LONDON — London Olympics organizers say along with a short-term economic boost and new sports facilities, the Games will leave a legacy in Britain of increased participation in sports and an improvement in public health.
It's hard to tell if sports centers will be more crowded after the Olympics, with Britons determined to be more fit. Opinions vary among Londoners near Olympic Park.
"People need to get that encouragement because it tends to be going the other way at the moment, with people sitting in front of [video] games all day," said one bystander.
The recent finals of the annual British university games at the new Olympic Stadium attracted a record number of participants.
"I think the Olympics being here is truly inspiring people to actually do something that they haven't done for a long time," said University sports official Karen Rothery.
That is in keeping with the kind of post-Games benefits the London Organizing Committee wants. It formed a separate company to plan for the legacy, and company official Peter Tudor says one goal is to get as many people as possible to use the new sports facilities.
"'Inspire A Generation' is the new motto of the Games, and we're very excited about that," Tudor said. "We are committed with the venues to programming them absolutely to the brim with sporting activities that people want to do. But also to encouraging people who have never tried sport before."
But there is no scientific evidence that the Olympics will make any long-term difference in sports participation says Professor Adam Blake at Bournemouth University School of Tourism.
"In terms of academic research on sports participation, it's really not as cut and dried and black and white as we would hope it would be. In previous events, there really wasn't much evidence either way," noted Blake.
Blake is planning more research after the Games.
In the meantime, people in Britain have been coming out in unexpectedly high numbers to catch a glimpse of the Olympic torch as it is carried around the country. Their enthusiasm indicates at least the potential to promote sports participation after the Games.