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Olympics: Ministers seek to boost 'patchy' sports provision

  • 6 August 2012
  • From the section UK
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School sports provision is "patchy" and ministers want to boost participation on the back of Team GB's Olympic success, the culture secretary says.

Jeremy Hunt said ministers wanted to ensure the "best examples are spread throughout the country" and have backed an Olympic-style event for schools.

His comments come after the British Olympic Association (BOA) called for a "step change" in sports policy.

Meanwhile, GB's showjumpers have won gold after a jump-off with the Dutch.

The four-man team - Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles - secured Great Britain's first showjumping gold since the 1952 Helsinki Games by posting the best three scores out of four.

Team GB gymnast Beth Tweddle earlier won a bronze medal in the uneven bars final.

The 27-year old has held four world titles and is the most decorated British gymnast but this final is likely to be her last appearance at international level.

Elsewhere, a 34-year old man has pleaded not guilty to a public order offence, after a bottle was thrown onto the track at the start of the men's Olympic 100m final on Sunday.

Ashley Gill-Webb, from South Milford near Leeds, was granted conditional bail at Stratford Magistrates' Court and told he would face trial at Thames Magistrates' Court on 3 September.

Olympic legacy

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hunt, said "primary schools is where it all starts and catching people young is incredibly important" but he accepted pupils faced "an element of luck", for example in terms of having an inspirational teacher.

"At the moment school sport provision is patchy in some places and we need to do what we can to make sure that the very best examples are spread throughout the whole country and this is absolutely going to be a focus over the next few months and one of the things we really want to take away from these Games," he said.

The Department for Education allocates funding for school sports provision in England, while the devolved administrations take on the responsibility in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Downing Street said the government was committed to ensuring the Games had a lasting legacy and was spending £1bn on a five-year youth sports strategy.

Asked whether the funding for grassroots sports would remain the same, a spokesman said it did not intend to "conduct a spending review now".

Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, the body responsible for allocating public funding to elite athletes, told the BBC the success of any high performance system "depends on the right level of investment".

"We can provide those inspirational moments through the success of the athletes in order to inspire the youngsters, but we do have to invest in schools, in teachers, in coaches, in talent to achieve that success," she added.

Labour says coalition cuts have "destroyed" its efforts.

In other developments:

The weekend saw Team GB pick up eight gold medals after wins for the likes of Andy Murray in tennis and Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon.

Lord Moynihan said inspiration needed to be "translated into participation".

Mr Hunt told the BBC Team GB was third in the Olympics medals table and this showed the model of funding sport through the National Lottery set up by the Tories in the 1990s had been a "great success".

He said "other countries are now looking at our sport funding model and seeing what they can learn".

He said the School Games, which saw primaries and secondaries from across the UK compete against each other at the Olympic Park in May, attracted about half of all schools.

Former sports minister Richard Caborn said Lord Moynihan had overlooked Labour's investment in sport.

Lord Coe, London 2012 chairman, told a news conference that "solid and strong legacy foundations" were in now place and the government needed to "recognise that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to capitalise on the increase in sporting interest.

The double Olympic gold medal winner said he was initially inspired to take up running by a geography teacher who "spotted in me clearly a talent that wasn't being fully expressed on the football pitch or the rugby pitch".

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