Leave A Legacy – Post-Olympic Thoughts

The Olympics is over but what is the legacy of it that will be left behind? This was the big question in the initial planning and it seemed was the trite justification being trotted out when questions were being raised about vast sums of money going to fund such an event. Now, I’m not knocking the Games at all – I thought it was terrific to see such a variety of sport and for the first time ever became engrossed by the four-yearly spectacle. I do wonder though whether all the money spent will make any difference to the average British person.

Having said all that, what is legacy all about? Is it simply about the infrastructure and opportunities available to us in the future or is it related to how we have changed? One commentator suggested that maybe the legacy of the games would be that people now acknowledge the value of persistent and sustained encouragement and will put that into practice on a more local level, supporting those around them. Having watched the athletes do amazing things, they may also urge one another to be more self-sufficient and call on reserves of inner strength in order to achieve, even at a moderate level. “If Tom Daley or Ben Ainslie can put initial set backs behind them then surely we can too.”

As a coach committed to people developing their potential, overcoming obstacles, becoming who they want to be and achieving their goals, I can only agree with these as being worthy outcomes from this major event. If people take up more sport in the next months and years then that would be great. However, if they develop and grow personally, then they will be the ones leaving the legacy for the people that come after them.

There has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, much talk in the media about the legacy of the Olympics; for Boris, for the monarchy, for the east end of London, for the nation. I am primarily interested though in what your legacy will be. It might be related to your sporting achievements or not. What great things will you leave behind you? For me there are three questions to look at:

  • What mark will you leave behind?
  • Who will benefit from it?
  • What are the foundations to lay and how is the building progressing?

What mark will you leave behind?

Often legacy is a word that is synonymous with money and possessions – it is that which is apportioned by the due legal process of will reading. This though is to constrain it as a word and an idea to the merely tangible.

Now, your legacy might well be stored in physical things. Buildings and monuments can well be a legacy left to your family, town or country; much like the Olympic stadium, it may be used for generations to come. This is especially true it seems in a country like Germany where the tradition of building a house and then passing it on to your children is stronger than in the UK.

Money

Maybe you will leave a whole pile of money behind when you are gone which might prove to be a legacy for people known to you or others further afield. Certainly the value of this legacy will not lie in the amount but in what it is spent on. Take for example someone like Bill Gates who has used some of his vast fortune to set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which, according to their website, aims to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives”. Consequently, money is spent, in the USA and further afield on mainly health-related programmes, such as Rotary International’s polio eradication scheme.

Buildings

Possibly your legacy will be a public building, maybe even named in your honour. I was hearing this week about ‘Clare Short schools’ in Malawi – the MP and Minister for International Development was responsible for arranging funding for building them and so she is remembered.

Ideas

You could leave behind an invention or idea that transforms life for people. Another Rotary International example springs to mind of Tom Henderson from Cornwall who created ShelterBox, a project providing crates for families in disaster areas that contains what they need for temporary rehousing when everything else has gone. Read all about it at http://www.shelterbox.org

Organisations

Could your legacy be an organisation or association that you have started, like Robert Baden-Powell did? I work with a sailing organisation that works with around 50 young people every year. After running for 65 years, it has impacted a lot of young people even though the original founder is now dead.

At the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter what it is that you leave behind assuming you have done it from a sound value-basis and you, or others after you, finish what you started. What you don’t want is to build another McCaig’s Folly or similar bricks and mortar carbuncle to adorn our landscape that no longer has much function other than to remind us of the builder and their pride – I certainly don’t know much else about the aforementioned Oban resident.