Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)


25 OCTOBER 2005

  Q140  Mr Yeo: Looking at the Olympic legacy in sporting terms, what do you hope the legacy will be? What benefits are we going to see in the longer term?

  Tessa Jowell: I hope there will be a physical legacy and that there will also be a performance legacy and a participation legacy. The physical legacy has been designed into every part of the Olympic Park, and, as you know, that I think is one of the compelling parts of our case in submitting London's bid to the Olympics. You have to think of every venue having the legacy purpose-designed first with its Olympic purpose designed on top of that, and all the venues will be convertible for their legacy use after the Games are over. The second part of the legacy is the Active England Centre's programme funded by the lottery as part of the demonstration in the bidding process that we were serious about boosting participation and taking the Olympic Games beyond just the performance of our elite athletes. That is a second example of the infra-structure legacy. There will then be the third aspect of legacy, the facilities from the Olympic Park that will be relocated to other parts of the country. I think it is four swimming pools and five arenas and something like a million pieces of sporting equipment; so an awful lot will be available for distribution around the UK. Then, of course, there is the legacy that Matthew Symes outlined that will emanate from the work of the Nations and Regions Group. Then there is the participation legacy. The new impetus and focus that has been given to school sport by this are sustained investment in school sport between now and 2010 which shapes the work of my department by being one of our performance targets. Then there is, if you like, the sporting legacy, the performance legacy, which is the level of investment in elite athletes, and I think, very particularly, the focus on improving the talent pathways and the performance pathways for young athletes, which have not been good in the past, not as good as they should be, and one of the very specific programmes that I feel very proud of—a small programme but it gives you an example of what some of the problems are—is the programme to support our 2012 athletes. These are young athletes; they are by and large the best in their class now from 10 upwards and they have anything up to a £10,000 bursary for one year and the renewal of that bursary is determined by their performance, but we are supporting young athletes at the moment across a very wide range of both Olympic and actually non-Olympic sports. I hope you can see the legacy in those three terms: boosting participation, building sporting excellence but also the physical and structural legacy.

  Q141  Mr Yeo: On that last point you mentioned, because you referred to non-Olympic sports as well, clearly it is likely that the boost of participation rates as a result of the Olympics and all the associated publicity will be greatest in Olympic sports, but there are a lot of other sports. I know your son is an outstanding performer in a sport which is not an Olympic sport for the time being. Will you be measuring the participation rates right across the board, and is it an explicit objective for the Department to see that raised in other sports as well?

  Tessa Jowell: It would be ridiculous not to given that some of our largest participation sports, as you say, are not Olympic sports. Nicola, would you like to say any more in relation to that?

  Ms Roche: In terms of measuring it, I think we have a new survey called "Taking part" starting this Autumn, first results out in December with a quarterly update, that will tell us what is happening in terms of age groups, by gender, ethnic minority groupings, and that will really help us plan more, and it is asking across all sports as well as the arts and heritage sector as well.

  Q142  Mr Yeo: Commonsense would suggest there might be some sort of counter effect. Given the Olympics will be such a boost to Olympic sports—and cricket, of course, has had a boost this year anyway because of the performance of our side—there may be some counter-cyclical measures you need to take?

  Ms Roche: What is happening through our school sports strategy is that young people for the first time are experiencing about 12, 14 sports by the time they get to secondary school, so it is a much broader experience than any of us probably had, and some will want to participate in sport. I think David Moorcroft was here last week saying, "What has happened in athletics clubs post 6 July?", but also other sports are seeing an increase in participation, and in relation to the school sports strategy a key component is the school club links part of it run by our country sport partnerships, and we set them really quite tough targets in terms of increasing participation for five to 16 year olds, and we will keep that momentum going.

