Panathlon has been hailed as “summing up what the Olympic and Paralympic legacy is all about” by the manager of the London 2012 Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena venues.

The last few months has seen the long-awaited return of external Panathlon swimming galas to the London 2012 Aquatics Centre after a hiatus of almost two years due to Covid-19.

Panathlon’s traditional swimming competition format has been augmented by our new Discovery galas, which cater for non-swimmers and those whose water competence and confidence has lapsed through the pandemic.

Russ Barnes, Partnership Manager at GLL (who manage the sports venues at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park), watched last week’s Panathlon Essex Primary Discovery Gala with pride from his poolside office and couldn’t resist offering to present medals, certificates and trophies afterwards to the pupils. He was blown away by what he saw.

Russ Barnes with Aquatics Centre assistant manager Paige Steel and a pupil from the winning Mary Hare School team at our recent Panathlon Deaf Swimming Gala at the Aquatics Centre

“This is absolutely fantastic for these children and sums up everything our post-2012 journey was supposed to be about,” he said.

“Being based here every day, I sometimes lose my appreciation of what an iconic venue this is, but seeing these guys come in and go, ‘Wow!’ it reminds me how important its legacy is in engaging children and showing them what they can achieve.

“But while we can benefit Panathlon, the charity gives us a lot back in return. Everything we do with Panathlon across our GLL venues is massively important. It gives us engagement with children and schools who we may otherwise not come into contact with, so our Olympic and Paralympic legacy can spread even wider, even 10 years on from the Games.”

The Mary Hare School pose on the London 2012 Aquatics Centre diving board

After posing for pictures with the winning team from Matching Green Primary School on the diving board where Tom Daley won his Olympic bronze, Mr Barnes added: “You still hear scepticism about the legacy the Olympics provided, but no-one who saw the smiles on these children’s faces today as they received their medals can be in any doubt about the impact on them.

“I want them to feel that this experience has given them the confidence to go on to something next, whether that’s developing their swimming or trying other sports.”

He added: “Whilst we as an organisation have aspirations for elite sport, the process to go athletes to the very top has to start somewhere. That starting point is here, thanks to the work that’s done by organisations like Panathlon. It is absolutely outstanding and it’s a pleasure to see you enjoying our venue.”

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “It is great to have such accommodating staff at such a prestigious venue supporting us in getting swimming back on schools’ agenda. Added value has come from the venue in a variety of ways, not least their kind gift of pool floor tiles signed by Team GB divers who train at the Aquatics Centre for our winning teams!”