Strategy design and creation of the operational group
An early plan was forged, right after the announcement that London had won its Olympic bid, to have a steering group tasked with maximising the benefits of the London 2012 Olympic Games for Leicestershire. This incorporated a core group of people who were highly motivated, and it actively brought partners together, which attracted buy-in from key regional public agencies at an early stage. A clear vision and fundamental strategies were developed and shared with funding partners. However, for a number of the objectives and remits within the policy structure developed by the steering group, there proved to be difficulty engaging strand leaders because of the lack of consultation and the subsequent absence of consensus on key goals.
With human capacity and resources committed to delivering London-2012-Olympics-related activities, a small dedicated legacy team was established to develop ‘home-grown’ 2012 campaigns such as My Games, My Legacy. This capacity was unique among the East Midlands sub-regions and, furthermore, among all non-host sub-regions generally. More legacy outcomes were subsequently provided for the Leicester city and for its county.
It was recognised by key stakeholders that London 2012 offered great opportunities for partnership collaboration between relevant organisations within the public sector and in other sectors. Stakeholders also indicated that the increase in collaboration helped to establish or to improve relationships between the organisations in question.
During the legacy process, particularly just before the commencement of the 2012 Games, legacy partnership collaboration increased between different strands within the Leicestershire
Steering Group: programmes in some strands were given greater exposure, generating significant success (e.g. the Workplace Challenge, Sportivate, regional Inspire Mark programmes. Cultural Olympiad). In addition, it was a commonly held view among key stakeholders that, through coordinated effort and partnership, the process of maximising London 2012 benefits raised the profile of Leicestershire, the sub-region, and of the nation, creating a positive image of the county. This helped to move sport up the agenda during a period of economic recession.
However, making partnerships work proved to be challenging in several cases. For instance, in the early stages of the legacy process, several of the leaders for the legacy strands expressed confusion as to the role they should play in the development of Leicestershire 2012 legacy activities. Existing capacity and funding resources made it difficult to coordinate the work undertaken on a daily basis with the new London 2012 initiatives.
In addition, tensions and conflicts between Leicestershire’s legacy strands and among various bodies (in terms of claiming kudos, for example) resulted in lack of cooperation between key leaders and partners and thus less effective use of local resources, generating fewer benefits from London 2012-related activities. There was also a disparity between Leicester city and Leicestershire county in terms of different engagement and commitment levels.
Nevertheless, the collaboration and teamwork within partnerships increased over time, and the relationships established may subsequently enhance the likelihood of future partnerships being formed and of these partnerships being effective. The experience should help to position partners in such a way as to benefit more effectively from future events.
Unpredictable changes in political and economic contexts
After the 2010 general election, changes in government structure at the national and regional levels challenged the delivery of legacy activities, in particular for business activities. In addition, as a result of funding cuts and staff redundancies, key partners had to reassess their priorities; London 2012-related activities moved down their agendas, and this perhaps explains a lack of commitment and support in some legacy strands (e.g. health and wellbeing, and volunteering).
The Leicestershire Steering Group reacted to the aforementioned changes by adjusting strategic priorities. While seven legacy strands were initially identified, strategies and priorities were evolved during the delivery process. As a result, there was an increasing focus on those activities/ themes which attracted greater commitment from interested partners and/or which were more likely to generate the most benefits with the given resources. In addition, the overall funding for the Leicestershire 2012 programme was secured before funding cuts happened in the public sector, which minimised the risk of the Inspire Leicestershire initiative being terminated. However, a certain degree of funding uncertainty still existed, which caused significant concerns, particularly about employment, among the operational practitioners.