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Biggest 2012 promise 'has not been delivered'

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Adrian Warner | 11:21 UK time, Wednesday, 28 September 2011

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Now that the venues are on track to be ready and most of the tickets are sold, the biggest 2012 issue, for me, in the next few months is the failure of the Games to increase participation in sport.

This was the biggest promise of London's bidding campaign. And let's face it, it's not happening.

We are not seeing a massive boom in participation. The 2012 campaign slogan is falling flat on its face.

This week, I have been in Newham, the poorest borough in London where the Olympic Park has been built.

Obesity is so bad in this part of London that doctors call in their patients as soon as they hit 40 for checks on their fat levels.

Despite having more young people living in the borough than most areas in the country, the level of sports partipation in Newham has been very low in Government surveys in recent years.

So the closure of a swimming centre at the heart of the area is causing real anger.

Locals say it's an astonishing decision when the Olympics are supposed to be encouraging people to take up sport.

So, when 2012 ramp up their celebrations on 31 December with fireworks in central London, the Atherton Leisure Centre at the heart of the Olympic borough will be shut down.

Newham Council says the pool has to be closed because of ceiling problems which will cost too much to repair.

The Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, has promised to replace it with a new centre.

But Michelle Turner, who is running the campaign to save the pool, is not convinced the borough has the money to deliver a new pool.

Although the Olympic Aquatic Centre has been built in Newham, residents says it is a 40-minute walk away and won't be open for some time.

I've also been talking to Trevor Blackman, who runs sports training programmes in Newham.

He says Government public spending cuts have meant he is only running one programme in the borough now.

All this in the place where the Games really need to make an impact.

So, who is taking responsibility for this lack of progress in participation?

Lord Coe, the 2012 chairman, takes some of the hits because he is the man who made the promise in his emotional speech to the International Olympic Committee in Singapore.

But it is also the Government, London Mayor Boris Johnson as well as local authorities and the national governing bodies of sport who need to step up to the mark here.

We've had the catalyst of the Olympics for six years now but Britain's sporting landscape isn't changing like we were promised it would.

Visit: BBC London 2012

Twitter: @BBCLdnOlympics


  • Comment number 1.

    They've failed to increase paricipation in sport. They've failed to sort out transport. They've failed to sort out ticket pricing. They've failed to allocate tickets fairly to Londoners. They've failed to keep within the original budget. This has been just like Millenium Dome but about ten times worse. Three cheers for Lord Coe, Boris and co!

  • Comment number 2.

    Newham can loan West Ham £40 million for the olympic stadium , but can't even afford to fix a roof of a leisure centre !
    All the facilities built with our money will not be available to the everyday person and the jobs will go to people outside of the borough.
    Lord Coe is a self centred fraud who has made a lot of money thanks to this olympics.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm sure it's not all bad - big business will no doubt benefit...

  • Comment number 4.

    Why are we surprised? The Labour leader took up the something for nothing culture and doesn't this fit the modern olympic movemnet? It is the GB olympics, is it? It it really not just the London games, Lord Coe and his former tory colleagues will no doubt do very well out of it - but the canoe course in Nottingham {or North Wales] could have been used, the commonwealth games pool and/or veladrome in Manchester, diving at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, athletics in Meadow Bank etc. All this money spent, no delivery on the, for me, key promise and guess what it will still be spun as a great success ...

  • Comment number 5.

    I'll tell you why to my mind the Olympics has's failed because you've seen by now pretty much every major sports WORLD championship including the World Athletic Championships and for the world to then feel it needs to be slightly self-indulgent and have a 3 week back-patting competion as another "global competion" just leads to confusion.
    Also the fact that it's really, really hard to get in to a lot of sports that we excel at unless you have money or go to Uni...I was kncoked back by 3 rowing clubs about 7-8 years ago as they didn't have the capacity to train new people - they were only interested in taking Uni rowers from the 3 local universities.
    What i don't think helps is the lack of a visable unified structure - I mean athletics doesn't have something you see day-in, day-out to say who's best at what like footie, rugby, cricket.

