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Appendix 6: The Cultural Olympiad Briefing Note

Date Notified

Dec 2008


Cultural Olympiad


  • The Cultural Olympiad was launched with the Open Weekend on 26-28 September 2008 and runs until the end of the Games in 2012. It will showcase the country’s arts and culture to the rest of the world (see

  • The aim is to deliver a programme of events, festivals, projects and programmes that will provide one of the most visual and tangible examples of the opportunities London 2012 has to offer - engaging new audiences, not just in the build up to 2012, but also sustaining interest and participation in the long term.


The Cultural Olympiad divides into three sections:

  1. Ceremonies – extraordinary live spectacles watched on television by one in three people around the world.

  2. Major projects – A number of major cultural projects featured in the London 2012 bid, forming the backbone of the Cultural Olympiad.

  3. Inspire mark projects – local and regional events featuring in our UK-wide celebration

The major projects will form the centrepiece of the Cultural Olympiad. These major National projects will be phased over the coming four years (see below)


The Cultural Olympiad will: 

  • Inspire and involve the widest range of London and UK-wide communities;

  • Inspire and involve young people; and

  • Generate sustainable long-term benefits to our cultural life

  • Create outstanding moments of creative excellence across the full range of performing arts and creative industries

  • Connect future generations with the UK’s artistic communities and with their peers around the world

  • Drive tourism and inward investment and use the creative industries to boost economic regeneration; and

  • Embrace the Olympic movement values of ‘excellence, respect and friendship’ and the Paralympic movement vision to ‘empower, achieve, inspire’

  • Generate a positive legacy – for example through cultural and sports participation, audience development, cultural skills, capacity building, urban regeneration, tourism and social cohesion and international links

Summary of the 10 Major National Projects

The focus of nine of the projects is on arts/culture. Discovering Places aims to engage young people in the natural environment as a source of inspiration for culture and sport.






Artists Taking the Lead

12 Major public art commissions

One commission per region

(WM = £500k)

Emerging artists, local communities, students

To be launched Spring 2009

Stories of the World

12 major exhibitions in museums and galleries and unusual places e.g. train stations

UK Wide

Young people 8 – 18

Museum and gallery visitors

Launching Oct 2008

2012 Sounds

Young people selected to perform in “The Band” & “The Choir”

UK wide – local and regional workshops

Young people 8 - 18

Launching Oct 2008

Film and Video Nation

Film Competition; Special Commissions: Content for Live Sites: Major 2012 Film Festival

All UK regions; On-line; Cinemas; Live Sites

Young people 11 – 18

International film makers

Launching 2009

Discovering Places*

Access to unusual places for everyone chosen by young people and a programme of sports heritage activity, plus exploring natural places

UK wide places e.g. Radio One; design houses; music studios, natural spaces, sports collections

Young people 14 – 19

2010 – 2012


Programme of art, performance and sport from leading disabled artists in collaboration with disability sports

UK wide performances and commissions, £750k committed nationally so far

Disabled artists; general audience

2009 – 2012


2 week carnival preceded by 2 year regional programme of carnival events

UK wide

International carnival artists; local communities

2010 – 2012

Somewhere To

Programme of activity determined and delivered by young people

Initially 3 pilot areas: Crewe, Newham and Birmingham. Then UK wide

Young people 14 – 20

2009 – 2012 and beyond

World Shakespeare Festival

International Performance programme

Stratford, London and Newcastle

Young people 16 – 22; theatre audiences

2009 - 2012

Discovering Places (* more info)

  • The main reason for taking part is that it enables public and voluntary organisations to reach new audiences through the LOCOG promotional machinery (this will be significant - through the LOCOG website, press and media. Local press will also follow through)

  • There are no new resources for delivering the Discovering Places project. In other county’s partner organisations are using their own budgets and where possible, working to secure match funding. It is possible that one of the London 2012 sponsors might want to support Discovering Places, but there are no guarantees

Action Required

  • Start planning now in order to seize and make the most of the potential benefits

Potential Benefits

(Part 1)

  • Working with new audiences, trying new mediums and forging partnerships where there just wasn’t the impetus to previously.

  • Promotion and profile (status)

  • Connection with a new and broader target audience thought the inspiration of the Olympic brand

  • Opportunity for creative thinking and to promote activities in new and unusual venues

  • Inspiration of the Games can be a catalyst for enhancing existing programmes and plans and a vehicle to support delivery plans. For example – a number of the LAA targets

Potential Benefits

(Part 2)

What can councils offer the Cultural Olympiad?  

