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When the Olympic victory parade took place in central London on Thursday, I rushed away from it and headed to the east of the capital where the Games will be staged.

With the greatest respect to Britain's successful Olympians and Paralympians, and to the rest of the country, my belief is that it is among the people of Newham where we will find out if the 2012 Olympics have been worth it or not.

The east London borough is the Olympic benchmark. This is one of the poorest parts of the country which has suffered with high unemployment for years.

It also has the notoriety of having residents who are bottom of the London's league in terms of sports participation - and second bottom in the whole of England.

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But, more importantly, it also has an unusually young population. The Games are supposed to be about inspiring children to take up sport. If they are successful in Newham, there is a good chance they will be successful everywhere.

I'm feeling more positive about that after sitting in a classroom with a group of 12-year-olds watching the parade live on TV.

They were getting very excited about the medals won by Team GB and they were also talking spontaneously about how the achievements of those medallists were inspiring them to set goals for themselves.

No teachers were telling them what to say. These kids have been inspired by visits to the school from Olympians such as Kelly Holmes and Christine Ohuruogu, who lives just down the road. They have been motivated by the success of Britain at the Beijing Olympics.

And when we went into the sports hall with them, you could see they all have a competitive nature too.

The reason we decided to talk to 12-year-olds on the day of the parade was that it was at the same age that Seb Coe was first inspired to start running after watching pictures of the 1968 Olympics on a flickering black-and-white set in a school in Sheffield.

That moment changed his life. People can talk as much as they like about how today's kids just want to sit in front of computers all day but I think they are wrong. Forty years on and the generation of 2008 is just as fanatical about sport as Seb Coe's generation was.

The difference is we need to channel that enthusiasm and make sport happen for them. These days it's more dangerous for children to play sport in the street - largely because of traffic and crime - than it was in Coe's teenage years.

So the government and local authorities need to provide more facilities so that kids can play in a safe environment. And schools need to link their sporting activities with local clubs so that teenagers have the chance to carry on playing sport when they leave school.

Britain can do this. We just need to attack the areas of the country where these facilities are missing. Local authorities - and government - should be called to account if they are failing to deliver, just as they are in areas of health or education.

As one teacher told me in Newham: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Adrian Warner is BBC London's Olympics correspondent. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 4:32pm on 17 Oct 2008, Old One Eye wrote:

    You say they were watching the parade on TV.

    I was in Sydney for their parade (held two weeks after the end of the games rather than two months...) and the city was awash with school kids who'd been taken out for the day by their schools to see their Olympians parade in the flesh.

    And you wonder if we can use this to inspire? Unlikely in the atmosphere of narrow mindedness that informs our approach to such matters!

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  • 2. At 1:18pm on 20 Oct 2008, maxmerit wrote:

    enthusiasm is withering and the term legacy is languishing.

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