Olympic Games offer a golden legacy

LONDON 2012 will create a golden legacy that will benefit grassroots communities in the east of England long after the closing ceremony, Olympic chiefs pledged yesterday.

LONDON 2012 will create a golden legacy that will benefit grassroots communities in the east of England long after the closing ceremony, Olympic chiefs pledged yesterday.

But as well as providing a chance to bounce back from the recession the Games also highlight a number of shortfalls that must be addressed if the region is to take full advantage of the opportunities available.

In Suffolk alone there is a lack of skills in certain services including transport, construction, hospitality, languages and logistics.

But London 2012 chiefs have said the Olympic and Paralympic Games are the perfect opportunity to help reverse the trend - and create a lasting legacy of improvement.

Already there is work underway to promote healthier lifestyles in the county - with free swimming for under 16s and over 60s and free gym membership for young people.

Some businesses are now working on contracts related to the Games, although because of confidentiality agreements it is not possible to say how many or who they are.

Most Read

Barbara Follett, regional minister for the east of England and minister in charge of the Cultural Olympiad, said: 'Being so close to London we are ideally placed in the east of England to exploit the opportunities the 2012 Games will present.

'It is a golden opportunity. The economic downturn poses challenges for every single one of us - but the Games are a beacon of hope amidst the gloom.'

Mrs Follett was speaking yesterday at the Nations and Region's East Annual Summit, the partnership responsible for maximising benefits from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

So far 6,400 of the region's companies have signed up to the CompeteFor website - which publishes the business opportunities available from the Games - and of these 91 are currently working on contracts related to the Olympics.

But Mrs Follett said there was a lot more at stake than just short term gain - it was about investing resources to ensure the region's skills base was boosted for the future.

'We want to make sure we deliver a really good legacy from the Games,' she said. 'They are a very real way of helping us win more business and improve our skills base in the region.

'At the moment it's not as good as it should be - only 27pc in the east of England are qualified to degree level or above - 24pc in Suffolk.

'The national average is 30pc and we want to raise that to 34pc by 2011. By 2020 40pc of jobs will need a degree level qualification - so there is work to do.'

So far �4m has been invested in programmes to help improve training and skills levels while the Learning and Skills Council has also launched a Train to Gain initiative, which helps businesses develop a workforce with the relevant skills and training to deliver contracts.

The conference - held at BT's Adastral Park, Martlesham, near Ipswich - was hosted by chairman of Nations and Regions East Stephen Castle.

He said: 'There is enormous potential but we need to make sure we deliver. Clearly it's a massive sporting event but the legacy is far more widespread and needs to embrace the economy, education, physical activity, healthy lifestyles, volunteering culture and tourism.

'It is an opportunity to engage and inspire and bring people together. We need to get to grips with that. But it has to be a set of aspirations that grows from the grassroots up.'