  • Comment number 6.

    What complete nonsense!

    It is absurd to suggest that participation has not increased - you can't see the roads for fun runs, triathlons, cyclists and the like. At the same time the parks are full of people exercising, team sport is rising. I notice it daily, particularly on the streets of London.

    And for all of you being so utterly negative, it's difficult to see how the Olympics has failed when it hasn't started and won't start for another 10 months.

    London is improving day by day preparing for the Olympics - to suggest a failure of anything is patently absurd and utterly wrong. If you really believe that, you either don't live or work in London or you are so determined to be negative about it that you can't see what's in front of you.

    I for one am desperately excited about the Olympics. I got no tickets in the ballot, I don't complain - it's just how it is. I will be a part of it, I will be proud and I can't wait.

    Those of you that hate it so much, wallow in your misery and self pity wherever you are while the rest of the UK and those of us lucky to be in London at the time are experiencing the greatest event we will see in our country in our lifetimes.

    It sickens me to see such nonsense. It sickens me in a way the rioting did in August to see people so against their own country trying to do it's best. It sickens me that the same people would be complaining about a lack of jobs if the Olympics wasn't coming and employing so many thousands of people.

    Get a grip.

  • Comment number 7.

    here we go again, all the moaners and journalists have a go - please stop it -Seb Coe et al are doing a great job - unlike most of the journalists who cant wait for it to fail
    the olympics cannot ever force us all to excercise and participate insportb - but what it can do is encourage us - but at the end of the day its up to us, the citizens of GB - and for my money the olympics has certainly brought sport much more to the fore -well done

  • Comment number 8.

    6 & 7 - totally agreee.

    Yet another self loathing article of the type that BBC journos seem to specialise in so much which just further feeds the idiotic negativity of certain people who will never be satisfied.
    Notice how he just assumes that participation isn't rising without any evidence to back this up other than residents whinging about their local pool (which clearly wouldn't pass any health & safety audit) and who can't be bothered travelling a short distance to a fantastic new facility. Bet these where just type who were rioting because they 'feel they have no opportunity' but can't see beyond the end of their own noses!
    Transport is being sorted out (which wouldn't have happenned if their was no Olympics), the budget has not increased for ages (and may now come in below the last estimate) and we will win lots of medals.
    Miseries please go forth and you know what!

  • Comment number 9.

    “At present there is no identified capital funding for the ... new facility [to replace the Atherton], and no external investment has been secured.”

    this was recorded in the minutes of the council meeting last Thursday 22.09.11

    How does Robin Wales intend to follow through on his statement today of
    “lets build a new pool......... a state of the art facility there for residents”

    Empty words.

  • Comment number 10.

    In agreement with #6.

    First time I have commented on a BBC blog. After reading this post and some of the early comments, I had to offer another point of view. It is not that the problems mentioned are untrue, but that the article bluntly ignores all positives and comes across unbalanced & unresearched. It publicises a widespread failure and a failed promise without highlighting a single success or point of redemption when there is some outstanding work going on in the area of participation - the topic of this post.

    This article comes in the very same month that 55,000 people showed up for the British Cycling backed Skyride across London.

    This is the same month that Badminton England have set up numerous Badders in the City courses that are six 90 minute sessions for just £20 and drop-in sessions across the country. I have signed up myself and the course is fully booked. There has previously been nothing like this in the area of London I am attending and it is a great opportunity.

    I cannot speak for all sports, but there are clearly those out there working very hard right now across a wide variety of sports and succeeding in getting people actively participating. From what I have seen and participated in, this is a significant improvement over a few years ago and certainly does not constitute as an outright fail. I am an example of someone who has become involved in what is being offered by energetic and enthusiastic people who are passionate about their sport.

