Boris Johnson put himself at odds with David Cameron yesterday when he suggested that children should have two hours of physical exercise every day at school.
London's Mayor fuelled the row about sports provision by calling for a "thorough-going effort" to secure a lasting legacy from London 2012 by getting more young people playing sport.
The Coalition scrapped the previous government's target of two hours' PE a week in schools, arguing that such a top-down approach was failing and that sporting excellence was not produced by "box-ticking".
Asked about the two-hours-a-week target, the Mayor replied: "I would like to see two hours a day." He added: "I would like to see the kind of regime I used to enjoy [at Eton] – compulsory two hours' sport every day … that is the sort of thing that would be wonderful for kids across this country."
Insisting that ministers understood the public's renewed sporting appetite, he also suggested that Olympic volunteers who had already been vetted to work with children could now help with school sports.
Speaking of his determination to ensure that Britain capitalises on the Olympics, Mr Cameron said yesterday: "It's been a fantastic fortnight. Now we have got to make sure we get a real legacy out of this." He suggested this year's gold-medal winners could become ambassadors for their sports, inspiring a new generation.
Ministers have been on the defensive on the funding both of elite sports and of schools sports. They are drawing up plans to boost participation at all levels and ensure Britain is strongly positioned to defend its record medal haul at the next Games.
Olympians, including cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Laura Trott and shooting champion Peter Wilson, as well as senior sports administrators have warned that the nation's successes will be reversed if funding is cut.
Tessa Jowell, the shadow Olympics minister, called for a 10-year plan for sport to build on the enthusiasm generated by London 2012. She said: "This has got to go all the way from the child coming into reception class in primary school, taking part in PE, right through to our extraordinary medallists.
"Chris Hoy is absolutely right: it has been the investment in elite training which has created stability for high-performance training for those athletes. We have got to make sure that money continues."
Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, said the success of Britain's Olympic heroes was inspiring millions of youngsters. He said the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, was working on plans to increase the number of children taking part in playing competitive sport.
Sporting giant: The blond behemoth
Boris Johnson's own schooling included hours of compulsory sport – though not the sports played at most state schools. At Ashworth, his first boarding school, they played rugby. "He was certainly in the rugby side because of his size, and quicker on his feet than you would think. He enjoyed participating (but) was not a great expert," his old headmaster later told Boris's biographer, Andrew Gimson.
Later, at Eton College, he proved to be a star in the annual Eton Wall Game – a sport played nowhere else but at Eton. Contemporary match reports described as "the blond Behemoth". His approach to the game was said to be: "If it moves, grunt at it. If it moves again, kill it, then grunt at it."
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