Big Debate: Have the London Olympic and Paralympic Games left a sporting legacy?
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images
As we get closer to the first anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games we ask whether the Games have left a successful and lasting sporting legacy locally.
Chris Dunne, headteacher at Langdon Park School, Poplar, saw students from their School Sports Partnership programme pass auditions for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, despite the government withdrawing funding for the national sports programme. He’s worried the Olympics may have no lasting impact.
But Newham councillor Ian Corbett, executive member for environment, thinks the Games have inspired a generation. Here, the two put their opposing views.
Head teacher Chris Dunne said: “Fifty-eight per cent of children in Tower Hamlets officially live in poverty and around 80pc of them never participate in sport outside of school. We have one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in the UK.
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The introduction of a School Sports Partnership to Tower Hamlets in 2005 saw massive shifts in attitudes towards sport and huge rises in participation. Inter-school competitions increased from six to 72 and participation shifted from 24pc to over 50pc.
What we did in one sport demonstrates the level of our success. Our cricket officer has taken over 60 youngsters to join our nearest Premier League Club, Blackheath, where they are challenged to improve. Ten have gone on to play county cricket and one became the first ever Tower Hamlets student to win a professional contract when he joined Marylebone County Cricket in 2012. We have made similar progress in sports, including hockey, judo, rugby, fencing, diving and badminton.
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The decision to dismantle these partnerships will turn out to be the greatest piece of self-inflicted damage to a nation’s future health by its own government in the history of the Olympic Games.
Having seen the error of its ways the government has given some money to primary schools to spend on sport, but without the involvement of secondary schools, and no network to provide high quality coaching, much of it is likely to be wasted or have no lasting impact.
In Tower Hamlets schools have banded together to protect our success, creating a Youth Sports Foundation with charitable status. Sadly, this is not the case in huge parts of the country.
The UK organised one of the greatest Olympics in the history of the movement. What a shame we squandered the chance to also leave the greatest sporting legacy for future generations of our children.”
Newham councillor Ian Corbet said: “The 2012 Games were not just about those fantastic few weeks when the world came to Newham. They have provided a legacy for generations and helped transform our borough forever.
A survey published by Sport England in June shows that in Newham, participation in the recommended level of sport rose to 16.9 per cent, compared to 15.6 per cent before the Games. We can expect that to accelerate as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park facilities open and Newham’s legacy efforts continue.
Interest in the former Olympic Stadium has understandably been about West Ham United’s move there in a few years time. But the legacy plan for the venue is about many sports and our community. It’s important every resident gets the chance to share in the stadium’s benefits. That is why we are investing £40m to secure that legacy.
That investment also gives local sports clubs access to the Olympic community track. And when the stadium hosts major global sporting events like the Rugby World Cup in 2015, what a great incentive it will be for organisations like East London Rugby Club in West Ham to welcome people of all ages who have had little or no experience of the sport.
The Games inspired everyone and we do not want to lose the energy created. That is why, despite being hit by one of the biggest central government grant cuts suffered by any local authority, we continue to provide free swims for residents under 16 and over 60. Elite sport stars start at local level and we’re already doing our bit with programmes like Every Child a Sportsperson which, working with the University of East London, is giving young people in secondary schools a golden chance to find a sport they enjoy and are good at. And once again we have our summer of Sports programme for young people with sports from basketball and BMX to keep fit and karate. The Games may have gone, but the legacy is on track.”