  Q143  Alan Keen: I have raised this with you before and I am going to keep on raising it. I hope we are going to learn lessons as we go along. When I say "we" I am talking about the world of sport, not just this nation. Two things have changed since I last asked you about it: one is that we have won the bid so we can afford to maybe encourage the IOC to look at the future organisation of the Olympics in other nations, and we should not wait until we have actually held the Games here before we press for changes. But also it has been well illustrated, the efforts we have had to put in to win the bid strengthens my argument even more. How on earth can nations less developed than others actually ever hope to host the Olympics, and should we not be using the resources of the developed world to try to help countries like South Africa and other nations, not just swap it between the US, Japan, China? The Olympic Village is something I have argued against before, not argued against, but said that we should re-look at it. We could have used Wembley Stadium for athletics, but we cannot because of the village having to be close to the stadium. Will we raise this with the IOC and have somebody thinking about future Olympics? We can afford it, because we are not going to defend the IOC any more and we do have to give other nations the opportunity. Despite being from West London, I am very happy for East London to be developed, but there are parts of the world even more desperate than East London to be developed. When I was boy there was nothing to do other than sport, and under developed nations could benefit even more from having sporting facilities than we can in East London.

  Tessa Jowell: I agree with you 100%. This was a very strong message that we gave to the IOC in the bid, and, indeed, the presentation that we made to them, and in the run up to the Singapore decision I made a number of visits, as did Richard Caborn, to developing countries in order to take precisely this message. Both he and I have visited South Africa, have met with the ministers and the officials who are involved in the staging of the World Cup, have offered whatever support they may want by way of advice, learning from experience and so forth, in making the World Cup a success. I have also been to Delhi, have met the staging committee for the Commonwealth Games. I think it is an absolute obligation on us as one of the richest countries in the world to ensure that big events like the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games are truly global events, and I think that the IOC in very particular recognises the importance of that too.

  Alan Keen: Thank you.

  Q144  Mr Hall: Secretary of State, we talk about the success of the Olympics, and, of course, the major success will come on the Games themselves and hopefully we will achieve our ambition of getting from tenth in the medal table to fourth in the medal table. If I have understood this rightly, part of the funding formula for the Olympic sports is previous performance; so those sports that do well in Olympics get very well funded and those that do less well get under funded. How is that going to help us move up the medal table from tenth to fourth? Surely we ought to be putting money into those sports that have under-performed previously.

  Tessa Jowell: I am going to ask Nicola Roche to take you through the way in which UK Sport makes its judgments about funding different sports and different governing bodies, but I would also just say at this stage, we want to do very well in the medal hall in 2012—that is a statement of the obvious—but it is the BOA that have stated this ambition that we be fourth in the medal table, it is not a government target that I would expect the Committee to question me on, but let ask me Nicola to take you through the way in which UK Sport have approached these decisions on funding.

  Ms Roche: It is not quite right to say that it is always an historic trend. What they do is look at anybody who has the potential to achieve a medal. Normally it is just for that forthcoming four-year cycle. What we have asked them to do now, because of 2012, is to look ahead seven years to who of an age now may well get a medal in London as well as potentially in Beijing, and normally anyone who wins an Olympic medal or Paralympic medal would have competed in at least one games before—so that is quite a good indication of who is going come through—and on that basis they then put proposals to the UK Sport Board, and that is then agreed by the Board. The Department does not interfere in that decision. It really is our specialists taking that decision. Of course, they take soundings from the BOA and the BPA on what the likely allocations are. I think we talked about the reform to the sporting landscape and why it was so important. Sport England used to work with those who are not quite at world-class level. These changes mean that those who are seven, eight years out from the medal are now in the one system and will be much closer in to the governing body's really elite coaches to performance directors, and we can track them right through to 2012; and we want that legacy then to be sustained thereafter so that we do not just win more medals in 2012 but we really do change the sporting culture of the country both at elite level and by then setting an aspiration for everybody else to participate.

  Q145  Mr Hall: Did I hear you correctly to say that part of the formula would be participation in previous Olympics?

  Ms Roche: Not necessarily, no.

