Olympic youth legacy?

As the Olympic Games drew to an end the legacy debate moved into overdrive. Will the UK’s success spark a much needed boom in young people participating in sport?

Surely this is a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? Kids across the country are keen to emulate the sports stars now, not in a few years when new facilities have been completed. Funding should have been in place in the run-up to the Games, not promised following its success.

Despite doubts about the legacy of the London Olympics as an inspiration for Britons to become more involved in sports, more than half of the British public believes that London 2012 will ensure better sporting facilities, and just over a third think it will encourage a healthier, more active Britain, according to a new poll from YouGov. It reveals:

  • 53% agree that the Olympic Games in London ‘will ensure that the capital has much better sports facilities not just for the games themselves but for years afterwards’
  • 28% disagree that the Olympics will ensure better sporting facilities in future
  • 34% think that the Olympic Games in London ‘will encourage more British people to take up sport and so improve the health of the nation’
  • 47% do not believe the Olympic Games will encourage a healthier, more sporty nation
  • Almost three fifths of the public say they are generally interested in sport and sporting events (57%), a quarter of which claim to be ?very interested? (24%) next to a third who are just ?fairly interested? (33%)
  • Two fifths say they are not interested in sport or sport themed events at all (40%)

To be fair to the Government it has commenced a new five year strategy with the hopes of encouraging young people to play sport and live up to the promise made by the Olympic committee. Presented by Sport England, the plans will cost the Government billions of pounds and allow every secondary school in England to host a community sports club with links to national sports governing bodies. Funding will also be made available to open school sport facilities for wider public use.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that participation by young people in sport has been falling and that Britain needs “a radical change in policy.’ Sport England’s chief executive Jennie Price said “with a new focus on young people – and an even tougher, government-backed regime of payment by results – Sport England and its partners are determined to deliver.”

We wish Sport England every success. Whilst they clearly have a strong plan, they have a lot of catching-up to do if they are going to win the race for Rio 2016 and beyond.

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