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For some, multi-sport games like the Olympic Games and Pan/Parapan Am Games are a costly celebration of athleticism underscored with messages of peace and unity. However, for a growing number of sport organizers, the Games can be a catalyst for social change and a driver of economic development.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is a good example for becoming just such a catalyst.
To advance diversity and inclusion particularly as it relates to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, lesbian-, gay-, bisexual- or transgendered-identified (LGBT) peoples and members of visible minority groups, LOCOG hired Stephen Frost as the Head of Diversity and Inclusion for the Games, On April 23, a Toronto audience had the opportunity to hear more about the London strategy as part of the Diversity Business Network Conference.
LOCOG’s five diversity objectives are Business (supplier diversity), Workforce (jobs and volunteers), Service Delivery (accessibility and inclusive design), Communities (impact on local people) and Participants (impact on levels of participation in sport for under-represented groups). The Committee’s goal are genuinely inclusive Games, one where every venue is accessible to all, where the social and economic benefits are spread across the diversities of East London and the UK and where everyone has an opportunity to participate in the activities that accompany the Games.
The Committee’s objectives and Stephen’s role are made all the more impressive by the fact that LOCOG is a private sector company and therefore not bound to any legislative standard when it comes to diversity. For LOCOG it is about how members of the host community will benefit from the several billions of procurement dollars and how the organization will benefit from the talent present in communities across London. Naturally, with all of this at stake, competitive streaks surface. So when it came time for the question and answer period, I asked Stephen how LOCOG was building a culture of collaboration throughout London and across the U.K.
His response was simple: the Games are an opportunity to help build a stronger London. Everyone can play a part regardless of whether they are directly connected to the Games. Coming to the table in a spirit of collaboration is important to being able to scale the Games and its impact. From community service organizations disseminating job postings to their constituents to small- and medium-sized enterprises coming together to bid on the Games’ requests for proposals to the opportunity to showcase accessible vehicles, the Games can be the catalyst that brings a city region together to realize its potential.
As a member of TO2015, the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee, I found that Stephen’s presentation was especially inspiring and reinforced my belief in the potential of the Games to raise awareness of regional challenges and leverage latent opportunity. Looking out at the room of 200 people, I could see Toronto after the Games—networks of interconnected communities, businesses and young people, bound by the experience of helping to build a stronger Toronto region. These relationships, known in some spaces as social capital or social infrastructure, are as important to the legacy of the Games as physical infrastructure. Like London, we have an opportunity to do something very special in Toronto and as Stephen Frost so eloquently put it, “We accomplished this [economic impact for diverse communities] by creating partnerships and relationships…which are mutually beneficial and make business sense.”