It was predictable that the Olympic bandwagons would soon start rolling and there’s one catching fire right now as a result of our gold fever. Clearly we’ve got it very right at an Elite funding level but it’s at the grassroots that we need to galvanise the nation and the current cause célèbre is how to get more sport played in schools.
Downing Street started it with a call for teachers to spend more time on PE; Boris carried it on reminiscing on his schooldays and the media have driven it with a campaign fervour not seen since berating politicians’ expenses.
A snapshot of this week’s press sums it up. The Sun was out the blocks fast with its ‘Support Sport in our Schools’ while The Telegraph Group has opted for ‘Keep the Flame Alive’ – a drive to specifically improve sport in schools through volunteering in sports clubs.
Brands too are getting in on the act, with a whole range of initiatives targeted at all ages and abilities. We are already seeing a mixture of Olympic sponsors and general UK sport / governing body sponsors looking to build on the after-glow at both a local and national level.
This bandwagon has a point. Australia enjoyed a similar sporting buzz after Sydney 2000, but a glance at the current medal table and the soon-to-be-glimpsed sight of their Sports Minister rowing in Team GB kit is all the evidence you need that they didn’t get it right in the aftermath of their Games.
Listening to the political parties in the media over the last few days, we’re already in danger of this becoming a political football and a mash-up of hundreds of well-intentioned but ultimately tactical schemes with slightly differing objectives, as the battle for share of voice begins.
So here’s my plea: Tessa Jowell has already asked for a party-neutral 10-year solution, but I think it should go further – why not a moratorium between politicians, media, sponsors and governing bodies – all working together on a common goal / scheme for organised sport in schools? This unprecedented, singular focus could ensure that Team GB’s success on the field doesn’t just inspire the next generation but embeds sport as part of their daily routine.
The Games have produced role models from all walks of life, athletes that ‘the people’ can aspire to – we’ve got medallists of all ages, genders, ethnicities and social groups. There will never be a better opportunity to harness the power of sport to do social good.
The lead needs to come from Parliament, then Fleet Street and boardrooms to draw all parties together – making this a reality is a process beset with pitfalls, but that alignment, in my mind, would be the real human legacy of London 2012.
By Dominic Curran on August 10th, 2012