The Olympic Games – cultural event or anachronism?

As the fireworks fade away and London 2012 gets underway in earnest, Karen Canty, head of news, the Future Foundation, questions how relevant the modern Olympiad is to society.

The Future Foundation trend Magic Nostalgic speaks to a simpler time, when goods were better, people were happier and the sun shone brighter. And it would seem that for some, the Olympic Games are not exempt from this nostalgia – research conducted in June 2012 by the Future Foundation reveals that nearly half of British citizens feel the Olympics are not as relevant to society as they once were (nVision Research – Base: 1,000 online respondents aged 16+, GB).This fondness for a mythical happier time – an emotion particularly strongly held by older consumers – leads almost half of citizens aged 55+ (47 per cent) and those who are retired (49 per cent) to express their belief that the Olympics have lost their sparkle in recent years. Previous Future Foundation research also reveals that a quarter of 55+ year olds agree that the phrase ‘Made in Britain’ symbolises ‘not as good as it used to be’. So does this mean the Olympic Games are becoming an anachronism, a glittering glance back at former greatness? We rather think not.It is undeniable that 2012 is a huge year for Great Britain and the palpable excitement we’re seeing at events such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics is testament to our love of celebration. And it is not just big events either – more and more, we seek out more personalised, localised events that cater to our specific needs and desires. As the Future Foundation trend Everyday Exceptional demonstrates, consumers are more willing than ever to turn every day into a cause for celebration. This may also go some way to explaining why the younger generation is far more positive about the Olympics, with less than a third (31 per cent) of 35-44 year olds and 36 per cent of 25-34 year olds agreeing that they are less relevant. National PrideNational pride is an important factor in British sentiment towards the Olympics – while only 13 per cent care about how many medals Team GB brings home, nearly half (46 per cent) believe it is crucial that Britain is viewed positively as a host country; 2 in 10 (21 per cent), meanwhile, want the world to see us putting on the best show possible. Highlighting the devolution debate, Scotland lags behind the rest of the country in support of Team GB – while 46 per cent of people nationally think it is more important that Britain is viewed well as a host country, only 37 per cent of Scots agree. This chimes strongly with other Future Foundation research, where we see that it is only 17 per cent of those in Scotland who agree that the phrase “Made in Britain” ‘makes me feel proud’. The same figure for London stands at 35 per cent. In the year in which we have accelerated towards a referendum on Scottish independence, is this yet further evidence of the shifting character of the United Kingdom?Key statistics
  • 24 per cent of Twitter users and 27 per cent of Google+ users are planning to share news of the Olympics via social media – compared to 16 per cent of Facebook users (nVision Research – Base: 1,000 online respondents aged 16+, GB)
  • 40 per cent of British people feel the Olympic Games are not as relevant to society as once they were – rising to 47 per cent of 55+ (nVision Research – Base: 1,000 online respondents aged 16+, GB). Will the real-time revolution reverse this?
  • Two in ten Londoners plan to use social media to broadcast Games-related updates (nVision Research – Base: 1,000 online respondents aged 16+, GB)

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