Keeping the flame alive: the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy - Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Contents


What was promised?

109.  The 2010 Legacy Action Plan promised "to increase grass roots participation, particularly by young people—and to encourage the whole population to be more physically active".

110.  In its 2007 report, London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games: funding and legacy, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee concluded that "no host country has yet been able to demonstrate a direct benefit from the Olympic Games in the form of a lasting increase in participation".[3] Systematic reviews of literature both academic and policy-related, further demonstrate this point.[4] The challenge therefore is a lofty one.

Why does it matter?

111.  The public policy case for increasing sports participation is compelling: the cost of obesity to the UK taxpayer has been estimated at £20 billion per year, and we have had convincing evidence of the wider lifelong benefits which playing sport as part of an active lifestyle can have. The Sport and Recreation Alliance's Game of Life report in 2012 highlights the positive impact which participation in sport can have on physical and mental health, education and employment, reducing antisocial behaviour and crime and enhancing social cohesion. The Chair of the SRA, Andy Reed, told us that participation can "add probably one to one and a half grades to an individual for those most likely to be excluded from school. I have some rugby programmes that demonstrate that you can reduce the levels of absenteeism."[5]

What is the evidence of an immediate legacy?

112.  The overwhelming majority of evidence we received related to sports participation in England, rather than in the other Home Nations, and our conclusions in this and subsequent Chapters are therefore more geared to England than to other parts of the UK.

113.  Sport England, the body responsible for sporting participation in England, told us that "the early signs are promising", with 1.4 million more people playing sport than was the case in 2005 at the point when the bid was won.

    "Analysis of overall participation levels since 2005 shows a steady upward trend. The initial figure of 13.9 million people (34.2% of the population) for the period October 2005/6 had increased to record levels by October 2011/12, when it reached 15.5 million (36.0%)—1.6 million more people playing sport. The period between October 2010/11 and October 2011/12 saw a significant increase of 753,600 people, with the majority of that growth (578,500) driven by women. The most recent figures, released in June 2013, showed that most, but not all, of that growth has been sustained. The current level of 15.3 million means that 533,000 of the 753,600 gained have been retained. While it was disappointing to see the slight dip in figures, it was not unexpected due the exceptionally cold weather in January and March. There is confidence among many sports that figures are already showing signs of recovery, suggesting that the dip in figures is temporary, and the longer term upward trend will continue."[6]

114.  Sport Wales delivered a similarly positive assessment, reporting "increases in swimming club membership of around 30%, similar increases of around 20% to 30% in boxing, and hockey organisations are suggesting a 40% increase in their membership" since the Games.[7] Sportscotland told us that, in the year of the Games, "our national statistics on participation increased for the first time in a long time. That increase has been maintained this year and the frequency of existing participants has shown an increase."[8]

115.  Some individual sports have particularly outstanding records in boosting participation around the Games. Ian Drake, CEO of British Cycling described the Games as

    "transformational for British Cycling and also cycling in Britain, in terms of the public perception and interest in our sport, and participation levels across competition, recreation and utility cycling. There are almost 2 million people now riding on a regular basis. We saw our membership increase from 24,000 in 2009 to 76,000 at present, and we are growing at a rate of 54%, year on year. The transformation did not just happen around the four weeks of the Olympics and Paralympics. We set our plan out prior to the Games to have a four-year plan to ensure that we delivered a legacy, working with Sport England, UK Sport and, critically, our commercial partner in Sky to get a million more people cycling before the opening ceremony of the Games, and ensure that our elite successes delivered more than the medals themselves. We achieved all the goals we set out in the run-up to the Games, and that gave us the growth and momentum to continue to accelerate our legacy since 2012, and put our sport in a fantastic position, as we build and look to Rio and beyond."[9]

116.  The English Football Association by contrast claimed to have no evidence of increases in participation in the male population though it pointed to improvements in attendances and media coverage of the women's game, and referenced the projects it had launched to foster increases in participation in competitive women's football, though these were largely at the elite level.[10]

117.  The quality of provision in small local clubs is key to the take up of sport at grassroots level. The headline figures from the Sport and Recreation Alliance's most recent survey of clubs suggest there are real difficulties here in upgrading their existing facilities. Under half of clubs surveyed were optimistic about training and developing their coaches and volunteers and only 31% felt they had sufficient coaching resource to meet the demands of their members over the next two years. More positively the number of volunteers at the average club had risen by 20% from 2011 numbers. As Lord Coe told us, "A lot of clubs are reporting people turning up there and wanting to help." But he also added that "Sometimes the clubs are not always in a position to know exactly what to do with them, and there will need to be work going forward to make sure that we capture that."[11]

118.  Even a year on from the Games, it seems that many sports clubs do not feel equipped to meet increases in demand from new members. We believe that this patchy infrastructure at grassroots level is a symptom of three factors. The first factor is the level of funding for sports clubs. The second is a lack of coordination between the grassroots level sports organisations and the organisations responsible for high performance sport, which is considered in more detail in Chapter Three below. The third factor is related: the lack of a clear legacy plan for capturing the enthusiasm of the Games within all sports.

