Robin Scott-Elliot: Organisers miss a slam-dunk in testing out 'people's Games'

London Eye: Young people from the poorer areas around the park could have been inspired by the likes of Parker

Today will be the busiest sporting day in its fledgling existence for the Olympic Park. This afternoon the latest test event begins for next year's Games with the acrobats on two wheels trying out the BMX course. Nearby the basketball invitational continues as sport, rather than the mammoth £7bn building process, begins to sneak into the Olympic focus.

These two events follow the road race, the World Badminton Championships at Wembley Arena – branded dirty by the Chinese competitors – and beach volleyball in the historic surrounds of Horse Guards, a venue labelled "rad" by the Americans. There are more to come over the next few months and healthy ticket sales again indicate that this is a country with a rare passion for watching sport, if not playing it. The toughest issue facing government and sporting bodies is how to get us out of the stands and on to the courts, pitches and pools.

No Olympic Games has led to an increase in participation, not even in Australia in the golden glow of the Sydney Olympics. When the London bid was successfully made in Singapore there was grandiose talk of getting bums off seats but that has quietened down, especially since the change of government. The current plan is for a lower-key approach – and one that is constrained by the financial climate – concentrating first on fixing facilities down among the grass roots. But the Games themselves still have important potential to inspire.

The athletes are well aware of the chance this offers their sports. There were two striking elements in talking to British basketballers this week. One was the excitement at what lay ahead, a dawning realisation of the genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will be theirs in a year's time. The other was a keenness to promote their sport.

The failure of basketball to take off here, especially as a participation sport in urban areas, is a peculiarity. It's not an expensive game and its basics are just that. Luol Deng, the Chicago Bull who will wear a British vest next year, runs a basketball camp in Loughborough for young people. He has an admirable desire to spread the gospel of his sport for its good and for the good of those that might take it up.

The chance to get close to a sporting superstar has the potential to inspire and the chance to see somebody like Tony Parker, the French NBA star, in all his fluid athleticism play in the basketball arena can do likewise.

The crowd is limited to 2,600 each day, the amount the organisers judge ideal to allow them to test the facility. The audience on day one was mixed in age, basketball know-how and race. The racial mix of the spectators was more noticeable than at most sporting events in this country.

Outside, though, there was a depressing reminder of the cost of watching sport. It was little different to any other – football, rugby, cricket – but paying £5 for a bacon baguette to add to drinks, transport and a £25 ticket price makes it into something that is tough for many to afford.

To a large extent, the organisers, Locog, have their hands tied by International Olympic Committee guidelines as to how tickets for the Games are sold – and for all the furore surrounding ticket distribution, Locog deserves credit for making a comparatively good job of it. But for the test events in a park built to aid regeneration in some of the poorest parts in the country, was there an opportunity missed?

The benefits of opening them up for young people from those very areas would have been a step towards addressing what Christine Ohuruogu, who lives nearby, sees as a lack of connection with the Games. And a sighting of the likes of the elusive Parker may have just provided a first real sporting inspiration to a young – and target – audience.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower