London 2012: members’ reactions

8 October 2012

The critics have been silenced, the doom-mongers quashed, with an Olympics that surpassed all expectations. But the big question now is, what will be the lasting legacy of London 2012?

Engineering has played an essential role at the heart of the Olympics. Behind the preparation for the Games was an incredible array of engineering and technology in construction, infrastructure, transport and hospitality. Was London 2012 a success in showcasing the best of British construction and engineering to a worldwide audience? How will this affect the UK’s reputation going forward?

With the London 2012 Olympics now over, what do IET members think?:

Sir John Armitt, chairman, Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA)

Member News: With an Olympics that surpassed all expectations, the big question now is can the national elation that the Olympics produced last, or, better yet, lead the country out of its recent economic down-turn?
Sir John Armitt: The elation is created by success and consequent sheer enjoyment. Success is showing the world we are very good at elite sport and can deliver physically, logistically, artistically what is regarded as the ‘best games ever’. That must give us self-confidence.

The challenge is can we return that self-confidence into economic growth? To do that will require a greater degree of political agreement in the key strategic issues such as energy, infrastructure, industrial strategy, education. It will also require us to increase the degree to which Government and the business sector work together seeking to identify short-term tactics and long-term strategy.

MN: You said in your interview for Member News that “big infrastructure projects delivered properly and with public approval create confidence and a better image for the country.” Is this the real legacy of the Games do you think?
JA: It is one of the main Legacy opportunities and probably the easiest to build on. The others such as sports activity and social cohesion will be as important, but tougher.

MN: Were you able to enjoy the Games…just a little bit?!
JA: Absolutely, although primarily because everything worked so well, so the fantastic performances by the athletes were all the more enjoyable.

MN: The decision to build the Park in one of London’s poorest boroughs has resulted in the regeneration of a neglected region, which started out as wasteland and is now full of possibilities. What are the immediate plans for the Olympic Park in the weeks and months to come? What is your role in this continuing legacy?
JA: Our role as the ODA is primarily to refurbish the Olympic Village apartments, install the kitchens and compete the sale of the Village. In the short term, LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) will clear all their overlay which will take a couple of months and then the Legacy company will carry out the modifications to the stadia and Park allowing progressive opening of the park from mid-2013. Beyond that there will be further housing and development in the Park for 20 years.

Stuart Morris, Olympic boat designer

Member News: What was your reaction to the success of team GB Canoeing at the Games? Were you there to witness it first-hand?
Stuart Morris
: I was part of the 12k sell-out crowd on the final medal winning day in the Canadian canoe doubles Slalom class. It was amazing and still makes me smile now. Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott only just scraped into the final with a mediocre performance, and Dave and Rich went through in first place, this gave us a 75 per cent chance of winning a medal. As Tim and Etienne had qualified in last place they were first off in the final, they put in a great run that would have won the qualifiers. As they were first off they were obviously in first place. As the next four crews went down, the tension and emotion within the stand was unreal when they hit a gate or dropped low the crowd would erupt. Tim and Etienne having done there run just sat and waited as the four crews went down none able to better their time. Guaranteed an Olympic silver medal, Team mates Dave and Rich were last off. Could they also win a medal? Could they beat Tim and Etienne? They set off well and as their performance continued, they were up on every split. With just four gates to go they lost just 0.36 of a second to Tim and Etiene, narrowly missing the goal.

The crowds where jumping up and down in their seats, hugging and crying, it was a very emotional day. For the first time in Canoe slalom history Team GB had won gold, but not only that a silver too and in the same class, an amazing achievement!

MN: Those involved in GB Canoeing must be thrilled with the medal haul, winning an Olympic title in each of the sport's two disciplines, sprint and slalom. How will this success inform your work and research?
SM: Of course although a performance is down to the athletes on the day, in the lead up to a major race like the Olympics there are coaches and an array of service providers which all make up the athletes performance. Equipment design is just one of these.

MN: Your current research is aimed at the 2016 Games in Rio. Do you expect the success of GB Canoeing at London 2012 to have a positive impact on your funding?
SM: With the advent of Lottery funding in sport, funding is directly related to performance. Each sport is given a medal target if they hit, or in canoeing case, exceed, the target then their funding will be guaranteed for the next Olympic cycle. A degree of funding is then split between the service areas; how much equipment design will receive has yet to be seen, but I am sure that the research will continue to be funded towards the Rio Games in 2016.

MN: Are there any particular areas you will be focusing on in your research as a direct result of London 2012?
SM: London has just proven that we are on the right track with our research in slalom. I would like to continue implementing the same protocols to collect more geometric and performance data relating to canoes and kayaks. Within the sports science and sports engineering fields it’s not just about the academic research, it’s about useful application. The area which I see as important is applying the research so that it can be easily understood by the athletes and coaches and to provide a performance gain.

MN: Canoeing gold medallist Ed McKeever was quoted as saying, "We have never had that many [medals] so it's a fantastic boost. If we keep pushing forward and developing, I think we can become the leading canoeing nation in the world.” Do you agree?
SM: Yes I do agree and this statement, as we saw at this Olympic Games, can be true for many sports. I believe that this is due to the advent of Lottery funding and the structure of UK Sport. Having paid athletes, staff and researchers that can now fully commit their lives to sport as a profession rather than just a hobby has and will make a massive difference to our country’s performance within the sporting arena. This also provides positive role models and inspiration to the rest of Great Britain’s population. I just hope, even in these hard economic times, that the Government continues to see this sector as a great investment for our country’s future generations.

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