Creating an Olympic Legacy

Published on Monday, 20 August 2012 15:42
Written by Tim Lamb

The modern Olympics were founded, so the story goes, after a seed was planted in Pierre de Coubertin's thoughts whilst observing the school sports culture of Thomas Arnold's Rugby School

The school and its ethos impressed on him the notion that "organised sport can create moral and social strength" and he resolved to spread that message.  Now over a century later, we know that this still rings true and the benefits of sport are more apparent than ever.

Studies have shown that sport and recreation can help you feel good, look good, live longer, have a greater stake in society and earn more – all for an average annual adult sports club membership fee of £83! And there are swathes of people out there who are already reaping these benefits.

Our members represent some 150,000 clubs and 8 million regular participants in sport and recreation in the UK, and the latest Sport England's Active People survey shows that 14.76 million people are now playing sport at least once a week – up 800,000 since the bid to host London 2012 was won.

And yet, our last annual sports club survey told us that 28% of the UK's clubs are in deficit, with an additional one in four working hard just to break even. We are at a tipping point in British sport and the Olympic Games legacy could provide just the catalyst we need.

In a 2007 report, Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee concluded that "no host country has yet been able to demonstrate a direct benefit from the Olympic Games in the form of a lasting increase in participation", and initial targets to attract 1 million extra active participants into sport were adjusted accordingly. But this doesn't mean that the 'inspire a generation' mantra has been forgotten.

In the run up to the Games, national sport governing bodies were asked to spend around 60 per cent of their government funding on school sport activities, after-school clubs and clubs within schools that are open to the whole community, aiming to forge the vital connection between school sport and sport for life.

Many of these governing bodies have responded magnificently – with schemes such as England Netball's Back to Netball, the British Canoe Union's Go Canoeing, British Cycling's Skyride andthe English Table Tennis Association Ping! programme all boosting participation numbers and  forming sound  structures to capitalise on the surge of interest that London 2012 has already generated.

Role models such as Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and Mo Farah have emerged from the Games – aspirational figures who have reached the summit of their profession through determination, desire and skill – and the British public has responded to them in an unprecedented way.

Indeed we're already hearing stories about clubs and websites up and down the country fielding huge increases in inquiries from new people interested in taking up a wide range of sports.  Thanks to their foresight, systems are in place to ensure that this moment, and people's desire to engage with sport, won't be lost.

Now, the key will be to keep this momentum going for many years to come if we are to achieve the ultimate goal of a healthier, happier nation and the development of more young athletes who can create the next link in the chain which will inspire future generations in turn.

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