North West Health and Physical Activity Forum

Latest Tweets


Become a Fan on Facebook


London 2012 – is it really getting people active?

According to the Guardian Online, The Brits may be watching lots of Olympic athletes this summer but they sure aren't moving more themselves.  When London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics 7 years ago, British officials pledged that they would get an additional 2 million people physically active in time for the opening ceremonies.  Last year this aim was quietly dropped to getting 1 million Brits into sports, whilst the pledge to get another 1 million more active through activities like walking and cycling was scrapped.
Adrian Bauman from the University of Sydney in Australia claimed "Having the Olympics doesn't translate into more physical activity unless there is a strong infrastructure to get people involved."
Britain's strategy was based largely upon providing free school sports programmes for children, in addition to adult programmes such as the free swimming initiative, which was later withdrawn along with the funding.  While numbers grew in the first few years, they stabilised as government funding was cut amid the debt crisis.

Olympics secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government was looking for other ways to measure people's activity levels and insisted it was still working with local sports clubs to boost participation.
"We are way off target," said Mike Weed, Director of the Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research at Canterbury Christ Church University.  Based on current numbers, he said the promise to get 2 million more people active wouldn't happen until about 2035.
No host country of the Olympics has ever been able to convert enthusiasm for the games into a sporty population.  Weed said elite Olympians weren't the best role models for average Britons and cited a much less athletic example: London mayor Boris Johnson, who has introduced a popular bike rental system in London.
"If you see somebody in Lycra at the Olympics on a £ 10,000 bike, that says this is not for you, but if you see Boris Johnson in a suit riding along on an obviously unsporty bike, the message is that if he can do it, anyone can."
The London 2012 bid argued that hosting the Olympics - and in the process winning lots of medals - would boost sporting participation.  However, the majority of money is ploughed into new stadiums, velodromes and supporting elite athletes. 

Although the Sport and Recreation Alliance are backing the Games, Tim Lamb, the group's chief executive, says mistakes were made - "The overall budget should have contained realistic provision for achieving the legacy of participation. No games have achieved it before and there was no reason to think that we could achieve it without careful planning and without the right funding in place."
The build-up to London 2012 has not led to mass take up of sport and last year youth participation in sport fell, according to Sport England. "The Olympics is a great spectacle you sit and watch," says Annie Chipchase, the Organiser of the ‘No London 2012’ campaign. "So I can't see why everyone will get up off the sofa and start taking more exercise. It hasn't happened anywhere else."
Indeed critics argue the huge cost of hosting the Games has diverted money away from local sports facilities.  In 2009 the Conservatives - then in opposition - argued that spending on grassroots sport had fallen by a fifth as resources were reallocated to the Olympics.  And close to the Olympic Park football pitches on Hackney's East Marsh lost out to a coach park.
The DCMS says: "The Games will put sport in the spotlight like never before and will capture the imagination of a generation. We are ensuring we have everything in place to capitalise after the Games, with first-class community sport on offer across the country that will encourage young people inspired by London 2012 to pursue a sporting habit for life."

This month we want to know...

Do you think that the government has done enough to encourage mass participation in sport and physical activity using the inspiration of London 2012?

Or do you think that the ‘sporting image’, connection to elitism and diversion of resources away from grass root sports, local clubs and community facilities will mean the Olympics fail to get the country moving again?


We want to hear your opinions on this topic!

To vote in the poll and see the results, please click here.

To join the discussion, please click here.