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Reset the Game Over message for young teenagers

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Adrian Warner | 10:06 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

When I was a newspaper correspondent at the Evening Standard, we ran a successful campaign to persuade the Government to back London's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

The Sports Editor, Simon Greenberg, now involved in England's World Cup bid, provided the inspiration for the campaign because he saw the value of the Games, not just to London, but also to the young people of Britain.

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2012 officials have decided to put a minimum age limit of 18 on the recruitment of the 70,000 volunteers for the Olympics and Paralympics.

That rules out thousands of sixth formers aged 16 and 17, many of whom are already volunteering in other sectors. Aren't these young people supposed to be what the Games are all about?

2012 say this is due to Child Protection laws and the difficulties of arranging working hours for under-18s.

But I was talking to 16 and 17-year-olds at Newham Sixth Form College close to the Olympic site the other day and they couldn't understand the decision at all.

No surprise really since some of the dozen or so sixth formers I was talking to were already volunteering in their spare time. Two coached sport to children and another worked in a day centre for pensioners.

If they are responsible enough to be working with under 16s and over 60s, surely they are capable of becoming Olympic volunteers?

Now, of course, all the people working with under-18s would need to be checked by the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB). CRB checks can take time and you could argue that raising the limit to 18 avoids all that hassle for tens of thousands of volunteers.

But surely all the volunteers will be CRB checked anyway - AND vetted by the security services? And it must be possible to organise under 18s' work patterns.

It happens in many West End shows involving younger children every night in London - and in most pantomimes up and down the country every Christmas.

The fact is that other Games have bothered to do this. Vancouver organised a special volunteering programme for 15 to 19-year-olds at the Winter Olympics in February.

The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester had a minimum age of 16 for volunteers.

The other day, the Government launched a campaign called the "25th Hour" which was specifically aimed at encouraging people aged 16 to 24 to get involved in volunteering.

They even used Olympic tickets as an incentive to new volunteers and used the Olympic site for their launch.

So I don't understand why London 2012 chiefs are turning their backs on such an important age group.

I go into schools now and again to talk about the Olympics and about journalism. I see sixth formers taking on far more responsibilities to help younger students than my generation ever did.

And we are often being told that it's 16 and 17-year-olds who often give up sport when they leave school and never return to it.

Surely this age group deserves to go to the ball?


  • Comment number 1.

    What is interesting about your comment, Adrian, is that you bear witness to the immense amount of volunteering that people of this age already do. All these people who slag off young people should take note of your experience. And support your view. With whom do we get in touch?

    And, whilst I am on, are young people getting a fair crack of the whip in getting jobs on site? I am told that only 2% of workers on the site are local. Is this right?

  • Comment number 2.

    Anyone aged 16 volunteering now will, of course, be over 18 by the time of the games. 16 year old volunteers should be accepted now


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