    If this blog is to fulfill what it is supposed to do "report on every aspect of the preparations for 2012", I would like to think, given how many people read these BBC pages and given this incredibly one-sided article that Mr. Warner will do some research into asking sport governing bodies what they have actually done. Find out how it has gone, and give some insight into the positive work going on in this area. Highlight the people and the initiatives making an impact and a difference. And highlight schemes or initiatives that have been attempted, fell through, or failed to make any impact.

    Now that would be interesting, informative and demonstrate clear research into this area of participation.

    Perhaps then some readers will follow-up on what is on offer? Perhaps then comments on the success and failures will be more interesting than most of the comments written above. Perhaps you will hear from those that have experienced some of the initiatives first hand and may be able to offer further explanation? Perhaps then we will gain some hindsight into successful participation schemes and failures and anyone thinking of promoting sport in their local area will at least have some interesting insights to think about.

  • Comment number 11.


    Surely 2012 is supposed to be seen as primarily a motivation for future Olympians and I think we all agree that club facilities & volunteers numbers are unlikely to cope with a jump in numbers of people 'trying' events post Olympics. Granted a few may have dipped in their toe in the water already as coverage of swimming, cycling have increased and the 'Cav Factor' quite rightly attract public interest.

    But the bricks and mortar of venues is the minimum we expected Olympics to have seriously considered and planned to handover for public or sports association use. The minimum expectation was new venues in London that could become 'centres of excellence' such as the Aquatics centre but as I have said before (in response to David Bonds Legacy blog) the centre will not be available until 2014 at the earliest and now we hear about the loss of basic sports facilities in Newham.

    Will someone not step forward from the Olympic Comm or Locog ranks and set out a post Olympics timetable to the public? There is talk of tenders for the Aquatics but surely there could've been talks with the ASA and private sector sponsors instead like the Dome it all will be put-off until the Olympics torch has been extinguished and the glow a distant memory.

  • Comment number 12.

    PS Mr Bond threw out the legacy blog for comment yet failed to respond to any of the public comments before it was shut for comment.

    Hopefully you will defend your position and acknowledge the successful sports but look for opportunities to discuss with the powers that be...

  • Comment number 13.

    For those that are wishing for evidence to back up this blog - go take a look at the results of the Active People Survey on the Sport England website. As somebody who just wrote their Master's dissertation on the government's Olympic promise to use the Games "as a catalyst to drive up participation across the country and help to tackle issues such as obesity, ill health and crime" I came to the same conclusion as the one in this blog. The quote is from a Mayor of London publication in 2009 called A Sporting Future for London in case anyone is interested. Yes there has been some successes with the drive to increase participation, however, it is nowhere near to the scale that the government originally promised, or even to their revised lower promise. Another thing to consider though is that there is no evidence that the Olympics has previously led to a sustained increase in participation. It may have done so but there was no way of measuring it, an area the UK recognised in the creation of the APS. The biggest problem with the government attempting to increase participation is that they have to remove the barriers to participation such as lack of transport, lack of time, and lack of funds. The Olympics can be used to help inspire people but there is no good inspiring people who are working two jobs and caring for children who don't have the time or money to learn how to play tennis unless to take away those barriers. Makes sense. There is a whole lot more to this but I'm not going to delve in depth on the topic like my dissertation. But suffice it to say that research has in fact been done on this topic and has pointed towards the same conclusion in this blog.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Adrian

    Yesterday morning you rightly pointed out that the Olympic Park has become a major London tourist attraction. We are surprised that you quote only 10,000 visitors a month, as we estimate we bring over 1,000 people a day to E15, as walking tour groups and as coach trips around the perimeter.

    That the Olympic Park has become a London ‘must see’ is down in great part to the efforts of Blue Badge Tourist Guides who set up a London2012 accreditation course back in 2007. We now have over 400 Blue Badge Tourist Guides qualified to guide London2012 sites in depth, as recognized by the ODA and LOCOG who use us when they want a quality job done on a commentary.

