Rio Can Deliver a Lasting Legacy to the UK Economy

10/08/2016 15:19 | Updated 10 August 2016

Genetics, social background or simply born brilliance: what is it that allows someone to compete on the biggest sporting stage of all?

The truth: it's none of the above.

Yes, certain individuals will be built for a particular sport. Yes, access to leading advancements in sports science will provide marginal gains. Yes, having the world's best coach will refine performance.

However, all of this is irrelevant if that person fails to demonstrate a set of core attitudes and values needed to achieve at the highest level.

Listen carefully to the interviews of medallists during these Rio Games and you'll very quickly see a consistent theme running throughout. The words 'motivation', 'focus', 'determination' and 'resilience' will be repeated over and over again.

I've seen first-hand the enormous sacrifices athletes make over a four-year period to board that plane: particularly their phenomenal ability to deal with setbacks and come back fighting; more determined than ever before.

British Olympic Javelin thrower Goldie Sayers sums this up perfectly, saying: "Success is a decision not a gift. Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference."

Equally after his 2012 triumph Sir Chris Hoy commented: "Anyone can achieve great things in their lives if they are willing to work hard, make sacrifices, and dedicate themselves to the dream they have."

This is not just a cliché or rhetoric for the media. What we are watching in Rio is much more than simply a display of sporting excellence; instead it's a lesson in the art of high performance.

Importantly, high performance transcends sport. It applies within all walks of life. If someone can demonstrate a core set of attitudes and values on a track, field or pool, there's an extremely high chance (with appropriate re-training) that they'll be able to replicate this on a new set of goals outside the sporting arena.

The vast majority of athletes have something called 'growth mindset', which means they believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are not simply fixed traits and can be developed.

It is only through growth mindset that athletes can reach the highest level.

This year Team GB's squad consists of 366 Olympians and 258 Paralympians. A percentage of these will be exploring life beyond sport after this summer's Games and eventually all will be required to pursue alternative career paths.

It was back in 2008 on the eve of the Beijing Games when Dame Kelly Holmes realised something: if world class athletes can be effectively supported beyond sport, they could benefit society enormously.

If we could harness all their high performing attitudes and qualities, they can deliver a lasting legacy.

As a result of this vision, over the past eight years the work of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust has transformed the lives of thousands of young people facing disadvantage across the UK. It's also delivered far reaching benefits to local communities and the wider economy.

However, mentorship is only one potential avenue for world class athletes to benefit the economy in their lives beyond sport.

New research about to be published from Stirling University will prove that this group are extremely high performing in the workplace. Specifically they are more confident, proactive and determined to bring about meaningful change than those around them.

Professor David Lavalle, an expert in the field of athlete transition, also highlights the potential of athletes to be "future leaders and influencers" and deliver indirect benefits to the performance of their colleagues. This leads to the whole team raising their game.

We began in 2012 after London to tap into this 'wasted workforce' (as I like to call it), yet, we are a long way off realising its true value and potential.

We often talk about 'Olympic legacy' in terms of sports participation, infrastructure and tourism. It's time we added world class athletes to this list.

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust has announced that it will launch a campaign following the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games to highlight the value of world class athletes to society beyond sport. For more information click here.