London 2012 legacy promises are only applying to some sports

 

Six months on from the London Games, the grand promise to inspire us to becoming a fitter, sportier nation seems to be on track.

According to Sport England's latest edition of the Active People survey, published just before Christmas, there's been a 750,000 increase in the number of people playing sport once a week in the last year.

Take it all the way back to 2006 - a year after London won the right to stage the Games - and you can see a very steady increase - 1.6m extra people.

This is not to be dismissed lightly but given the huge sums of public money invested over the last seven years one might argue that the dial should have moved more dramatically.

The risk for the Government is that by only backing winners they cut adrift other sports - especially cheap and accessible team sports like basketball - and remove that inspirational factor which was at the heart of the London philosophy

Drill into the data in a little more detail and the picture is not quite so healthy. Much of the increase in the last year came in a small number of sports - led by cycling, athletics and swimming.

Others such as rowing, gymnastics and basketball have barely registered an increase. After a year like 2012 that has to be deeply worrying for those politicians and administrators who vowed to inspire a generation.

A survey by the Sport and Recreation Alliance of all sports clubs found that while the Olympics did lead to a surge in interest in sports like gymnastics, a lack of facilities and coaching meant that interest couldn't be absorbed.

The challenge now will be to ensure facilities and coaching can be upgraded quickly enough to ensure any momentum is not lost.

The debate which has polarised sport in recent weeks has not focused on the grassroots but the elite level. While the Government has rewarded those sports like cycling which delivered medals in abundance in London, it has punished those who failed like basketball and volleyball by removing funding for the top athletes.

The legacy of London 2012 appears healthy - at first glance

The legacy of London 2012 appears healthy - at first glance

People like Sir Clive Woodward, the BOA's former director of elite performance, argue the Government and UK Sport have got it wrong and that by cutting off the supply of cash for those at the top they risk removing the role models needed to inspire people to get off their sofas and play sport.

Nonsense, says the Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, who told me this week: "Those sports that have failed should stop whingeing about it and take a long hard look at themselves, work out why they failed and put it right."

It's harsh but it's also the post London reality. Only those who succeed will be rewarded.

The risk for the Government is that by only backing winners they cut adrift other sports - especially cheap and accessible team sports like basketball - and remove that inspirational factor which was at the heart of the London philosophy.