119.  The lack of a clear plan and of more effective coordination between grassroots and high performance sport has hindered the efforts to foster a step change in sports participation in the immediate wake of the Games. The 2012 Games still have a real resonance with the people of the country, so this opportunity is not necessarily lost, but it will evaporate in the coming years if unaddressed. Moving forward, we are aware of a number of major events in the coming decade, particularly the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. These events will present similar, albeit smaller, opportunities to generate the short term results which London 2012 seems not to have achieved. Some sports are well equipped to meet these challenges, but the unevenness of sports' preparedness at grassroots level suggests to us that central coordination is necessary.

120.  We call on the Government urgently to coordinate the work of producing action plans for individual sports, involving the relevant clubs, governing bodies and the Home Nations sports councils. These plans are necessary to stimulate enthusiasm and capture participants for future major events, identifying where possible gaps between likely supply and demand. (Recommendation 1)

121.  The plans would focus on capturing a participation legacy and could be tailored to specific sports and specific events, complementing the Whole Sport Plans which are discussed below in paragraph 144 and 145. This work would be helped if our later recommendations, on leadership within Government and on the integration of schools and communities are accepted. In the medium term, the issue should be considered as part of the ongoing debate about the roles of Sports Councils in the Home Nations and UK Sport, which is discussed in the same Chapter Four.

How reliable are the surveys' data?

122.  Sport England's data come from its Active People Survey (APS), which measures the level of regular participation in sport by members of the general public over the age of 16. A number of those giving evidence pointed to limitations of the APS methodology, including the size of local samples, the method of data collection, and the lack of reference to those under 16 which constituted a priority target group. David Brooker of DCMS told us that the Department had reviewed the relationship between APS and its own Taking Part Survey (TPS), which gathers data on adults and childrens' participation in sport and leisure activities, with a view to establishing how the data generated might be improved.[12]

123.  DCMS described the actions to improve the quality of the data as follows:

    "Active People is a 161,000 sample size telephone survey but is in the process of modernising to include on-line, face to face and mobile telephone methods of collection.

    DCMS and Sport England consulted during 2012 on proposed changes to the way we measure sport in Active People (APS) and Taking Part (TP) to

·  Address quality/coverage concerns

·  Create a single measure for sport

·  Assess the potential to bring the surveys closer together

    Over 200 people responded, comprising Local Authorities, sport governing bodies, County Sport Partnerships, central government departments, academics and charities.

    The main findings from the consultation were: (% in brackets shows percentage of respondents who considered this essential or important)

·  Support for the proposal of having a single measure for sport (70%);

·  Strong demand for continued provision of sport specific results (71%), used for NGB performance management and Local Authority estimates for sport (88%);

·  Support for lowering the age range of APS to 14+ (87%);

·  Concern that we retain consistency and continuity with previous APS results, to enable stakeholders to see trends over time (76%);

·  High interest in using new and mixed methods to survey people, to reduce our reliance on landline interviews (38%), to have more face to face (34%) and to explore digital data collection (75%);

·  Preference for six monthly sport result (46%) and results in same or similar format as currently (37%), supported by tools (78%);

·  Need to continue to measure the Olympic effect (59%) and to provide cross cultural analysis (29%) through Taking Part.

    Sport England are implementing online and mobile phone pilots to allow them to consider producing a fully mixed-mode survey. Their work has been informed by technical advice from the Methodology Advisory Service and the Government Statistical Service Methodological Advisory Committee within the Office of National Statistics and the survey contractors TNS BMRB.

    Using this advice and the findings from the consultation, DCMS will to continue to ask sport participation questions in Taking Part Survey, but on behalf of Sport England. This means that sport participation data will not be analysed and reported on by DCMS or in the Taking Part publications. This approach allows for the inclusion of face-to-face data within Active People over time, so that Active People can become a fully mixed-mode survey. In the shorter term the data will be used to validate the landline estimates."[13]

124.  The methodology used for the Active People Survey and the Taking Part Survey has clear limitations. We welcome the recognition by the Government that it needs to be improved, bearing in mind the need to ensure that future surveys will need to produce statistics which are comparable to what is already gathered.

