The South's £400m Olympic Legacy
10:00am Sunday 19th August 2012
We have seen amazing feats of physical strength, endurance and spirit.
Whether it was Mo Farah’s incredible sprint for the line in the 5,000 metres or Britain’s cycling team smashing world record after world record, our national pride is certainly soaring.
But it seems Hampshire’s economy could soon be reaching the same great heights, with the Olympics set to bring £400m to the region in the next four years.
The huge economic boost comes as the Daily Echo launches its Spirit of 2012 campaign, encouraging people to be inspired by the successes of the sporting event.
And our investigation into the impact of the Games reveals that leisure centres and sports clubs in the county are already seeing a massive rise in Olympic-related business .
Leisure centres in the New Forest have had a record month for membership uptake, with an increase of 8.5 per cent compared to July |last year.
• Swimming pools in Southampton are seeing between six and seven per cent more people attending than at the same time last year.
• Fleming Park Leisure Centre in Eastleigh has achieved 168 per cent of its membership sales target for the month.
• Bitterne Park Leisure Centre has signed up more than 200 people in the last month, which is the best monthly result for around two years.
• River Park in Winchester signed up 131 per cent of their target for sales for the month.
• Fareham Leisure Centre has seen ten per cent more people at its exercise classes and is reaching capacity in the swimming pool on a daily basis.
The incredible surge in Hampshire residents getting active has been put down to the dozens of new British sporting legends created at the Olympics.
Hundreds cheered gold medallist Dani King on her homecoming to Hamble this week – with the cycling star saying she would be happy if just one person was inspired to take up sport because of her success.
But the research reveals that plenty more have been spurred on to get fit since Britain won 29 Olympic gold medals - and leisure centres are seeing a huge impact from the Games.
Jo Parker, manager of Fleming Park Leisure Centre, said: “We have sold more memberships than we have ever sold in a month, when normally we struggle to get to our sales target.
“We have also had a staggering amount of people coming in for swimming - our free swimming sessions for under-12s have been packed.
“We're trying to push our customers in the group exercise classes - telling them: 'We're not going for bronze, we're going for gold.' It's been brilliant.”
Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne said he welcomed the surge in uptake of sports activities.
He said: “This upswing in interest after the Olympics is fantastic, and is a real testament to the dedication and success of our Olympic athletes, like Hamble's very own Dani King, who have inspired people from all generations to get out there and be involved in sport.”
Fareham Leisure Centre said it had seen a noticeable increase in children taking up new sports.
Centre manager Ian Cook said: “Families and children in particular are being more active.
“We've had 200 more kids attending our summer holiday play scheme this year, and they've all been keen to try out new Olympic sports and emulate the success of their Olympic heroes.
“Swimming lessons are also proving even more popular than usual, with 50 per cent more kids signed up than last year.”
But the financial boost is not only going to be for sports clubs and businesses, according to economic experts.
Accountants at James Cowper have calculated that the region will get a £400m share of the nation's estimated £13billion Olympic economic legacy.
They say the figure is based on the expected benefits amassed from export orders, inward investments and an upsurge in tourism.
And they say the final figure may even exceed their estimates.
Business services partner Mike Farwell said: “The overall figure could be even higher if you also take into account the much discussed feelgood factor and new impetus for volunteering.
“The Games have been an enormously successful UK marketing campaign, and my advice to businesses is to take confidence from this and urgently consider how they can harness the Olympic momentum.”