build on the already strong framework that we have for community disability sport in Wales, through the work undertaken by Disability Sport Wales who provide over a million opportunities for disabled people to get involved in sport every year.  The Paralympic Games can inspire a new generation of disabled people to participate in sport, as well as inspiring mainstream coaches, clubs and volunteers to get more involved in disability sport.  The Games can also help to change perceptions about disability – seeing the ability not the disability of people.

In terms of taking the Olympic experience into communities, Wales had the advantage of being at an early stage in the truly epic Olympic Torch Relay project, during which the Olympic flame was transported around the UK, carried by an inspiring group of Torchbearers including sporting and popular heroes which, in Wales, included the likes of past Olympian, Colin Jackson, and Doctor Who actor Matt Smith. It is estimated that the Torch Relay in Wales attracted up to 1 in 4 of the total Welsh population – an almost unprecedented level of community engagement - and overnight celebrations of the Torch were enjoyed in Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Bangor.

The planning and resilience work involved in staging a successful Torch Relay was developed through partnership between the London Organising Committee LOCOG), Welsh Government, the WLGA, all 22 Welsh local authorities and blue light agencies, both here and over the border in adjacent English police forces. This brings with it its own valuable legacy, requiring, for the first time on this scale, the coordination of an all-Wales command and control structure that attracted praise from national agencies at the time and will now be deployable for other pan-Wales major events. 

Wales’ role as the host country for high quality pre-Games training facilities for both Olympic and Paralympic teams during 2012 also provided its own unique legacy. In total, 24 separate national training camps based themselves throughout Wales, involving nearly 850 athletes, coaches and support staff and contributing significantly to the local economies in which they stayed. Nations due to return to the UK for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, such as Australia and New Zealand, were particularly targeted for this programme and officials will now continue their work to further develop links with these sporting nations with a view to repeating the success in two year’s time.

Meanwhile, Welsh schools participated fully in the London 2012 education programme – Get Set, with 1255 Welsh education institutions eventually registering with the scheme. This gave them access to an extensive cross curricular education resource and information portal that was used to help teachers introduce Olympic themes into the curriculum and promote Olympic and Paralympic values within their schools. Through Get Set, selected Welsh school children and students were able to become Olympic torch bearers, be appointed Young Ambassadors in their schools for London 2012, participate in the Host a Nation campaign, linking them with other competing nations and secure valuable Games tickets for the students to enjoy during the competition itself.

Unique to London 2012 was the Inspire programme, which was designed to engage communities across the country with the wider London 2102 Olympiad. With over 100 projects awarded the prestigious Inspire mark, Wales distinguished itself as one of the more participative UK nations. Projects attracted over £2m in funding and over 100,000 people participated in projects ranging from “Phoenix” - a programme managed by North Wales Fire Service addressing anti social behaviour issues among some young people in the area to “Go Tri” - a Pembrokeshire-based programme providing triathlon based activities for both able and disabled children.

Added to this, the strength of the Welsh response to the invitation to become “Games Makers” and volunteer to help with the successful staging of the events, either in London or here in Cardiff, demonstrated the nation’s enthusiasm for the Games, provided a Welsh flavour to the volunteer provision in London and gave all Welsh volunteers, many of them young, valuable workplace experience and transferrable skills that they are now able to take with them into mainstream working life.

In terms of deriving business benefit from the Games, perhaps the most high profile being the contract to produce all the medals which was awarded to the Royal Mint, Llantrisant. In addition, there was the income generated from 11 Olympic football matches being held in Wales’ own Olympic host venue city, Cardiff – which attracted nearly 350,000 spectators to the Millennium Stadium – the majority from outside Wales; the Welsh Government engaged with the process to secure direct business opportunities out of preparations for the Games at the earliest opportunity. Working with partners and directly with businesses, we encouraged companies to register for Olympic contracts and for other business opportunities linked to the event. As a result of this process, 69 Welsh businesses won Olympic-related contracts, gaining valuable experience and new business contracts to help inform future potential work, as a result. As an outcome of the football itself, Cardiff was profiled to the world as an outstanding major event host city, with the Olympic rings outside Cardiff City Hall providing the focus for the region’s Olympic status. The business engagement opportunities offered by the fixtures themselves were exploited appropriately and I, myself, hosted a box at the stadium for key business contacts at the men’s quarter final match in order to make the most of opportunities offered by the staging of such a high profile occasion.

