As I write it’s three days before the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games and a couple of weeks before the Paralympics. The sun is shining at last and we are third in the medal table. I’ve been to Wembley, Earls Court and the Olympic Park and watched more TV hours than I can count. Tony’s been off working as a volunteer and we have had house guests from this country and abroad. What are my impressions?
As an event, they have been a resounding success. Without a doubt they will have improved knowledge and perception of the United Kingdom across the world. We can do things well! They have showcased British elite sport and shown that we are amongst the best in the world at running, jumping, rowing, riding, fighting and above all cycling. Importantly, they have shown to the world and the UK public that there is more to British sport than football and cricket.
Without a doubt the Games have given a boost to coaching and management as names like David Brailsford become well known. Hopefully this will trickle down to the grass roots where sport is still beset by old fashioned suspicion of management expertise and the culture of the blazer.
So a resounding thumbs up from me for the organisation overall.
However, I remain jaundiced about any long term legacy by way of increased participation. I don’t think this will come about simply because there’s no budget for it. To get more people doing sport you need more sports development staff, more coaches, more administrators and, eventually, more facilities. All of this costs money. However, Coe and his corporate cronies have not made any budgetary provision for this and Gove has been cutting the school sport budget.
Back in the early 2000s the Labour government set a target of a 1% per year increase in participation every year up to 2020(participation was defined as 3 time 30 minutes per week) The objective was to get us as active as Finland. Local government was given the task of hitting this target in their area (NI8 to use the jargon) and were given money to do so. The target was set before we were awarded the Olympics so it should have given it a boost. But ever so quietly this cash was removed and sports development staff made redundant.
Sport England’s Active People survey (http://www.sportengland.org/research/active_people_survey.aspx )
which measures participation and was meant to gauge progress towards the 2020 target. It shows that despite all the developmental efforts participation has basically been static since 2005 and in many cases is going down. For example, the Liverpool Sunday League used to have 12 divisions, it now has only 3.
If we really want to get more people active, it needs coaches and motivators on the ground. As we’ve not paid for them, the any enthusiasm for taking up sport anew will quickly dissipate. A great shame that the admonition outside the Copper Box will likely fall on deaf ears.