Will Yorkshire's Olympic success at London 2012 have a lasting impact?

PUBLISHED: 19:03 26 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:58 20 February 2013

Will Yorkshire's Olympic success at London 2012 have a lasting impact?

Will Yorkshire's Olympic success at London 2012 have a lasting impact?

London 2012 is over but will Yorkshire's Olympic success have a lasting impact? Chris Titley investigates Photography by Joan Russell

Yorkshires famously warm welcome turned white hot as our Olympic heroes returned. Thousands of people turned out to cheer the medallists on their arrival from London 2012.

In Sheffield they painted the trees gold to make Jessica Ennis feel at home. More than 10,000 people poured into the city centre to see the heptathlete champion. They even unveiled an 80ft-high image of her on the outside of the John Lewis store fitting for someone long acclaimed as the poster girl of the Games.

A huge crowd gathered in Leeds Millennium Square to acclaim the first British siblings to stand on the same Olympic podium in more than a century: champion triathlete Alistair Brownlee and his bronze-winning brother Jonathan.

And most of the population of Otley in West Yorkshire, turned out to see Team GBs first medallist, cyclist Lizzie Armistead, as she took an open-top bus tour of her home town.

You can see today theres plenty of people obviously interested in sport and thats what Im passionate about, she told reporters. I hope the young people in Otley can get given a chance and pursue any dreams they may have.

And that is where thoughts are turning now how can Yorkshire make the most of its quite extraordinary Olympic achievement?

The scale of that achievement is summed up by Tom Cowie of Yorkshire Gold. Weve been very pleased with the results of Team Yorkshire, as we affectionately started calling our athletes. They did incredibly well, he said.

A large part of the team one in seven of Team GB trained in Yorkshire. All in all, we provided an awful lot of athletes in the Olympic Park.

And they delivered enough medals to put Yorkshire 12th in the world if it were an autonomous state.

Yorkshire Gold was set up to maximise the opportunities presented to the region by the Olympics and Paralympics. That includes everything from helping local firms win Olympic contracts, to encouraging more sporting activity, to boosting tourism.

Work on that latter aim is already at full tilt. Tourism body Welcome To Yorkshire produced a map showing where all our medallists were from.
At the end of the Games, Visit York brought 12 journalists from international news organisations up from London to showcase the citys charms.

We fully expect people inspired by the achievements of our brilliant athletes to come to the county that has competed like a country in London, said Gary Verity, chair of Yorkshire Gold and chief executive of Welcome To Yorkshire.

What about non-tourist businesses? They too have prospered.
More than 230 companies from across the region have won contracts from the Games collectively worth 74 million, according to Yorkshire Gold.

That leaves us to consider the health and fitness of Yorkshiremen and women. Based on what Yorkshire Gold is hearing from the various sporting partnerships and councils it supports, there has definitely been an Olympic effect.

From the initial impressions and feedback weve had from some of those projects, weve had a huge increase in take up, said Tom Cowie. Going by anecdotal evidence it looks like we are definitely seeing an increase in participation.

Tom spearheads the Inspire Programme, which supports non-commercial organisations with projects galvanised by London 2012. More than 180 such projects have been set up, ranging from Walk The History Of The Games, which has encouraged about 150,000 West Yorkshire children to walk to school, to the Care Home Games, where East Yorkshire care homes put on activities like boccia and chair aerobics for their elderly residents.

Tom is hopeful these wont come to a shuddering halt just because the Olympics have finished.

A lot of our projects have every intention of continuing their programmes long after the Games have officially wrapped up. It is absolutely essential that these projects and activities are maintained in the longer term, so there is a legacy from the Games and everyone has an opportunity to continue with their chosen activities.

Across the region you can find community activities which have been inspired by the Games. In Sheffield, the sporting city, the six-year-old SAYLs scheme Sheffield Academy of Young Leaders recruited a team of teenagers to be volleyball courtside assistants at London 2012.

The experience will no doubt bolsters SAYLs aim to help develop Yorkshires leaders of tomorrow.

Hearty Lives Hull, a joint project between the British Heart Foundation, city council and the NHS, is all about persuading people to change to a healthier lifestyle.

Outdoor gyms called adiZones, a number of which opened to coincide with the London Games, have helped to boost that ambition.

An innovative womens boxing project in Bradford, a schools-based campaign to encourage rowing in York, an Olympic-themed summer activity programme in Kirklees it seems London 2012 has had a positive impact across Yorkshire.

Weve done exceptionally well considering how far away we are from London itself, said Tom.

Weve had a great experience with the Games and hope that this enthusiasm continues into the future and on the run-up to the Commonwealth Games 2014.

Photography by Joan Russell

Latest from the Yorkshire Life