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Loughborough University hosts Spirit of 2012 Summit

Feet walking away from the camera with chalk drawings on the floor

In March, Loughborough University and Spirit of 2012 – London 2012’s social legacy funder – hosted a two-day interactive summit at the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine to discuss the use of sports and arts-based activities as catalysts for social change.

The Spirit of 2012 summit brought together a range of expertise from Loughborough University and external partners, including the Belong Network, Swim England, Activity Alliance, the National Paralympic Heritage Trust.

In total over 100 delegates brought their own insightful professional and personal experiences when contributing to three interactive sessions and the larger research seminar.

The inclusivity of digital spaces

The first session of the summit focused on the inclusivity of digital spaces and how they are used to interact with different groups.

In these discussions, many focused on the evolution and variety of digital spaces, as well looking ahead to further developments. The group agreed that digital spaces can be a fantastic resource to engage and educate individuals, and noted the acceleration of this since the pandemic.

However, the barriers which certain groups face in accessing these digital spaces were raised as an area where improvement is needed. Associated risks in using digital spaces were also raised, especially in relation to the need to use digital spaces as a means to enhance the physical interactions we experience – not to replace them.

Perceptions and attitudes towards disability

Day two began with group discussions on perceptions and attitudes towards disability. Contributors highlighted the progress we have made in attitudes to para sport, with London 2012 being a key reference point as a catalyst for change.

However, many highlighted specific examples where there is still work to be done. This included a focus on the wider participation levels in para sport, where contributors felt there is currently a larger emphasis on the elite level.

As part of this session, the external partners received a tour of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport which gave them an opportunity to see first-hand the world leading research carried out in the Centre.

The role of events as a catalyst for social change

Over lunch, Amy Finch and Ruth Hollis contributed to a panel discussion for the Sport, Business and Society Research Seminar Series, chaired by Verity Postlethwaite.

The discussion focused on the role of events as a catalyst for social change, with points that shed light on the opportunities and challenges of trying to achieve catalytic change.

Audience members raised a number of valuable questions, including how memory making can be captured from events and what is next for the UK events sector and understanding through Spirit of 2012’s learnings how to better harness events as catalysts for social change.

A version of this discussion has been captured for the Experts in Sport Podcast series.

UK Capital of Sport

The final session focused on the live feasibility study looking at the potential of a UK Capital of Sport, which was announced in September 2023. The study is being delivered by Loughborough University in collaboration with Spirit of 2012 and Counsel.

Groups considered the concept of a Capital of Sport from the perspectives of different groups, and the different forms that a ‘Capital of Sport’ could take.

Drawing from their experiences of being involved in large sporting and cultural events, contributors were able to offer their opinion on what they thought may work and any pitfalls to be mindful of. The project team is currently looking for more views on what a UK Capital of Sport may look like, please contribute your views via this online survey.

Loughborough University was recently announced as Spirit of 2012’s final “learning partner” for a project around inclusion and digital storytelling. Spirit awarded the contact to Loughborough University as they sought out a partner who strongly aligned with their purpose, as they seek to learn lessons from their work of the past 10 years before closure in 2026.

Ways to engage with the Spirit of 2012 project

Loughborough University’s Verity Postlethwaite, who organised the event, said: “What a fantastic couple of days, we decided to use everyone’s valuable time to create interactive sessions and foster discussion. I am truly amazed to how well this format worked, and very grateful to all the partners involved.

“Please look out for more ways to engage with our projects and research in the coming months, I will be giving a public talk in September and hope to keep the conversations about legacy and impact of events going.”

Amy Finch, Head of Policy & Impact at Spirit of 2012 said: “Thank you so much for organising and running the event over the past couple of days. It was great to have the opportunity to speak to so many people across the university, and understand more about related work. It felt exactly in the spirit of the learning partnership, a real chance to embed and share learning.”

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