It’s an uphill struggle, but the signs are good. Hundreds of youngsters are turning up to try new and healthy activities. Enthusiasm for the Olympics is beginning to spread to a generation that badly needs to get active and stay fit.
Generations of kids have been put off sport at school and official surveys show levels of sports participation have barely changed in the adult population despite less than ayear to go before the Olympic Games.
Whilst there is some disagreement over which figures to believe, the government is in the process of ditching its aim to attract one million adults into sport and shifting the focus onto school leavers.
It is an argument that bolsters the case made by the organisers of the recent One Movement event in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, attended by nearly 2,000 people on Saturday 30 July. The day, which was designed to raise awareness of Hackney’s many sports clubs, took sport out of its usual context, aiming to reignite the interest of Hackney’s less enthusiastic athletes with a festival atmosphere.
Helen Womak, Olympic Legacy Coordinator at East London Business Alliance (ELBA), said: “It’s still quite hard for some people to get involved in sport and that’s something that we are trying to work against and break down. We’re trying to work through the stigma of associating sport with PE at school.”
She added: “We’re working in the Olympic host boroughs to develop sporting opportunities for young people through supporting sports clubs with business skills training and volunteer support as well as introducing sport in an informal environment.”
400 metre Olympics gold medalist Christine Ohuruogu, who grew up less than a mile from the Olympic Stadium, said the Games were at risk of being irrelevant to London’s youngsters. She told the BBC: “The general impression I get is that they [young people] are not really interested. I’ve seen, not apathy, but it is like, ‘We don’t take part in sports, what’s in it for us?’”
The Clissold Park day was the latest in a series of One Movement events that started in June with teenagers having a go at archery, basketball, judo, cycling and tennis at Mile End Park in Tower Hamlets.
Kids who turn up at the events are encouraged to join local sports clubs including Stoke Newington Cricket Club, London Lionhearts (Volley Ball), Football Buddies, London GD Handball Club, Capital London Judo Club, Hackney Bulls (Rugby), Lea Rowing Club, Black Arrows Badminton Club, Wise Youth Trust and North East London Gymnastics Club.
The events form part of a wider programme that is aiming to increase sports participation among young people in the host boroughs and to support the development of local sports clubs./ 14 August, 2011