The 2012 Summer Olympics

London was elected the host city for the Olympic Summer Games in 2012. The ultimate goal of Olympism is to build a peaceful and better world through sport.  For any country hosting the Olympic Games there are a number of significant social and economic impacts.  The UK government has identified hosting the games as, ‘a chance to bring together a unique combination of government resources and commitment from the sporting community and participants to create a truly world-class sporting nation.’ [1]   The opportunities for volunteering in relation to the Olympics are unprecedented.  In order to ensure the smooth running of the Olympic and Paralympic Games up to 70,000 volunteers, or ‘Games Makers’ will be needed for a broad range of functions, from stewarding to escorting athletes.The Games will require both generalist, and specialist volunteers.  The majority of volunteers will be generalist and so will not need to have any specific expertise as a pre-requisite, whilst specialist volunteers must have skills or qualifications in relevant areas such as sport, or medicine.  Successful volunteers will receive three days of training to equip them with the necessary skills to volunteer at the Olympics. Whilst preference is not given to those who have experience in volunteering, wider volunteering prior to the games is encouraged under the 'changing places' initiative, which promotes volunteering in the local community. 

Alongside this, the ethos of volunteering for London 2012 will be encouraged to spread beyond the Games themselves.  The Olympic Delivery Authority is responsible for delivering the games, from infrastructure, to venues and legacy.  Part of this legacy should include opportunities for volunteering and the volunteer movement, and for the promotion of sport.  The major event programme 2013 – 2018 and Places People Play initiative aims to ensure that Sport in the UK experiences the largest possible legacy from the Olympic. £135 million of Lottery money will be invested in facilities, people and mass participation so that volunteering and participation post London 2012 will be at an all-time high.     

What are the implications?

  • The Olympics is a fantastic platform for engaging and inspiring new volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life, and for promoting sport in the UK.  It can give a new and inspiring image to volunteering through the intrinsic reward of being part of the games ‘Games Makers’ 
  • However,the Games also have huge potential to discourage many from volunteering.  Not everyone who wishes to volunteer at the Games will be able to, as of February 2011, before the application process for being a volunteer at the Games had opened, over 240,000 people had registered their interest to volunteer.  Even accounting for over claim, waning interest, people being unable to participate for practical reasons and so on, this still indicates many more people who would like to be involved with volunteering at the Olympics, than will be able to given that only 70,000 volunteers are needed.  It is inevitable that some people will be disappointed [2]  
  •  The ‘softer’ side of Olympic legacy delivery, such as volunteering and cultural or physical activity underpinned by energising a generation of young people through sport, will be difficult to guarantee
  • Since 2005 when Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, promised his vision for the legacy there has been an economic crisis, a change from a Labour government to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and severe budget cuts  
  • This means that the legacy vision has been subject to financial cuts, contradictory decisions and moving targets.  A knock on effect of this is a lack of focus on certain elements of the legacy vision, for example on the value of coaching
  • A general conclusion from the evidence available is that just hosting an event is not enough to leave a legacy of sustainable sports development [3] and that there is a need for all stakeholders to engage in the process of leveraging legacy therefore it is important that the legacy vision remains strong despite other social and economic factors. 
  • In the years running up to, and following on from the Olympics, the Games can be used to inspire volunteering in the local community.  One example of this is the 25th hour campaign which includes Olympic related rewards to entice volunteers
  • Post 2012 there will be approximately 70,000 newly trained volunteers in the UK.  The skills, knowledge and experience they have acquired can be utilised for future volunteering, jobs, or further training
  • New facilities are being planned and constructed to host the Games, post Olympics some of these will provide new training spaces for sports clubs and individuals.  For some clubs, this will mean the potential to grow in size, for which the contributions of more volunteers will be highly important

Moving forward

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London represent an enormous opportunity for volunteering in the UK.  These have already started and will last far past 2012.  In order to maximise the opportunities, expectations around volunteering at the Olympics must be managed and alternative volunteering routes offered to unsuccessful applicants.  Games inspired volunteering opportunities need to be created and promoted prior to 2012, and processes must be put in place for skilled volunteers to easily continue to volunteer post 2012.     

