Exclusive interview with Hugh Robertson on Olympics legacy: Minister ‘delighted’– but facilities are still closing

‘No other host nation has ever increased the number of people participating’

Legacy was the Olympic buzzword that has become a dirty word, the dark cloud of pervading cynicism hovering behind the summer sun now beaming over the pending anniversary celebrations. Is there actually a legacy, and if so what exactly is it?

Many have serious doubts, myself included, but the sports minister, Hugh Robertson, certainly hasn’t. “People are naturally interested in what may be going wrong rather than what is going right,” he argues. “But if you told me a year ago we would be where we are now I would have been surprised and delighted.

“No other nation has ever increased the money for Olympic and Paralympics after a home Games. No other home nation has ever increased the number of people participating. I know there was a fall-off in the last figures but even allowing for that we still have an extra 1.4 million playing sport.

“In terms of legacy, at the beginning of the year we had two key things that needed sorting – the future of the Olympic stadium and Olympic Park [where all eight permanent venues have tenancies] and school sport. Both are now in a much better place.

“There have never been more major sports events coming to this country. And in the teeth of the recession we have managed to find another £150 million investment in school sport. It is an extraordinarily compelling package.”

Of course, it is Robertson’s job to push the Government line, and while I agree with much of what he and Lord Coe claim in terms of the benefit to national psyche – better than any previous host city – my concern is that the much-trumpeted Olympic feelgood factor has not filtered down beyond elite sport anything like as much as it is claimed.

While we have a high-performance system that is now among the best in the world, Baroness Sue Campbell, the former chair of UK Sport, which distributes Government and Lottery money to elite athletes, suggests that in other areas – such as grass-roots sport, volunteering and women’s participation in exercise – Britain has not secured the legacy it could, and she is right.

Swimming pools and playing fields are still closing, and how embarrassing was it that Sheffield’s Don Valley, Britain’s second largest athletics arena and alma mater of one of Team GB’s 2012 icons, Jessica Ennis, brought in the bulldozers almost before the Olympic flame had been extinguished.

Olympic euphoria certainly has not bequeathed goodwill to a host of local councils who, often under the guise of Government cuts, make shameful decisions harmful to participation sport.

Like the burghers of Merton, south London, where the sale of a public sports hall to a private school left Olympic medallist Ray Stevens without a home for his popular judo club which regularly attracts disabled or disadvantaged kids.

So far Olympics Legacy is a bit of a curate’s egg, good in parts. But we certainly haven’t cracked it yet.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London