As well as showcasing our universities, the 2012 Olympic Games are a chance to promote social inclusion among all cultures and classes, writes Michael Driscoll
The 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games present a unique opportunity for higher education institutions in the capital to display their strengths to a worldwide audience. Whether through showcasing talent during the cultural festival, raising aspirations and encouraging greater participation in sport and education, generating technological advancement or supporting elite athletes, London's universities and colleges have a once-in-a-generation chance to contribute.
Universities were involved in winning the bid to host the 2012 Games for London. The bid included a commitment to provide more than 12,000 beds for visitors, media and volunteers. Once the bid was won, the hard work began, both to support the London Organising Committee to deliver the best Games yet and to ensure a lasting legacy. The Games are not just about sport. All of London's higher education institutions will seek to harness the motivational power and spirit of the 2012 Games to spearhead a multitude of strategies and campaigns. The four-year Cultural Olympiad starts in 2008.
London's universities and colleges will help to design and organise the array of festivals that will take place, as well as supply and train many of the people involved.
London is also the most diverse city in the world, and this will be celebrated, with its students having a major part to play. There are nearly 100,000 international students from more than 200 different countries speaking 300-plus languages. Furthermore, university students and staff will feature strongly among the 70,000 volunteers.
Previous Olympic Games have been drivers of sporting and technological innovation for their host cities and nations. With more than 22,000 researchers, London's universities are ideally positioned to provide world-class expertise to ensure that the Games are technologically innovative and contribute to sustainable regeneration for London and the UK in the years after 2012.
This is a wonderful one-off chance to improve social inclusion, and collaboration with schools, further education colleges, community organisations and business will be essential.
Sport, driven by the 2012 Games, can also be used by higher education institutions and partners as a tool to encourage healthy lifestyles. The excitement generated can capture a new generation of accredited volunteers, and funding and investment can revitalise existing sports facilities. All these will be key to securing an achievable legacy for higher education, London and its people.
London Higher, the regional higher education association for London, will help co-ordinate higher education's support for the 2012 Games so that, when the eyes of the world turn to focus on the capital, the sector will shine brightly on an exhilarating global stage.