Brian Viner: 2012 legacy will come a poor last after rush for gold

The Last Word
Click to follow

According to a damning report from a leading independent think tank to be published next week...and let me stop right there.

Here at The Last Word we do not usually deal with either damning reports or independent think tanks, preferring to celebrate the lighter, more frivolous side of sport.

All of which makes it surprising, yet gratifying, that we have been tipped the wink, and handed a sneak preview ahead of almost everyone else in the national press of a report that will not be formally unveiled until Tuesday, and which warns that the sporting legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games is likely, contrary to the solemn promises made as part of the bid process, to be zilch.

This is serious stuff. The Centre for Social Justice, a veritable Sherman among think tanks, asserts that "the legacy promise will come in time to be viewed as a highly effective sales pitch that was never fully realised". I don't think the CSJ is saying that it was a premeditated lie, more that the bar was set impossibly high, setting goals that could never be reached.

The full report examines the extent to which UK sports policy can boost the lives of disadvantaged youngsters, but the chapter that was slipped to me at night, in a lay-by, by a shadowy figure in a trilby (unless you believe that I received it on Thursday afternoon via email) concerns only the Olympics. The Commonwealth Games in Manchester failed to kindle any significant increase in sports participation, and the report also points out the incontrovertible truth that many of the most popular sports in British schools, such as netball and rounders, will not even feature in 2012 and so will self-evidently receive no boost.

Incidentally, I have banged a forlorn drum before for netball to be made an Olympic sport. That tennis is, and golf soon will be, and netball and squash aren't, amounts to a dereliction of duty on the part of the IOC. To my mind there should be only one criterion for a sport to be included in the Olympics: if an Olympic gold medal is generally accepted to be that sport's most coveted prize, as it is in athletics, swimming and amateur boxing, would be in netball and squash, and never will be in golf and tennis, only then should it be raised to Olympic status.

But back to the damning report, which also finds significant flaws in the plans, backed by £135m of National Lottery money, to get more of us, and specifically more of our children, taking part in sport. Most of this money is to be spent on improving facilities, which apparently is unlikely to raise participation levels. To do that, you need to boost demand, which is a different business entirely, and although there are schemes intended to do so, previous initiatives have simply reinforced social and physical inequalities, with disadvantaged kids left out of the loop.

The chapter ends with a further indictment of our Olympic bid, and the legacy it promised. "The participation target was intrinsically flawed from the outset... engaging any number of additional people in some unspecified sporting activity is not the same thing as serious, targeted work aimed at transforming the lives of Britain's neediest people." Over to you, Lord Coe. Unless of course you're too busy rehearsing your lines for the next series of the BBC's spoof documentary, Twenty-Twelve.

Time to stop the pavilion clock and raise a toast to Alletson's innings

We have just passed a significant sporting anniversary, and for making me aware of it I am indebted, as Cyril Fletcher used to say on That's Life!, to a reader, Kev Lane. Mr Lane informs me that 100 years ago yesterday, on 20 May 1911, Nottinghamshire cricketer Ted Alletson played an innings, against Sussex at Hove, the like of which had never been seen before, not even from W G Grace. John Arlott later wrote a book about it, called simply, Alletson's Innings.

What was really remarkable about Alletson's innings was that he was a tail-ender, known for batting cautiously. That day he came in at 185 for 7, and although 75 more runs were scored for the loss of two more wickets, Notts were 260 for 9 at the lunch interval, facing almost certain defeat.

It is not recorded what Alletson had for lunch, but afterwards, he came out wielding his bat like a dervish and scored 142 runs in 40 minutes, to add to the 47 he had already accumulated. He scored 115 in just seven overs, and 34 off one of them, a first-class record which stood until Garry Sobers bludgeoned poor old Malcolm Nash round Swansea, fully 57 years later. And not even Sobers smashed the pavilion clock with one of his sixes. Alletson did. I don't think it's too late to raise a glass to his memory.

El Tel and Big Ron in scintillating form

Last Friday I went to a lunch organised by the Lord's Taverners, that fantastic charity, celebrating the life of Sir Bobby Robson. The guest speakers were Terry Venables and Ron Atkinson, both in scintillating form, and the former got a hearty round of applause for insisting that, "win or lose", only an Englishman should succeed Fabio Capello.

Atkinson thought otherwise. "I'm not bothered who manages England so long as he does the job right," he said. "Guus Hiddink would be my choice, but I think the next England manager might just be Stuart Pearce." There was a rumble of discontent. "Hey," said Atkinson, "that's where we are. And I also think that if we don't win the next European Championship, not one person in this room will ever see England win a major championship again, because we don't have many good players, and they're getting less." It was provocative stuff, and here's some from me: maybe it's time to bring Big Ron back in from the cold.