London 2012 was largest contribution from churches to Olympics

London 2012 saw the largest outreach by churches during an Olympic and Paralympic Games, new figures show.

More Than Gold, which coordinated church outreach during the Games, revealed that churches had provided over 13,000 hours of voluntary service to travellers through Games Pastors.

The pastors were out and about at rail stations, airports, and major tourist hubs over the Olympics.

Churchgoers also provided over 2,000 nights of free accommodation to the families of athletes. In total, 280 guests from more than 20 countries received hospitality from 160 hosts living close to Olympic sites.

Church events also proved a huge success, with an estimated half a million people turning up to community Olympics events run by churches. These included big screen festivals for the opening and closing ceremonies, family fun days and free sports activities.

With many events, the turnout far exceeded expectations. Churches in the Isle of Dogs in London planned a festival for 500 people but 4,000 turned up on the day.

In South Buckinghamshire, churches had expected 2,500 people for their Run the Race festival, but in the end welcomed 6,500 people.

Churches in Purley, Surrey, catered for 400 and had to rush out for more supplies when almost double the number came.

David Willson, chief executive of More Than Gold said: "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."

An international team of musicians and creative artists gave 440 hours of free live performances and 233 hours of street art.

In addition to events, Christians also volunteered to hand out half a million bottles of water to visitors, with over 9,000 cups of water given out during the marathons.

The UK churches were assisted in their efforts by more than 2,100 mission and service volunteers who came from 40 countries to help out during the Games.

"This has been more than great news for the Olympics, travellers, athlete family members," said 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."