  Q146  Mr Hall: Because that would be quite difficult, because we need to appeal to about 700 athletes to compete in all events in 2012 and we have fielded less than 300 young athletes?

  Ms Roche: It is right to say that, as the host nation in 2012, we are expected to field people in every event where we have reached the qualifying level and the BOA and BPA accept those standards. That means, for example, that we might compete in handball or basketball where we do not traditionally, and that means more people coming through. In order to have a good squad from which to draw, you need far more people who will be selected to compete in a particular Games. One of the things that happens at the moment is that at the tier just under world-class there are an awful lot of "churns". We have got people coming through, but, because they do not see the chance or they are not being mentored and supported very tightly, they drop out. We have got to support those who have the potential to be champions, and this new structure will help keep those people in the system right through with the right support around them. I do not think it is true to say we are just looking backwards; we are really trying to support the talent, the people who can achieve and compete well in 2012.

  Q147  Mr Hall: Supporting that talent means we get the best coaches?

  Ms Roche: It does.

  Q148  Mr Hall: It also means we develop centres of excellence and it also means that we take athletes away from their own clubs and bring them into a national structure, all of which I agree with because I think that is the way we get the best of it. It almost appears that all roads lead to London in this particular case and, hopefully, success in 2012. What are we going to do to sustain the clubs that are giving up these athletes?

  Ms Roche: We were talking earlier about Sport England, and I know that the other home country councils have the same view about increased investment in clubs. We are going through a modernisation process for sports governing bodies, focusing them on a much more professional structure about more professional coaches, because at the moment we have a huge number of effective coaches in this country but many volunteers, which is good, but in order to bring through our top athletes we need more professional coaches, and there is a new scheme which we have started called "The Elite Coaches Scheme". By 2010 we aim to have 60 more elite coaches in this country. We have got the first 10 going now. I do not think it is one or the other. It is not just perhaps being cut off from the elite athletes. Our best athletes always want to give something back. There are role models that are very active in local clubs and in schools, and as a department we are very committed to Sport England dealing with that. We have something called "Sporting Champions", which is a scheme to plug them into that in quite a systematic way.

  Q149  Mr Hall: One more question, Chairman. We have spent mostly the whole of this session without disabilities being mentioned once. What are we going to do to ensure we have a successful Paralympic Games as well?

  Ms Roche: We are one of the most successful Paralympic countries in the world.

  Q150  Mr Hall: We have to maintain that though?

  Ms Roche: We have. We have been first in recent years, second in Athens. I know you had Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson last week where she was saying that this really is the moment for Paralympic sport to come into its own, that it is not just about disabled athletes and Paralympics, it is about sport in its own right, and we are very committed to Sporting BPA doing that. UK Sport sees them as a critical partner. The Department has asked UK Sport to reinvigorate the memorandum of understanding they have with the BPA as well as the BOA for 2012, and, in terms of everything we have been saying about elite coaches and bringing talent through, that applies just as well to disabled athletes and that is very much part of our school sports strategy as well. It is not a separation; everybody has to participate together.

  Tessa Jowell: If you take the 2012 scholarship programme and the Talented Athlete Scholarship programme, they have both able-bodied athletes and disabled athletes who are receiving the benefit of that.

  Q151  Chairman: Can I ask you quickly about support for one particular sport which is an Olympic sport, and that is shooting? Of the disciplines in shooting three are prevented from being practised in this country as a result of firearms legislation. Is the Government going to give exemption from the legislation to allow our Olympians to practice and participate?

  Tessa Jowell: There has been discussion with the Home Office about this. There is as of now no exemption, and, as you will be aware, although shooting will be part of the Olympics, our athletes, our Olympic contestants, train in other countries that do not have the handgun legislation that we do. We have taken the view that there should not be an exemption at this point in the seven years between now and 2012. We will obviously keep this under review.

  Q152  Chairman: We have been pretty successful at shooting in the past. It is difficult to see how we are going to maintain that if we are not able to develop shooting talent because they are not allowed to shoot in this country. Are you resigned to the fact that Britain will fall out of the medal table in shooting sports in the future?

