Monday, August 13, 2012
The motto of the London 2012 Games was to “inspire a generation” – and there has been no lack of inspirational moments.
From Bradley Wiggins winning gold in the Olympic time trial just days after being crowned as the Tour de France winner, to Nicola Adams’s beaming smile as she became our first woman boxer to win an Olympic title; from the “face of the Games”, Jessica Ennis, to legends like Ben Ainslie and Sir Chris Hoy – the success of Britain’s Olympians has captured the imagination of the public and motivated thousands to try a new sport.
The key now will be to turn inspiration into participation as scores of newly-enthused people turn to sports clubs, local facilities and schools to take up their desired sport.
The government has already come under fire for cutting funding for school sport partnerships, which linked state pupils with professional coaches and removing the requirement that schools in England provide pupils with at least two hours of sport a week.
And though pledges have been made for a £1bn investment in school sports in the next few years, questions have been raised as to whether or not school heads will be able to maximise a desire for sport alongside the pressure to meet targets and succeed in league tables.
There has already been a surge of interest in sports clubs and activity courses across the region, with high hopes that current sporting interest will be maintained.
Jon Osborne, development manager of Norwich School Sport Partnership (SSP), said: “The great thing about the Games is that each of those 50-plus British medals has been inspirational and everyone starts to think about how great it would be to do that.
“What we need to do now is to do something with that inspiration. That’s where we are looking really hard at the moment – to make sure there’s the opportunity for people to try sports. That’s going to be the big job for clubs and schools.”
Sam MacGibbon, school sports co-ordinator at Sewell Park College, Norwich, said: “It will be interesting to see what impact the Games have had on pupils when we get back.
“It’s going to be important to strike while the iron is hot.
“It will be interesting to see if the government does a U-turn on the school sport partnership funding.
“If they did, that would make a big difference and would be a real legacy from the Games.
“At Sewell Park, we offer as much as we can and as big of a variety as we can but at the end of the day it comes down to priorities and league tables will always be a priority.”
The opportunity to get involved in sport has existed in Norfolk for some time. Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, for example, delivered 14,568 hours of sports sessions in 267 schools across the county and is hoping the heightened passion for sport will see further engagement with schools in Norfolk.
And the county is well catered for in terms of sporting amenities.
One worry from the Olympic Games has been the lack of medals from the swimming pool – with many pointing the finger at the lack of 50m pools in the country – but Norwich is one of just a handful of places blessed with a full-size swimming pool.
The county can also boast top gymnastics venues, equestrian centres, hockey pitches and sports halls plus the Broads and its coastline for water sports.
Cycling has again been a big Games success but there is not a velodrome in the region – the closest being at Stratford at the Olympic Park. But the Norfolk Cycling Academy (NCA) is about to be set up, offering free coached cycling skills to young riders and novices at the airport park-and- ride-site in Norwich.
Meanwhile Active Norfolk has developed an Olympic-inspired Get Into programme for adults of all ages starting in October.
With sports such as handball, rowing, kayaking, archery, clay pigeon shooting, swimming, running and horse riding, there will be some 70 different courses available, with the hope of engaging more than 700 people.
Karen Young, from Active Norfolk, said: “We’ve had an increase in inquiries about where people can try different sports, especially Olympic sports such as handball, volleyball, canoeing and rowing.
“We’ve got our Get Into programme starting and people want to know what’s going on. We think this will only increase in the next couple of weeks after the Games have finished.”
Sports clubs and gyms have already seen an increase with Broadland Paddlesport, based off Yarmouth Road in Norwich, reporting a 200pc increase and Norwich Rowing Club also seeing a surge in membership inquiries,
So it remains to be seen if current enthusiasm for sport lasts.
But if done in the right way, Norfolk could be rejoicing in an Olympic legacy of a lifetime and the next Olympic champion could be signing up for their newly-chosen sport right now.