Opening Ceremony in Hyde Park
Figures just released reveal the contribution made by UK churches to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be ‘the largest ever’. The announcement comes from More Than Gold, the agency set up so churches could make the most of the Games.
The scale of church involvement included more than 13,000 hours of voluntary service to travellers. This came from a team of 300 Games Pastors at ten major rail stations, two airports, a coach station and key tourist sites. They offered help and comfort for everything from a lost contact lens to someone considering taking their own life.
Meanwhile, family members of athletes enjoyed more than 2,000 nights of free hospitality. This involved 160 hosts welcoming 280 guests from more than 20 countries. The athletes supported won a total of 45 medals, includingeight golds.
The largest statistic released is the estimated 500,000 people attending community events run by churches. These included big screen festivals for the opening and closing ceremonies, family fun days and sport-based children’s clubs. This number was far greater than anticipated. South Buckinghamshire churches had expected 2,500 for their Run the Race festival but around 6,500 turned up. Isle of Dogs churches planned a festival for 500, with 4,000 turning up. Churches in Purley, Surrey catered for 400 and had to rush out for more supplies when almost double the number came.
David Willson, CEO of More Than Gold says, ‘This is by far the largest contribution from churches to any Olympics. Thousands of Christians stepped up to the mark, working together to engage with their communities and welcome visitors to a level never seen at any previous Games’.
The role of the churches included giving out 500 000 bottles of water to visitors. And distributing 9,100 cups of water given during the three marathons.
Also on offer were 440 hours of free live performance, 233 hours of street art and 434 days of exhibitions. This came from 30 teams of musicians and creative artists, involving over 350 people from 30 nations in 40 venues.
The UK churches didn’t do all this unaided. Working alongside them were over 2,100 mission and service volunteers who came from 40 countries.
‘This has been more than great news for the Olympics, travellers, athlete family members,’ says David Willson. ‘It has also been a very positive experience for the churches themselves. Many have been seen in a new light by their communities, now have a new sense of confidence, and are experiencing more people taking an interest in what they offer’.
Source: More Than Gold