Dropping The Sporting Legacy Baton

Photo by TonyBill

Photo by TonyBill

Here’s something I wrote before the Olympics on sporting legacy and school sports. Don’t worry, I haven’t used the word ‘legacy’ as a verb.

What does it take to get Londoners to make the move from watching sport on TV, beer in one hand and the other putting the remote control though its paces?

The government is hoping that the Olympics will do the trick and a sporting legacy is aimed at getting us, particularly younger Londoners, to get out and play more sport. Will we be off at the starting pistol or fall at the first hurdle?The Olympic venues are world-class. The Lee Valley White Water Centre offers some of the best outdoor sports in the country and will also be the first of the Games venues to reopen to the public.

99 problems but a pitch ain’t one

The Olympic park itself has huge potential. Bidding for post-Games tenancy is currently being battled out among West Ham and Leyton Orient football clubs, the University College of Football Business and most unusually, a proposal for a Formula 1 Grand Prix track. The unexpected bidding victory over Doha for the 2017 World Athletics Championships ensures the retention of the athletics track.

There’s certainly been massive investment in London’s sporting infrastructure, centred in the east where some of the most deprived areas of the capital have been transformed. But when London won the Olympic bid in 2005, today’s austerity measures couldn’t have featured in even the most pessimistic politician’s potential nightmares. Britain was still booming and Lord Coe’s promises to inspire a generation were not just what helped us win our bid but a future dream of turning us from a nation of couch potatoes to a country of honed athletes.

Now, the original target of getting one million people playing sport three or more times a week has been dropped by the government.

Inspiring a generation

It’s London’s youth who have suffered the most under government funding cuts in sports. Building a sporting legacy isn’t just about telling people they have to be more active or else – let’s face it, these days one can hardly leave the house without seeing a headline in which the government is telling us what to do for our own good. It’s about putting money into schools and sports clubs to inspire a generation of future gold medalists, even if they do forget their PE kit now and again.

Once the Olympic Route Network has gone, once the bunting has been taken down, London and the rest of the country has to seize a tangible legacy from this once-in-a-lifetime sporting event. Giving the nation’s budding sportspeople a chance to become the Olympic competitors of the future is that legacy but it looks like we will drop the baton.

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