  Tessa Jowell: As you rightly say, we have seen athletes reach a very high standard even within the constraints of our legislation in the wake of Dunblane created. Richard Caborn, our sports minister, is meeting the governing body this week and is in discussion with the Home Office, but we would be reluctant, as I say, to argue that we have moved far from the legislation as we have done at the moment, for which, as you know, there is a very high level of public support for very good reasons.

  Q153  Chairman: So you are not even able to say whether the Government will give an exemption at this stage?

  Tessa Jowell: I am not able to say that at this stage, no.

  Q154  Helen Southworth: Secretary of State, you visited two very, very good sport facilities in my constituency fairly recently, a new sports hall and community centre in the school and a rowing club, both in disadvantaged communities and both allowing some interesting participation in sport for young people who have not been involved before, but they were both dependent on investment, fairly considerable capital investment. Are you going to ensure that your inclusion, your participation programme for the legacy, is shared by the lottery investors and other investors to make sure that we do get those facilities into disadvantaged communities, and how are you going to measure it to make sure it is spread round the country?

  Tessa Jowell: First of all, I remember very well my visit to your constituency, and I would just say that I thought that the rowing club that you took me to—it was a very cold day, I remember—was also a very good example of how sport could regenerate, because the part of the river on which the rowing club was located was being regenerated and paths were being created, and so on and so forth, so I think that is the first point. The second is that increased levels of investment are desperately needed, and we are very dependent on the lottery for that, and also we are dependent on local authorities making the very best use of the facilities that they have available. The problem there is that many local authority facilities were built anything up to 60 years ago, and what we have learnt from the school sports programme is that the way you get young people engaged is by having high quality, modern facilities with changing rooms, showers, flood-lighting and so forth, and that is where we see the benefits of lottery investment in new sport halls, and so forth, in the increased level of participation and the length of time that the facilities are used. The Audit Commission are undertaking an assessment of local authority sports facilities at our request at the moment, and I hope that over the next period it will be possible for us to work more closely with local authorities on identifying those facilities that are the priority for refurbishment, but good coaches and good facilities are the pathways not just to boosting participation but also the pre-requisites for elite success.

  Q155  Mr Evans: Talking about the facilities, we are going to have some fantastic new facilities as part of the Olympic Games, and this is also going to be the "no white elephant" games as well. Following the end of the Olympics we are not going to have any of these structures that either are not going to be put to some good use or be demolished afterwards. The one project that comes to mind immediately that should never have been a white elephant clearly was the Dome. If we could press the rewind button, Secretary of State, I suspect it would be on that project, would it not?

  Tessa Jowell: The Dome, or the O2 Centre . . .

  Q156  Mr Evans: That is right. It cost £30 million odd to keep it closed, did it not?

  Tessa Jowell: . . . has a critical part to play in the Olympic Games. It will host gymnastics and basketball.

  Q157  Mr Evans: Thank goodness it is there, but I am sure we would not have thought that now, would we?

  Tessa Jowell: We are delighted that the Dome is there.

  Q158  Mr Evans: It cost £30 million to keep closed though, did it not? Do you get my drift on this?

  Tessa Jowell: Not just your drift; I know exactly where you are going. I am delighted to confirm the importance of the O2 Centre being one of the venues for the 2012 games.

  Q159  Mr Evans: Alright. Let us ask the question. Are we going to make certain that each of the buildings that are going to be built for the Olympic Games is going to be properly and effectively either disposed of or used, that none of them are going to be turned into mini-domes that are going to cost tax-payers hundreds of millions of pounds following the Games?

  Tessa Jowell: I do not think I have to underline to the Committee how seriously we have taken the legacy issue, and I think that I am right in saying that each of the venues already has a 25-year business plan in place, and we are clear about its legacy use; and I have already made the point about the way in which legacy will be designed into the structure of the Games.

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