sports gazette

An Unseen London 2012 Legacy

Published: 1 Nov 2016

London 2012 pledged to leave a positive legacy, but what has it got to show for itself four years on?

There's no question that the home Games left a physical mark, particularly on East London. 

The stage upon which Super Saturday and the triumphs of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford occurred has now been transformed into the home of Premier League side West Ham.

Seb Coe announced his desire to set out to encourage and noticeably increase involvement in sports, particularly among the younger generation. 

Speaking at the unveiling, he told Sky Sports: "It is the heartbeat, the very DNA of this organisation and a rallying cry for the athletes to come to the UK to perform at their very best and inspire the world."

There was much backlash and public criticism from the media after participation figures of young people in sport showed a decline, especially in April 2013. 

But nobody could have anticipated the impact on members of a much older generation.

Meet Gillian Lurie and Jean Glover…

After Gill underwent a hip replacement operation and was under doctor’s orders to rest for an hour each afternoon during the London 2012 Paralympics, she switched on the television to fill her time and fell across wheelchair rugby.

Having never seen it before and not knowing what it was, herself and friend Jean, both in their 70s, thought it was absolutely wonderful so then hunted round to see where they could continue to follow it.

Not keen on driving too far from their hometown of Margate, they were disappointed to discover one of the nearest clubs at the time was in Stoke Mandeville.

Uncovering the equivalent of the now BT Super Series Division 2 was being held at Gillingham, they took themselves off for a couple of days and went to watch it.

People they met at the event were all absolutely astounded to find that the two ladies were real supporters because the vast majority of the time the only supporters who attend are family or friends.

Jean said: “We watch it, not because it’s disabled, but because it’s a damn good game.

We watch it, not because it’s disabled, but because it’s a damn good game.

“I'm more enthusiastic about this than anything else.

“It’s violent; you can shout; it’s quick and fast moving.

“Each game is in four quarters – it’s manageable.”

After Canterbury Hellfire was founded in 2014, Gill and Jean became their first real supporters and try to attend at least two events a year.

Dubbing themselves the ‘team grannies’, they exude enthusiasm and have no inhibitions whatsoever when it comes to roaring their team on to glory.

Committed, passionate and generous, the ladies even sponsor the side and some of the money donated helped to buy spare wheels – a crucial investment considering how many punctures the players get each game!

Canterbury are now going from strength to strength, coming top in the BT Super Series 1 Div 2 opening weekend, and the ladies are hoping the side will secure promotion this campaign.

Vibrant, vociferous, kitted out in their team shirts and armed with padded seat cushions, as long as they are able, Gill and Jean will continue making 400-mile round trips like this weekend’s.

None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for London 2012 educating, inspiring and encouraging voluntary participation in, and appreciation of, sports.

Although there is still plenty to be done in terms of engaging people in sport, Gill and Jean prove that London 2012 did have a long-lasting and memorable, if unexpected, impact.

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