Sport on TV: A working partnership, then a Trust that no one can trust
Sunday 07 October 2012
When the Tonight programme (ITV1, Thursday) poses a question like "Are we giving kids a sporting chance?", you can be pretty certain what the answer is. It's rather like asking: "Is Mitt Romney the right man to lead the free world?" In the wake of a hugely successful Olympics, the issue of legacy was always likely to be the one big downer. It's not technically an Olympic sport but the one activity everyone was ready to try was bandwagon-jumping, especially when it comes to selling off school playing fields – and they are being sold faster than ever. But it transpires that the greatest concern is the lack of coaches. That's expert tuition, not transport to take the children to the nearest stretch of green grass 150 miles away.
The problem is that the Coalition scrapped the School Sports Partnership, a £162m-a-year initiative that saw groups of primary schools coming together to pool resources and offer a wide range of sports as well as provide competition among the neighbouring schools.
Instead the Government opted for the cheaper (£50m) School Sports Trust, which allows for occasional "mini-Olympics" in a reduced range of activities. The massively popular SSP had increased participation in sport from 55 per cent to 85 per cent in just two years, and pupils had the chance to try out seven or eight different sports, allowing them to choose one that they really liked or excelled at. But there's a recession on, so we can forget about our children's health and happiness. Meanwhile the grown-ups can make horrendous mistakes with their train sets instead.
It was a surprise to hear Chris Dunne, the headteacher of Langdon Park School near the Olympic Park, say that while the Games were going on, his pupils lost their coaches for athletics, fencing, golf, boxing and baseball. Maybe it's even stranger to hear that the kids had been playing French cricket and something called Danish longball. But that diversity was the beauty of it all. OK, we'll never beat the Danes at their own game but surely we could beat the French at cricket, with or without KP.
The presenter Mark Austin said: "The proposed legacy is about making Britain a leading sporting nation, and that means sport for all." Sport for All was an initiative way back in the 1970s. Plus ça change, as the French cricketers might say.
* The nation is in crisis after another legacy of the Games is in danger of falling flat on its face, literally. Once Victoria Pendleton said she was going to retire from the velodrome, the public looked to her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing as an autumn booster after the glorious summer of sport, but after her first dance (BBC1, Friday) she could be on her bike already.
The tears flowed freely, as they had when she was disqualified from the team sprint at London 2012; Queen Vicky was distraught. Len Goodman said it looked like "the first time you rode a bike without stabilisers". The viewers were reaching for the tranquilisers.
Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan did impress the judges, although according to Bruno Tonioli: "You're butt stuck out like a hanging basket. You looked like Shane Warne after the makeover." Well at least he should be able to get his leg spinning nicely.
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