The medals have been handed out; the athletes have gone home and the country’s supply of red, white and blue face paint has probably dwindled away to nothing. The collective mind set of the nation appears to be a mingled sense of relief and smugness that all in all London’s ‘summer of sport’ actually went pretty well, rain and other British curses aside. All there is to do now is sit back and watch as the ‘Olympic Legacy’ takes shape, for Sebastian Coe’s sake if nothing else. So as children excitedly rush to their nearest sports clubs with the dream of standing on a podium while clutching a bunch of flowers pushing them on, we should expect nothing more than the full support of our future Jess Ennises or Greg Rutherfords, right?
Seb Coe clinched the London 2012 bid with this statement: “On behalf of the youth of today, the athletes of tomorrow and the Olympians of the future, we humbly submit the bid of London 2012.” The claim that the inspirational legacy of ‘London 2012’ would count much more than any boom in tourism or profit was something that made the London bid stand out against the likes of Paris, and back in 2005 the claim was wholly believable. New Labour’s belief in sport as a “pro-education policy, a pro-health policy, an anti-crime and anti-drugs policy” saw treasury funding double and the mere quarter of children participating in two hours of P.E. a week in 1997 transformed into nine out of ten children by 2007. Labour also oversaw the creation of 450 School Sports Partnerships (SSPs) and safeguarded a budget of £162 million to ensure its continuation. The efforts of the previous government to improve facilities and maintain funding undoubtedly played a part in the success of our athletes this summer.
Above all the last government saw participation as the main aim of their policies, even if it was just children learning Indian dance. Participation, they hoped, would increase in line with the revival of sport after the London 2012 Games. Well now that revival has come and the hope that the games would “inspire a generation” appears to have been fulfilled, but how far can this new generation be expected to go without the guarantee of funding behind them?
Our Tory-led government cannot be totally ignorant to the power of sport, especially as they try to gain political points riding high on national celebrations; yet while Cameron and Osborne handed out medals in the Olympic stadium, the government were quietly dismantling all the progress made over the last ten to fifteen years. The £162 funding for school sport, protected by Labour, was cut in October 2010 with schools told to simply find money for sport from their existing budgets. The bare minimum of two-hours of P.E. a week for school-children has been dropped along with the government target to get one million adults participating in sport. Along with the alleged selling off of school playing fields it is becoming increasingly evident that in the Conservatives’ narrow-minded pursuit of austerity and ideological attack on public services, nothing is sacred.
So while our Prime Minister harks on about the greatness of British sport and the success of our Team GB athletes, remember that it is his administration taking away the chances of an inspired generation.
BY: Louise Hill