4 June 2012

Olympic legacy dismantled by cuts

Britain's much-trumpeted Olympic legacy, which promised to "inspire a generation", looks set to fail just 54 days before the world's biggest sporting event opens in the capital. Participation in most major sports is plummeting, a litany of cuts has left a slew of half-finished projects and almost half of all young people believe they do not get enough opportunity to play sport in school, The Independent on Sunday reveals. Senior figures in British sport warned last night that hopes of an Olympic legacy had been "dismantled" by cuts.

Among schemes that have closed or had their funding slashed since London won the Games bid are school sports, the budget for which has been cut from £162m to just £35m, resulting in thousands of sports coaches and co-ordinators being sacked; free swimming for under-16s and over-65s; County Sport Partnerships, which lost £3m; and Cycling England, which was funding 18 towns to improve cycle routes when it was shut.

Programmes that promote healthy activity were also cut. Grants for 1,300 proposed playgrounds were scrapped, while Walking for Health had its government funding stopped and the Scottish budget to promote walking and cycling for 2012-13 was cut by 33 per cent from the previous year. A plan by the Children's Play Advisory Service and Sport England to close residential street for several weeks for community "Street Olympics", so children could play out during the Games, was abandoned after Sport England lost responsibilities to the Department for Health.

Last December, the Government dumped its target of getting one million more Britons playing sport by 2013, when it became clear participation was levelling off or falling in most mainstream sports. Swimming saw the biggest drop in participation, with 435,000 fewer people taking to the pool regularly in 2010-11 than in 2007-08. Numbers also fell in tennis, football and rugby. Among those aged 16 to 19 (a key target group), overall sporting participation fell by more than 100,000 to 825,900.

The Independent on Sunday (extracts)

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