Olympics fail to inspire as fewer young people take up sport

Concern as number of 16- to 19-year-olds who play sport drops – despite massive investment

Six years ago London secured the Olympics on the back of a promise to inspire young people to swap the sofa for sport.

Yesterday, eight months from the opening ceremony and following unprecedented levels of investment, it was revealed that the number of young people taking up sport is falling. Figures released by Sport England show a drop in the number of 16-19 year-olds playing sport, and a fall in the numbers of women too, raising fears over the wider legacy of a Games that has had £9.3bn of public money spent on it.

The number of 16-19 year olds playing sport three times a week has fallen from 930,400 to 825,900, while the number of women has dropped by 106,000. The overall figure shows a decline of 11,200 on this time last year.

Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, admitted the figures were "very disappointing". Sport England said the fall was of "real concern."

The inspiring but vague idea of sporting legacy presented in Singapore, where the bid was won in 2005, has proved difficult to translate into something tangible. Labour's pledge to get two million more people physically active has been dropped since the change of government.

Sport England invests about £250m a year – funds provided by the Government and the National Lottery – in grassroots sport, distributed via governing bodies, but their latest Active People Survey shows it is not having the required impact in getting people to take up or participate. Economic reasons, such as cost or lack of time due to work commitments, was blamed by a third of those questioned.

The latest figures show 19 sports with decreasing levels of participation, including football, tennis and swimming, while only athletics, boxing, table tennis and mountaineering are increasing. Sports that have declining numbers face a funding cut.

Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England, said: "Sports need to react to this. We need to tackle head on the widening gender gap by doing much more to make sport relevant and appealing to women."

Ms Price insists the Olympics can still have a positive impact on participation, although no Games has led to a subsequent rise in the host nation. She said: "I think when we get into the Olympic year we will see an increase – I don't see that the opportunity is lost."

Lord Coe, chairman of the London organising committee, took an even more optimistic stance. He said: "I haven't seen the figures but this may be about how they are tabulated because my instinct is that they are increasing. There's a much better story that's unfolding out there than is being presented."

Mr Robertson said: "We [are] working on a new strategy with particular emphasis on youth sport."

Teenage sport in numbers

£480m Sport England's grassroot investment programme from 2009-2013.

104,500 The reduction in 16- to 19-year-olds playing sport since 2007.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk