London 2012 Olympics- Britain must seize upon success to keep healthy legacy alive
Britain’s success at the London Olympics must be seized on to improve sport in schools and communities and guarantee future victories, top athletes and government ministers urge.Teachers should bring back competition in every school and more people should volunteer at local sports clubs if the legacy of the Games was not to be lost, they said.
Jessica Ennis, the gold medal-winning heptathlete, said children needed to learn that competition was positive.
David Cameron claimed that teachers “don’t want to join in” and ministers suggested that the medal success was unlikely to be repeated without a significant change.
Young people face an obesity epidemic, with many offered few opportunities for the sort of competitive sports that used to be the norm. Only about four in 10 children regularly take part in such sports.
Many clubs are seeing a surge of interest from the young but do not have the resources to offer them the opportunities that could help produce future medal winners.
“I started doing athletics when I was nine years old,” Ennis said. “I had loads of support from my school and PE teachers. I think it’s really important to have great sport in schools and teach it well and obviously create great role models. That will make a huge, huge difference.”
She said it was important to “teach kids that it is not a bad thing to be competitive” and that she hoped some of the thousands of volunteers and visitors to the Olympics would be inspired to help run local clubs.
The Prime Minister welcomed the campaign as attention would shortly turn to the legacy of the London Olympics, whose motto is “inspire a generation”. “For the moment everyone is revelling in a golden summer of British sport, with Britain showing the world what we can deliver in all sorts of ways,” said Mr Cameron. “But in a few days it will be time to focus on the legacy and I welcome the intervention and ideas of the Telegraph and its readers.”
Jeremy Hunt, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said that action in schools and local communities was essential to the legacy of the Games.
“The Olympics have highlighted what a fantastic sporting nation Britain is and we want to harness that inspiration to ensure that more children take part in competitive sport,” he said.
“The past few weeks have shown the importance of competitive sport and we want to ensure it is at the heart of the legacy left behind after the Olympics.”
Other Olympic athletes added their voices to the call for a change in culture. Michael Jamieson, silver medallist in the 200 metre breaststroke, said: “I started at a small community run club, Scotia, in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, and all the coaches were volunteers. Without them I wouldn’t be here.”
Nick Dempsey, 31, who won a silver in windsurfing, added: “At the end of the day, sport is about competition and it’s about learning to deal with the emotions involved.”
However, there are concerns that schools will struggle to cope with the expected rise in interest in sport. Fatima Whitbread, the former world champion javelin thrower, said: “What concerns me is a sudden influx of young people coming into sports clubs and the schools are going to struggle.”
The Government has already faced accusations that it was undermining sport with the potential removal of funding.
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