  • Most of our cultural infrastructure is local, not regional or national. Local government controls the majority of the resources that can be aligned with the Cultural Olympiad at the local level.  Every year local government spends about £2billion on cultural, sport, tourism, leisure and recreation services.  Local government is the second largest funder of the arts after the Arts Council

  • Local government is at the heart of harnessing the transformational potential of culture and that is why councils have a critical role to play in ensuring that every community in the UK plays its part in the Cultural Olympiad

  • Councils can provide expertise on using culture in its widest sense to engage young people and other harder to reach communities with the Cultural Olympiad

  • Councils are also ideally placed to make the local connections between, for example, culture and sports participation, and culture and community involvement   


The Cultural Olympiad will reflect and support a number of themes. It will:

  • Bring together culture and sport

  • Encourage audiences to take part

  • Animate and humanise public spaces – through street theatre, public art, circus skills, live big screen sites

  • Use culture and sport to raise issues of environmental sustainability, health and well-being

  • Honour and share the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

  • Ignite cutting edge collaborations and innovation between communities and cultural sectors; and

  • Enhance the learning, skills and personal development of young people by linking with our education programmes.

Key Contacts

  • In September 2007 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport appointed the West Midlands Creative Programmer. With the support of key regional agencies in the cultural sector the Creative Programmer will develop plans for the delivery of an inspiring Cultural Olympiad, which will generate a sustainable legacy of participation in cultural activities.

  • Paul Kaynes the West Midlands Creative Programmer:

  • Worcestershire 2012 Opportunities Coordinator: Peter Turvey



(How can local Gov’t get involved?)

  • In most instances there won’t be extra funding available to support local Cultural Olympiad activities so the realignment of some current resources will be necessary in supporting the Cultural Olympiad. Therefore councils need to be proactive in identifying what can be achieved within existing resources.  For example, by incorporating the Cultural Olympiad values into your area’s existing cultural offer, or giving planned cultural events an Olympics-related theme or twist

  • Find out plans for regional cultural activity from your Regional Creative Programmer (RCP), feed in local cultural priorities from your local plans, and identify how your council might be able to get involved to boost local cultural participation.

  • Put forward a local cultural project for the Inspire Mark.  If the application is successful the project will receive official recognition that it’s been inspired by the Olympic and Paralympic values and be able to use the Inspire Mark branding.  Apply to your Regional Creative Programmer

  • Identify potential links to other projects, such as the National Year of Reading 

  • Note: The Legacy Trust UK has allocated £2.2 million to the West Midlands to develop dance opportunities and deliver Community Olympian Games across the Region and this provides an opportunity to draw down resources to support the delivery of the Cultural Olympiad (See ‘Legacy Trust’ Briefing Sheet)

Best Practice

What are councils already doing? 

  • Many councils are already thinking about how they might use the Games to spark new interest in culture and councils have already made a major contribution towards the Cultural Olympiad by making possible a large proportion of the 600 events nationwide for the Open Up weekend, September 26-28.

  • Examples include:

  • Kent invited young people to join an international community of young story tellers to make a film about what the Games mean to a young person in Kent

  • The Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the main theme of Worcestershire’s “Museum on the Move” in 2009

  • Hampshire is exploring linking its existing food festivals to the Games 

  • Brighton & Hove City Council is working with a range of partners to develop a spectacular arts and culture programme in the lead up to 2012, further establishing Brighton & Hove as a vibrant place to live and visit

  • 2012 is the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth and Kent County Council is working with Medway District Council and Portsmouth City Council on how best to maximise the Dickens effect – tying it in with the Cultural Olympiad’s literature programme  

  • Olympic Handover Festival (see separate Briefing Note for a summary of this in Worcestershire), on the weekend of 26th to 28th Sept - over 40 events across the West Midlands took place as part of the Cultural Olympiad Open Weekend; ranging from rare natural habitats and venues opening their usually closed doors to the public; to outdoor theatrical performances; community arts trails; artists opening their work spaces to the public; dance; music and story-telling.

  • Full details of Cultural Olympiad Open Weekend events in the West Midlands can be found at Get involved: Find an event - London 2012

  • A “Light up Dover” event was hailed a huge success attracting crowds of well over the 5,000

Maybe of Interest

  • William Penny Brookes was the founder of the Wenlock Olympian Games and the direct inspiration for the modern Olympics. His vision - of a Games which included both sport and the arts - inspired Pierre de Coubertin, when he visited the Games in Much Wenlock in 1890, to found the modern Olympics as a celebration of both sporting and artistic excellence. It’s that inspirational vision we’re rekindling with the Cultural Olympiad.
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