    We’ve helped make the Olympic Park famous ‘on the ground’. Of course it makes for a nice piece to suggest that this fame occurred spontaneously, but I would hate for all our Blue Badge hard work to go unrecognised. Ian Kirby (non 2012 accredited) is being a mite coy about the debt Newham and the other host boroughs owe us.

    All the best,

    Simon Rodway
    Blue Badge 2012 Committee

  • Comment number 15.

    It is obvious that social and economic barriers have increased significantly since the optimistic objectives were drafted.

    IF the Olympics creates new public facilities and centres of excellence surely this should create capacity at local clubs/pools? Rather than these over complex uncalculable benefits...

  • Comment number 16.

    I am sorry that GrandFalconRailroad had problems finding a rowing club that would teach beginners. This a problem, not only in rowing but other sports as well. Teaching beginners in many sports requires a good deal of patience and significant input, often on a one to one basis from volunteer coaches.

    The basic problem that a lot of sports have is that they need to focus their limited resources on those who wish to train five times a week and want to compete. They have little time, equipment or space for those who wish to persue their sport as purely recreational activity.

    The measure by which the success of many amateur sport clubs are judged is by their results on the field of play. If a tennis club, with a limited amount of court time per person, is faced with the choice of a membership application from a 40+ person who has not taken a days exercise since leaving school or an application from a fit teenager with significant potential, the probability is that they will give priorit to the younger player.

    The same, to some extent occurs in rowing, there are a set number of seats available in a boat and one has to prioritise who would benifit the club most by taking one of those seats. In rowing there is also an issue of suitable equipment, just as you would not expect a learner driver to be able to handle an F1 racing car, you would not expect a novice rower to use the same class of boat used by those seeking olympic level glory.

  • Comment number 17.

    From Newham council’s own documents:

    “Newham has yet to attract significant health and fitness private sector
    operators and is notably short of health and fitness facilities in relation to
    national and regional averages”

    “The permanent closure of Atherton will represent a loss of accessible local
    capacity in Newham.”

    “Atherton handles some 240,000 visits a year, 23% of the borough total visits to
    Leisure Centres.”

    “during the temporary closure of the centre in 2010…the impact
    was a reduction in participation rates of between 30% – 50%. “

    “Whilst the new Olympic Aquatic Centre will provide a huge boost to
    Newham’s pool stock it is not considered that it alone will address on-going
    localised and area specific needs within Newham due to the localised
    participation rates across our leisure facilities”

    “At present there is no identified capital funding for the total costs of the new facility, and no external investment has been secured.”

  • Comment number 18.

    There are a couple of points that immediatly strike me about sports participation.
    There were comments about somebody (No 5) who couldn't get into a rowing club that was full to capacity and (no 10) who had managed to get onto a fully booked badminton course. In the past, I have tried to set up new sports clubs, I've had many interested people willing to join and help but we were simply unable to get access to appropriate facilities because they were all fully booked. If the London Olympics is going to be anywhere close to fulfilling it's legacy goals then there needs to be massive investment in facilities accross the whole country and a massive increase in capacity. As things stand at the moment, it is the severe lack of capacity which is one of the main problems holding back sports participation in the UK.

    One of the single biggest problems for all sports in Britain is that what facilities we do have are often extreamly poor quality, poorly maintained or simply not large enough to accommodate some sports because in far too many cases, budget comes way ahead of practical construction. Sports planning (or indeed any infrastructure planning) in Britain is incredibly short sighted and rarely plans for the future and any possible expansion in participation.

