Improved participation, education and accessibility in sport

02 Sep 2021
Legacies for Sport

London 2012’s objective to use the Olympic Games as a step change for sport across the UK led to multiple efforts in London, across the UK and internationally. Initiatives such as the Mayor of London Sport Legacy programme, Change4Life, and Get Set all received funding (often from National Lottery revenues) to improve accessibility, sports education or participation.

© Handout / Getty Images | Olympian Tom Daley films at the London Aquatic Centre a new campaign from Disney, Change4Life and the Amateur Swimming Association to encourage children to "Just Keep Moving" with themed family swim sessions at hundreds of pools across the UK.

Funds for improved participation, education and sport infrastructure accessibility contributed to the projects. Between 2012 and 2015, in London, 106 community facilities were upgraded, and 400,000 citizens participated in grassroots sport and physical activities through the Mayor of London Sport Legacy programme.

In March 2013, the UK Government announced additional funding for primary schools in England, initially for two years, but subsequently extended until 2021. The Primary PE and Sport Premium as it is known provides GBP 320 million per year to make additional and sustainable improvements to the quality of the PE, physical activity and sport offered through their core budgets.

By 2017, more than 41,000 children met national recommended levels of physical activity, having participated in Change4Life Sports Clubs, delivered by the Youth Sport Trust charity. These clubs harnessed the inspiration of the Olympic Games London 2012 to encourage children who are less active to engage in physical activity. The clubs motivate children who are usually left out of play groups at school to take part in extracurricular activities through sport. Clubs develop fundamental movement skills and capture the essence of sport without directly delivering sport-specific content.

However, the increase in sport participation resultant from these initiatives did not meet the government announced goal. Evidence on sport participation legacy following London 2012 is inconclusive, as the results vary depending on the time frame, methodology, socio-demographic groups studied and definitions of sport participation.

Some studies found increases in the percentage of adults participating in sport in the immediate aftermath of the Games in England: numbers peaked around the Games in 2012. Although they dropped slightly after 2014, the overall participation remained at a higher level than before the Games-related sport participation efforts started. The studies finding an increase in participation also show that the positive effects were more significant in terms of increasing frequency of participation of active people than attracting new participants. The positive effects have been stronger among ethnic minority groups, which shows a positive contribution in terms of social inclusion.

Other studies do not support this view, but some acknowledge that hosting the Olympic Games can provide a strong enough incentive to encourage sports participation in the long run only if there is a continuation of sport participation programmes after the Olympic Games.

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