Sir Keith Mills: 10-year anniversary of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games
By Sported | 27th July 2022
By Sported | 27th July 2022
Sir Keith Mills ran the British bid for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games with Lord Sebastian Coe back in the early 2000s, and during that bidding process saw firsthand the impact that sport has on local communities. The experiences he had during the bidding process went on to shape the narrative and the desire that the Games should leave a legacy for the next generation.
“What really brought it home was when we went out to the East End of London in 2003 and we did a number of things to get the community engaged with the fact that this huge development was going to happen on their doorstep. We allocated some money and we put in place some sports projects – funding some sports halls, basketball coaching, football coaching and gave some money to local clubs.
The feedback we got from the police and the local authorities after about a year was that these small interventions had made a big difference. Street crime had dropped. For me that was when the penny dropped.
That sport was not just about Olympic medals and the highly paid sport in the way sport is portrayed in the media. I saw firsthand that the impact on communities of community sport was pretty significant. “
“And so, we started to build our bid narrative around ‘inspiring the next generation through sport’. For the final part of the bid, the remaining five cities were invited to Singapore to give a final presentation and we took 35 young people from East London. Halfway through our presentation to the International Olympic Committee, we said ‘if you give London the right to host the Olympics in London in 2012, we will use it to inspire the next generation’.
We brought the young people to show what the Olympics should be about. That was our core pitch. Very powerful. We won the bid and then set about a seven-year journey to get ready for the Games. The core focus of the organization I co-chaired with Seb Coe, was to do something very tangible to make sure the Games delivered on inspiring the next generation. I started two initiatives – one an international initiative and the other was Sported. “
“In 2008 I sold one of my companies for a lot of money – so I took £10m and put it in a foundation for sport and young people, not really knowing at that stage what it would be.
I employed first the Chief Exec, who spent 6 months looking at the UK market to identify where the need was. She looked at school sport, disability sport, women’s sport, sports science, sports medicine – a whole range of stuff. She came back and said ‘to be honest, the biggest need is that there are thousands community sports clubs in the UK – no one knows how many there are – and they are all struggling, and nobody helps them.
“So that they could learn, they started by employing three regional managers – one in London, one in the West Country and one in the Midlands. They ran those three area managers for a year just to understand what the needs of the clubs were. They all had different problems, from problems with their leases, problems with equipment, problems with volunteers. There was a whole range of problems.
One thing they learned was that there was no one solution. They went on to establish a network of regional managers and then a network of volunteer helpers – mentors effectively, that could go in and help each of these clubs solve what ever the problem was. And that was the basis on which Sported started.