125.  We urge DCMS and Sport England jointly to develop a better and more up-to-date methodology, taking full account of tools such as mobile devices and social media, to capture better the activity levels of younger people, particularly those under 16 years old. (Recommendation 2)

126.  The legacy aspiration was for a step change in participation, with the inspiration of the Games leading to much greater participation by the general public. Looking at the data as they stand, it too soon to say whether the slight post-Games rise in activity will be sustained, or whether the slight fall overall earlier this year was more than a seasonal blip. Whatever the position, the evidence does not support a surge in participation in the immediate wake of the Games across the population as a whole. For those sports with the best records, such as cycling, it is equally hard to say that the growth in participation is solely or even largely down to the Games, such has been the sustained success of British cyclists at previous Games and recent Tours de France. London 2012 will nevertheless have played an important role in the cumulative effect, although we have not been able to quantify it.

127.  The longer term picture from 2005 is positive but a long term sustained legacy in participation will need real commitment to infrastructure, social as well as physical. This will need schools and local authorities to be as much a part of the picture as Sport England's approach to funding. This is discussed in Chapter Four below.

Inclusivity in participation

128.  Sport England's evidence cited data relating to the impact on participation for a range of historically under-represented and high priority groups, and on policies aimed at increasing participation in such groups.

129.  One such group is young people aged between 16-25, where the longer term trends show a decline in participation in sport of 1.6% from 2005/06. The more recent snapshot was more positive, with the number of people playing sport regularly in this demographic increasing by nearly 63,000 over the past 12 months to 3.86 million, with particular increases in basketball and swimming. Sport England run a number of programmes to target this 16-25 year olds, such as "Sportivate, Satellite Clubs, Active Colleges and Active Universities." Sport England "estimate that around 60% of the £493 million being invested in NGBs will be spent on initiatives targeting young people."[14]

130.  Sport England's data also suggested that the historic gender gap was narrowing between the number of men and women playing sport regularly, down from 2.2 million in 2010/11 to 1.7 million last year. Sport England attributed this in part to high profile women athletes in specific sports, most notably with "the Nicola Adams effect" which "has seen women's boxing participation up 15,500 over last 18 months, and up more than 50% since a year ago." Although the gap in participation rates is evidently narrowing, women remain 9% behind the figure of men who participate regularly. Sport England is investing money in a variety of schemes to address this gap.[15] It should be noted that Sport England's data includes activities such as Boxercise and other non-competitive forms of boxing.

131.  Richard Caborn of the Amateur Boxing Association of England argued that, should a legacy be created from the inspiring performance of athletes such as Nicola Adams, investment in clubs would be needed with a view to

    "changing conditions for women boxers: to start putting showers in, and that is very expensive to boxing clubs who are running on very meagre means. It is very difficult to cater for that. So if we really wanted to expand boxing at the grassroots, at the club level, we do need investment into that infrastructure, and coaching as well."[16]

132.  A further issue of concern was the gender balance on the boards of sports national governing bodies, a number of those governing bodies from whom we took evidence reported disappointingly low numbers of women members. Maria Miller told us that "it is of paramount importance that those governance bodies, like any governance body, are reflective of society, and a great deal of progress has been made. I think there is only now one governing body that does not have any women on it".[17] As a follow-up to this exchange, Lord Moynihan, a member of the Committee, asked the Government which Governing Bodies of Sport, currently in receipt of lottery or Government funding, have achieved the target of at least 25% of women on their boards. The Minister's reply cited the most recent annual audit by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation[18], which found that "nearly half" of governing bodies in receipt of government or lottery funding met that target and said that the Government expected all such funded governing bodies to meet the target "by 2017".

133.  Mrs Miller also acknowledged that "we still have a huge way to go in representing people from ethnic minority communities".[19] Sport England's participation figures for ethnic minority groups "generally show that they are well represented", with 36.7% playing sport regularly, compared to the general population rate of 35.2%. Within this overall positive picture, some groups are under-represented, "in particular African, Caribbean and Asian girls, of which just under 26% play sport once a week."[20]

134.  There remains a significant socio-economic gap, with "only 26.6% of people from lower socio-economic groups participate compared with 41.3% from managerial and professional socio-economic groups."[21] We received evidence from StreetGames, a charity promoting 'doorstep sport' targeted at encouraging disadvantaged young people to take up sport. The scheme is having some evident success from modest beginnings seven years ago:

