Poll: Funding sought to transform Norfolk’s sporting lethargy through the London 2012 Olympic legacy

Archive photo from August 4, 2012, of Jessica Ennis at the London 2012 Olympics

Archive photo from August 4, 2012, of Jessica Ennis at the London 2012 Olympics - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sports officials are seeking government cash to research how they can transform Norfolk's sporting lethargy into an Olympic 2012 legacy.

Surveys by Sport England suggest 60pc of Norfolk's population over the age of 16 do no sport, while 50pc claim they do neither sport nor physical activity.

Active Norfolk, the county's sports partnership, also notes many people and even whole families are not tempted to take part in any sport despite a wide-range of activities being offered.

This inactivity among Norfolk's population is estimated to cost £17m in care to treat problems including cardio vascular disease and diabetes.

But a bid to fund research into different methods of getting inactive people to take part in sport on a regular basis has been made to Sport England by Active Norfolk, the University of East Anglia, and health and council officials.

Methods to improve participation could include using social media, GP referrals and recruiting people from lifestyle behaviour groups.

If the funding bid is successful, the project will last three years and could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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Active Norfolk, the county's sports partnership, says another application to Sport England for approximately £120,000 has been made to develop opportunities for people with a disability.

But the group said despite figures suggesting more people had visited leisure centres and taken part in sport taster sessions following London 2012, the 'squeeze' on council funding makes it difficult to provide all existing projects.

It is hoped the cash can be found to maintain initiatives, such as the Village Games, with ideas including sponsorship, fee charging, new grant applications or 'radical' redesigns of projects.

A report compiled by Active Norfolk for Norfolk County Council states: 'The movement of public health into the county council, the emphasis on the benefits of sport to a healthy lifestyle following the Olympics and growing concerns around health inequalities and increases in diabetes and obesity, have turned the spotlight fully on to levels of physical activity in Norfolk.

'The recommendation is for an individual to partake of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. In Norfolk, 60pc of the population do no sport and 50pc claim to do neither sport nor physical activity.

'Norfolk, as a county, appears to be a healthy place to live, e.g. better than national average life expectancy and lower early deaths from key diseases. However, this disguises extreme levels of health inequalities between different parts of the county – with notable black spots in the main urban centres.

'The high level of inactivity in Norfolk has been estimated to cost £17m per year. The aging demographic, high levels of diabetes and cardio vascular disease, pockets of extreme health inequality and soaring rates of obesity all point to the need to address inactivity.'

Ben Jones, Active Norfolk's sports development manager, told county councillors yesterday that several activities have been progressing well since last summer's Olympic Games.

These include 20 projects in Norfolk sharing £950,000 of Olympic legacy funding to develop facilities, while the Village Games attracted 16,000 participants from 120 villages in 2012.

Barry Stone, cabinet member for culture, added the county council and Norse are to provide £260,000 over the next four years for the Rising Stars programme, designed to support sporting and cultural prospects.

Despite the funding concerns noted by

Active Norfolk, community groups have also been seeking to build on last summer's Olympic bounce.

Peter Steward, a member of the Hethersett Olympic Legacy Committee, said there had been a good response to the free and low-cost sporting activities they were providing and the committee is keen to develop more.

And he said groups working together in the area are determined to ensure a legacy emerged not just over the next 12 months but in the next decade and beyond.

But Mr Steward said he was not surprised by the fact 60pc of people living in Norfolk do no sport.

He said: 'I thought it might be a bit higher. In the area we live, people tend to come home from school and get on PlayStation and things like that.

'We want to bring back that ethos to get people to go over to the local park and kick a football about in the evenings. The important thing about groups is people don't have to do it on their own.'

Health minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it was clear more needed to be done to improve exercise levels among the region's population due to the potential damage to people's health.

But he said lifestyles had changed and people had become less active through no fault of their own.

Mr Lamb said: 'The consequences of obesity and knock-on impact on diabetes are potentially disastrous. The cost to the NHS could be crippling but also the health consequences for individuals will be disastrous as well.'

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