  • How can your organisation help to promote voluntary roles and opportunities before the Games?  How can your organisation help to inspire people through the Olympic Games?  
  • What events could you run to promote your organisation and the volunteering roles available before, during and/or after the Olympics?
  • What skills have your current volunteers learnt from their roles that will help them for future voluntary or paid work, and in particular, if they were to volunteer at the Olympics?  How can you make these known to potential new volunteers?
  • What skills will those who have volunteered at the Olympics have which would be useful for your organisation?  How can you appeal to them and let them know about your voluntary roles?
  • What opportunities can you offer those who weren’t successful in their application to volunteer at the Olympics and how can you promote these?
  • What messages does your organisation give out about its volunteering roles?  Are they realistically balanced between hard work and reward?  Do they focus on a range of roles and opportunities?
  • What can your organisation do to help ensure that the ‘soft legacy’ is successfully delivered?
  • Is your organisation likely to be impacted by any of the facilities development for the Olympics? If so, how can you maximise the positive impacts?  Is there any way your organisation could be involved in the long term legacy of the facilities?
  • What lessons have been taken from previous Olympic host cities in their attempts to leave volunteering legacies?  Which of these are applicable to your organisation and what can you take from them?

Want to know more?

2010 Legacies Now

Published by: 2010 Legacies Now

Date: 2000

Format: Website

What is it? The website of an organisation that originated to support the bid in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.  Post Games, this organisation is now dedicated to developing community legacies beyond 2010 in British Columbia.  

How useful is this? This site is probably not directly relevant to many voluntary organisations, but it is easy to navigate and is an interesting source of reference to see how British Columbia is trying to make the most of their Olympic legacy.  As there have been no successful Olympic legacies established to date, referring to this website may help the voluntary community sector to shape its plans for the future.

London Volunteering Health Check: All fit for 2012?

Published by: The Institute for Volunteering Research

Date: 2008


What is it? A research report written for the London Development Agency to provide evidence for the nature of volunteering in London, the provision of support for volunteers, and the capacity of the local volunteering infrastructure.

How useful is this? The focus of this report is limited solely to London, but using a range of research methods it paints a detailed picture of the nature of volunteering in London, the amount of support that is provided for these volunteers, and how much capacity is left in the local volunteering infrastructure in London.  It considers all of this in light of what the 2012 Olympic Games will bring to volunteering in London, and also ask of it.  There are some good facts and figures on volunteering within this report too.   

Our Promise for 2012 How the UK will benefit from the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games

Published by: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? A document written by the 1997-2010 Labour Government detailing how hosting the Olympic Games in 2012 will create a truly world class sporting nation.

How useful is this? Some parts of this document are more useful than others, in particular, chapter three on inspiring a new generation of young people to take part in volunteering, cultural and physical activity.  None of the information is as applicable following the appointment of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government in 2010 but the document gives an insight into the Government’s perception and mindset surrounding the Olympic Legacy.

Creating Volunteering Opportunities inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Published by: Volunteering England and Youth Net

Date: 2010

Format: Online Paper

What is it? A six page guide to creating Games inspired volunteering opportunities

How useful is this?  Very useful, this document contains a lot of information in simple, easily digestible chunks.  It begins by defining what a Games inspired volunteer opportunity is, and then advises you on how you can create them.  Included in how to create these opportunities are details on how to devise volunteer opportunities, prepare for volunteer involvement, and a look at the opportunities out there which already exist.  This guide also provides useful links and places you can go to for further information.   


[1] Our Promise for 2012 How the UK will benefit from the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games -The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2010 [back]

[2] London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [back]

[3] A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base For Developing a Physical Activity and Health Legacy From the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games -Weed,M., Coren, E. and Fiore, J., 2009, Canterbury, SPEAR [back]

Last updated at 11:05 Tue 29/Mar/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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