    "our network has expanded from start-up to over 250 local projects, attracted over 230,000 participants and generated over 2.4 million attendances at doorstep sport sessions. Circa 85% of our participants live in the 20% most deprived wards. The projects in the network are locally owned, locally controlled and enjoy an enviable reach into disadvantaged communities."[22]

135.  Stonewall, representing gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals and groups, argued that London 2012 had done little to address the barriers associated with sexual orientation and access to sport participation. It conducted research in 2012 which found that "one in three gay and bisexual boys and one in seven lesbian and bisexual girls experience homophobic bullying during sport. This has a negative impact on how they perceive team sports, with two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils saying they don't like playing them." The study reported a significant rise in the negative response to the question on antipathy to playing games, up from half of respondents to the equivalent study in 2007. Stonewall conclude that "measures introduced to promote sports participation amongst young people in the run up to the Games, including the School Games, have failed to reach lesbian, gay and bisexual young people."[23]

136.  The gap in participation between previously under-represented groups and the general population does appear to be narrowing, albeit slowly. The narrowing of the gap is to be welcomed, but it will only be sustained if the right sort of investment is put into developing the facilities in sports clubs to ensure that they are more inclusive environments than in the past, for example by ensuring that adequate separate shower and changing facilities are provided or by installing floodlights so that existing facilities can be used over a longer period of time by a wider number of people. As significantly as the physical infrastructure at grassroots level, a change of culture and board composition of governing bodies of sports should be a key driver in broadening the base of people who participate in sport, at the same time appropriately reflecting the participants' views.

137.  Within the above general conclusion, the issue of inclusivity for people with disabilities deserves particular attention. Sport England told us that the number of disabled people participating in sport once a week was currently 1.7 million, an increase of 353,000 since 2005/06, although we noted that the participation of people with disabilities was only 18.2%, which was half that for non-disabled people.[24]

138.  The British Paralympic Association shared this positive assessment and cited research by Channel 4 and the English Federation for Disability Sport that showed that "70% of disabled people agree that the London 2012 Paralympic Games was inspirational for them" and that "8 out of 10 disabled people are considering taking up sport following the Games".

139.  Charles Reed of the English Federation of Disability Sport praised Sport England's role in adapting its funding after the games so that sports "governing bodies have now been specifically targeted with increases in the number of disabled people who are taking part in their sport."[25] Sport England confirmed that 42 of its 46 funded sports had committed to such targets, compared to only 11 in the previous funding round.

140.  However the Sport and Recreation Alliance highlighted remaining concerns, arguing that there was "still a challenge to make a real difference to the numbers of disabled people who are playing sport, and to overcome some of the practical barriers that exist."[26] Two thirds of the respondents to an SRA survey in October 2012 said that:

    "they did not have suitably trained staff to cater for disabled participants, whilst 3 in 5 lacked the appropriate equipment. The same survey showed 89% of clubs reporting no change in the number of disabled people joining, with 86% noting no change in the number of enquiries from disabled people and 96% reporting no change in the number of disabled people volunteering in their clubs."[27]

The SRA's October 2013 Sports Clubs survey[28] revealed that only 35% of clubs had access to appropriate equipment for disabled people.

141.  The Association for Physical Exercise praised the increased profile of sports such as boccia and goal ball in the wake of the Games but argued that not enough children with disabilities were taking part at present.[29] The latter issue is considered in more depth in the following Chapter.

142.  The Committee was conscious in considering participation that, above all, sports should be inclusive. In the context of disability sport, this means that all sports, beyond those which are also Paralympic sports, need to be accessible. As well as the Paralympics, the sports and participants which are included in other events, such as the Special Olympics and the Deaflympics, need to be embraced as part of the picture.

143.  The Paralympic Games seem to have provided tangible inspiration for people with disabilities. There are however still real barriers to increasing their access to participating in sport. These barriers include, but are not limited to, the lack of adequate coaches and facilities in clubs. Although Sport England appear to have used the 2012 Games to make progress in getting the majority of the sports it funds to sign up to improvements, this does not appear so far to be filtering down to grassroots level. At a year's distance from the Games it is possible to diagnose this problem, but not to ascertain whether sufficient steps are being taken to improve the position.

144.  At present 46 governing bodies of sports are rewarded with lottery funding from Sport England for the production of Whole Sports Plans, which focus on those aged from 14-25. These plans are for four year periods and are updated annually. They contain agreed targets for rises in participation to be measured by TPS, including inclusivity targets. Alongside the framework of new event legacy action plans coordinated by Government which we have proposed (see paragraph 120), national governing bodies' Whole Sport Plans would provide a good way to track the trend of the performance of national governing bodies in boosting participation, including to previously underrepresented parts of society, an in helping clubs to develop better facilities.