    I lived in Denmark for a short time and have travelled a lot in France and the Netherlands, everywhere I had been I was massively impressed with their sports facilities. Passing through Amersfoort in the Netherlands on the train, there is a massive football center with all weather astro pitches. I lost count after half a dozen pitches (I was on a moving train after all) but the sheer size of it was impressive and a large part of it was in use when I passed. Similarly, passing through Lille in France (and other French cities), I noticed many outdoor astro pitches set up for multiple sports. Although these were a bit smaller, there were usually at least two to four pitches and there were a few of these centers dotted throughout the city.

    One of the most impressive multi purpose sport/leisure/community facilities I have ever seen was in the small village of Rødding in southern Denmark. (In Danish - English link below)

    or for english tranlastion...

    Two large indor sports halls, well maintained outdoor pitches, swimming pool with a hot hydro-pool, bowling alley, library, cinema and high tech conferance facilities. I have never come accross a center in Britain that comes anywhere near to the quality of this center and I must add that such centers combining multiple sports are not uncommon throught Denmark.

    One last 'problem' then I'll get onto something more positive. One of the main factors that is hindering many of the smaller, developing sports in Britain is the serious lack of media coverage. The handball coverage has been sparse and actually quite poor. The one show done a short spot on the sport but the reporter actually said that you had to be a woman to play handball, suggesting that it was a womens only game. As it was, he was joining the womens GB team for a training session, but there was absolutly nothing said about the mens team and nothing at all about the domestic game or ways that people could try to get involved in the sport. This could have been damaging to the sport in trying to get more young guys involved.
    Water Polo has had no coverage at all that I have been aware of and basketball has had a bit more coverage but only focussing on one star player (Luol Deng) and again, very little if anything said about the domestic game or how to find local clubs and get involved.
    I once e-mailled the BBC and got a reply saying that they had sections on their web-page about these sports that people could find if they wanted to, but they were so obscure and buried deep down amoungst 'other' sports. The other problem with this is that people could 'find these areas if they wanted to'. It is not exactly the high profile publicity that gets people to try sports they have never even heard of before and to be blunt, is pretty pathetic coming from the supposedly 'Olympic Broadcaster'. More needs to be done.
    I've also wrote a bit more about this in Roger Mosey's blog 'Paddling beneath the surface'

    Now for something a bit more positive. Some of these smaller sports are doing a huge amount of work in youth development. England Handball has been particularly impressive and I know that clubs in other sports like water polo or basketball also do a great job on a local level. However, these clubs are often held back by lack of funding for full time development officers and in many cases, development is done on a voluntary basis which is great in theory but puts us light years behind other countries when it comes to youth participation in sport. I must say however, that many people involved in developing these smaller sports do so at great cost to themselves but we do so out of love and enjoyment of our sport. The BBC as official Olympic Broadcaster could certainly do a lot more to help people like this with what they do.

  • Comment number 19.

    @ 18 & 16 - thanks for the comments...whats worrying is that we want youngsters to take up the mantle of the likes of Pinsent, Redgrave, Ainslie and Hoy yet to do anything that approaches a special equipped sport (and lets face it we have this debate every year even about tennis let alone rowing, sailing or track cycling) you, in this country, pretty much have to be at a Uni or well-off.

    For all the image of Rugby Union is "toff-like" the many, many RU and RL clubs in the North East of England were more than willing to let me and my untrained mates go along and see just how good we were (rubbish in my case especially when it was found I couldn't use contacts....LOL) but like I said the rowing club would even entertain me even going to train just to see how good I might be and the fencing club at our local sixth form college had only very few places and they were filled as soon as they come on the market.

    So where does that leave most of the kids of the NE? Well it leave them with football and rugby that's played all over the place, cricket, netball, hockey and tennis (depending on court availability, whether you were good at school and if you've got cash for equipment), swimming and a few other "sports" gymnastics and perhaps if you're lucky athletics (when I say "sports" I mean the individual discipline in either gymnastics or athletics).

    Don't even think about shooting either....LOL

    Hardly a fantastic legacy really...yet again it seems to be left to who you know not what you know as if you're not close to the pickers then you've got no chance.


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