The Games raised the UK’s self-esteem and boosted business and the economy. More major sporting events are taking place on UK soil, which will help to keep that taste of excitement in the air. The challenge now is to inspire the spectators to take a more active role in sport.
Increasing participation in physical activity is the crux, and the jury is still out as to whether we will achieve this. Sport England’s most recent figures show an overall rise since 2011 but a fall in recent months. But we at the Sport and Recreation Alliance agree with Legacy Ambassador Lord Coe when he says that it’s going to be a 10-year journey.
Getting more women and disabled people taking part in sport are sticking points. Half of girls don’t take part because they’re put off by the way it’s taught at school, and while the Paralympics did an amazing job of challenging perceptions, only 18.2 per cent of disabled adults in England play sport once a week. Mainstream sports clubs need to be more accessible. We must also give PE teachers adequate training to cater for pupils of all abilities and needs.
Lord Coe has stressed that local volunteers and events will play a key role in mobilising more people to take up regular physical activity, but clubs, volunteers and facilities are vulnerable to ever deeper local authority cuts. More sports centres and pitches may have to close, or the prices that people pay to use them will rise. This is one of the biggest challenges, and our Sports Club Survey results, which are being released in the next couple of weeks, will provide a clearer picture of the grassroots situation.
Reductions at local-authority level are short-sighted and councils who are forced to cut will see a growth in health and social costs in their area that they can ill-afford. Investing in sport and physical activity sustainably would actually pay huge dividends in the long term.
The sports sector now needs time and stability to focus on these challenges, and to make a success of the Government’s new school sport funding for head teachers.
No other host country has ever delivered a lasting legacy of participation for their nation, but then no other host country has ever made such a public commitment to delivering it, until now.
We must keep those Olympic memories fresh and clear
Andy Reed is chair of the Sport & Recreation Alliance