Community Links CEO and senior advisor Kevin Jenkins queries the legacy of the Olympics


- Credit: Archant

The one-year anniversary Olympic celebrations have created a tidal wave of claims and counter claims as to who is responsible for the success of the Games and the legacy that is developing.

For me, the jury is still out in respect of the legacy.

One year is a very small timespan to assess the success of regeneration.

We will not probably know the real legacy for another 10 years or so when we will know how many jobs have been sustained and who is filling them, similarly how many new houses have been built and who they are housing and so on.

Sadly, there is no legacy of a network of open access holiday play projects across the borough (or any plans to develop one as far as I am aware). Ironically, five years ago when the London dream became real, across Newham every summer there was a network of play projects in schools, churches, community buildings and even open spaces where no suitable building existed.

Usually free or for a very little fee, children, from five to 11 or 12, could play safely each day supervised by trained play workers.

The schemes were incredibly popular, offering arts, crafts, sports, games, workshops and trips.

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They provided a safe alternative to playing on the street, a chance for children to try new activities, especially sport (ironically) on offer for the first time and to share and learn together.

Literally, hundreds of children, many of whom were disadvantaged, enjoyed a great constructive summer and the wider community enjoyed a much quieter one because the children were positively occupied.

Although there are some structured summer schools, paid for care schemes for working parents and some organised sports sessions, there are now very few if any neighbourhood play schemes serving local communities.

If all those claiming the credit for legacy really want to make a sustained difference at a grassroots level, introducing all young people to sports, games and the arts, what better way than to establish a legacy of community-based open access play opportunities.

The need is there, the community groups are there and I’m sure there are potential 2020 Olympic medallists there waiting for their chance to shine.