Canada Olympic boss slams Sports Partnerships cuts
Sports chiefs from Canada, which staged this year's Winter Olympics, have stepped into the row over the funding of sport in English schools, urging the government to rethink its plans to cut £162m from the budget.
During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed over plans for the future funding for schools sports in England.
Now Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive Jean Dupre has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove, calling on him to find a way of keeping 450 threatened School Sports Partnerships.
The Partnerships employ co-ordinators to improve competition within and between schools and improve pupils' access to sports, including after class.
In a letter seen by the BBC, Dupre said: "It is virtually impossible to put a price on the pivotal role that sport plays on the lives of youth today.
"As London 2012 fast approaches, I sincerely hope a suitable solution can be achieved in keeping the School Sports Partnerships in place, thus securing a better tomorrow for many and an Olympic legacy for generations to come."
Some schools are already organising petitions against the cuts and a campaign involving leading sports stars has been launched on social networking websites Twitter and Facebook.
During the 2012 bid, Britain made ambitious promises to the International Olympic Committee about using the Games to inspire children to take up sport.
Canadian sports officials became aware of the row because its national team plans to use a specialist Langdon Park sports school in Tower Hamlets in east London for training during the 2012 Games.
Mr Dupre added: "During my visit to London in October I was greatly impressed by the hard work and dedication of not only these young athletes.
"It is a cruel reflection on the times we live in that as a result the tremendous sporting potential of so many of our youth may now be left unrealised."
Langdon Park headmaster Chris Dunne said of the letter: "This is a pretty hefty indictment of the government's actions by a well-respected international body."
Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "We haven't taken this decision lightly but it is right to now rethink government's approach."
"Creating an Olympic legacy must be more than simply investing taxpayers' cash to meet a centralised, arbitrary five-hours-a week target, which still left low levels of high quality competitive sport in many parts of the country."
He added: "High quality sport should be at the heart of growing up - that's why we are creating a nationwide school Olympics.
"We're giving heads the freedom to make more of the established network of school sport partnerships but without being tied down by centralised targets and a bureaucratic blueprint set by ministers."