145.  We call on Sport England to make Whole Sports Plans publicly available, so that the debate on progress on growing participation in each sport can be informed. We invite the Government to report to Parliament each year on whether these Plans demonstrate the hoped-for continuing progress. (Recommendation 3)

Did the Paralympics change the perception of disability?

146.  The Government's sixth legacy aim, "to develop the opportunities and choices for disabled people" runs wider than sport. In the sporting context, there was consensus from our witnesses that the Paralympic Games had a real impact on the impact of disabled sport. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller told us that the Games had "a powerful effect" on perceptions.[30] The British Paralympic Association and others praised Channel 4's extensive coverage of the Paralympics and gave more detailed evidence of changing attitudes:

    "According to LOCOG and BBC Comm/Res research:

·  91% of viewers said the coverage of the games had demonstrated what disabled people can achieve, that disabled athletes are as talented as non-disabled athletes.

·  68% of people said that it had a favourable impact on their perceptions of disability sport.

·  Approximately 75% of Britons feel more positive about the role of disabled people in society following the Paralympic Games.

·  2 out of 3 London 2012 research respondents agreed that the Games will lead to a 'greater acceptance of disabled people'."[31]

147.  Improved attitudes to disabilities within their sports were also evidenced by British Swimming, the Amateur Swimming Association and English Handball.

148.  Baroness Grey-Thompson agreed that public attitudes to athletes with disabilities had improved and that the Games had done much to "change was that people understood what it took to be a Paralympian, which was great, and there has been a very positive view of Paralympians, which is amazing." However she felt that there was a downside to the growing awareness of Paralympians, who were "a very different group of people to the rest of the disabled population", and that it might foster expectations that all disabled people were capable of similar performance. She also cited the most recent disability hate crime statistics, which she described as "the worst they have ever been in 10 years of reporting."[32]

149.  Possible recommendation: The wider claims for the Paralympics having caused a sea change in broad public perceptions of those with disabilities seem to us to be unproven. There is however strong evidence of the effect which the Games, Team GB's success, and the media coverage have had on broader public perceptions of disability sport. This in itself is important and can have a real benefit in the longer term. Given their importance, and potential fragility, we call on the Government actively to monitor public perceptions of disability and to continue to promote disabled athletes.

150.  The impact of the media coverage in the UK perhaps only highlights the opportunity lost in the USA, where NBC did not broadcast the 2012 Paralympics live. We welcome the recent announcement by the same network that it will broadcast events from the next winter Paralympic Games in Sochi live.

3   Culture, Media and Sport Committee, London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games: funding and legacy (2nd Report, Session 2006-07, HC 69-I). Back

4   See McCartney, G., Thomas, S., Thomson, H., Scott, J., Hamilton, V., Hanlon, P., Morrison, D. S. Bond, L. (2010). 'The health and socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events: systematic review' (1978-2008). British Medical Journal, 340. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c2369; and Weed, M., Coren, E., & Fiore, J. (2009). A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base for Developing a Physical Activity and Health Legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games. London: Department of Health. Back

5   Q 182 Back

6   Sport England. Back

7   Q 393 Back

8   Q 396 Back

9   Q 93 Back

10   Football Association. Back

11   Q 71 Back

12   Q6 Back

13   The Government and the Mayor of London. Back

14   Sport England. Back

15   Ibid. Sport England also told us that it was investing "£1.7 million in the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) to provide expertise in the best ways to engage women and young girls, and has made significant investment in sport popular amongst women, such as netball (£25.3m), running (£22m), equestrianism (£6m), swimming (£20m) and tennis (£17.4m). A new initiative launched in May saw Bury chosen as the location of a pilot where a large number of projects designed specifically to get more women playing sport are being delivered and closely monitored and evaluated to provide a blueprint for other places in England to replicate in future." Back

16   Q 79 Back

17   Q 457 Back

18   Available at Back

19   Q 457 Back

20   Sport England. Back

21   IbidBack

22   StreetGames. Back

23   Stonewall. Back

24   Sport England. Back

25   Q 109 Back

26   Sport and Recreation Alliance. Back

27   IbidBack

28   Available at Back

29   Association for Physical Exercise. Back

30   Q 485 Back

31   British Paralympic Association. Back

32   Q 132 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013