An early commitment was made to ensure that Wales was engaged fully in the Olympic-related business programme developed by partners, UK Trade and Invest. Establishing the high profile central London location, Lancaster House, as the “British Business Embassy”, UKTI put on a full timetable of business engagement events in order to ensure that UK business interests had access to visiting global companies in London, perhaps for the first time as a direct consequence of the Games. As a result, Welsh Government and Welsh business were represented at the keynote Global Investment Conference, hosted at Lancaster House on the eve of the Games, and at the full series of Global Sector Summits, attendance at which was coordinated through Welsh Government’s sector panels and participation in which was extended to an even wider business audience through video distribution on line and plans for subsequent Welsh sector events, featuring some of the best of the summit material.

The Welsh “footprint” on the UK business offer was emphasised further during the Olympic period by a carefully targeted advertising campaign, profiling Wales’ recently launched Enterprise Zone programme. Taking advantage of London Underground sites in the vicinity of both Lancaster House and key sporting venues, Welsh business messages were presented to key target audiences visiting central and East London at the time of the Games. Meanwhile, judicious deployment of the newly-opened London office, officially launched to a business audience immediately prior to the Games, will continue in an effort to engage successfully with key, and often difficult to reach, targets in the London and South East.

Wales’ already well-established reputation as the home of high quality and innovative arts projects was further enhanced by the deeply impressive response that the nation made to the invitation to participate in the cultural celebration of London 2012, the Cultural Olympiad. By harnessing existing programmes, such as the Urdd Eisteddfod, as well as commissioning new and ground-breaking works and working with key partner, Arts Council of Wales, Wales’ own Cultural Olympiad showcased, programmes such as The Power of the Flame – a collection of 5 separate projects that, between June 2011 and August 2012 that were attended by nearly 175,000 visitors. 

The year-long programme brought a festival of both single location and travelling arts projects to all corners of Wales and successfully highlighted, in particular, Wales’ enviable pedigree in supporting and encouraging disability arts projects, exposing these exciting works to a wide variety of audiences. Witnessing performances by the likes of Only Kids Aloud and distinguished disabled dancer, David Toole, it was pleasing to note that Welsh performers contributed significantly to both the ceremonial opening and closing events held in the Olympic Stadium and the wider Cultural Olympiad programme, raising the profile of Welsh arts with a truly global audience.

The work of Visit Wales during the Olympic and pre-Olympic period was intended to ensure that the Welsh tourism industry benefited, as much as possible, from London 2012 and that, through the Games, Wales would be introduced to new and influential travel audiences. Working closely with strategic partner, Visit Britain, VW participated fully in the VB-led “Great Britain – You’re Invited” campaign, ensuring that images of Wales was included in the campaign material, that Wales had a clear presence at the central London non-accredited media centre and that visiting journalists were offered the opportunity to enhance their stay in the UK with a visit to Wales. Promotion of Wales was deliberately shaped to emphasise two key additions, this year, to the attractions portfolio - the new Wales Coast Path, that was specifically launched to London-based journalists at the London media centre during Games time, and the developing preparations to celebrate the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth in 2014. 

The intention was that both journalists and private visitors, alike, were made aware of the additional attractions of a visit to Wales, whilst in the UK and to position Wales as an alternative choice for those wishing to spend some time outside London this summer. Further, by linking campaigns to Olympic themes, Wales’s unique sports and leisure credentials were further enhanced and its reputation as a world-class destination strengthened. Having gathered valuable images and footage from many of the Olympic-related events taking place in Wales, including Torch Relay, preparations for the Olympic football fixtures and the Training Camps, Olympic themes were reflected in VW’s traditional, digital and on-line marketing campaigns.

Specific outcomes from all these workstreams are clearly still being collated and, in the cases of some, the impact on Wales of London 2012 will be long, rather than short term. It is clear, however, to all those who marvelled at Welsh performances at the Opening Ceremony, who heard about the Welsh food and drink being consumed by athletes in the Olympic village, who spotted Welsh business advertising on London’s underground network, who hosted overseas journalists at some of Wales’ visitor attractions, who participated in one of the many cultural events staged in Wales as part of the Cultural Olympiad but who, most of all, celebrated in the awe-inspiring performances of Welsh sports men and women, that Wales played a full and crucial part in the successful hosting of London 2012. In doing so, we demonstrated, once again, our ability to host  major international sporting events to the highest standard and, as a result, is due to enjoy a long term and sustainable legacy across sporting, cultural and economic life.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep Members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.