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Grassroots sport going for gold in post olympic fever

Posted: September 27, 2012 by sledge100 in Music

By Matthew Reid

As the curtain closes on the London 2012 Olympic Games, we can look back on individual feats that have stunned the world, and performances that have inspired nations all over the globe.

The 2012 Olympics have been the most technically advanced games to date, with social media in a two week meltdown and ten television channels dedicated to the coverage of the 26 different sports.

Both Olympic broadcasters received record ratings for their coverage, with Pay TV giant Foxtel receiving unprecedented numbers.

However a recent study indicates the holding of major sporting events does not necessarily correlate with increased enrolments at local sporting clubs.

The swimming pool for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. This took place at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

Analysis of the Sydney 2000 Olympics suggests that participation rates in Olympic sports only increased in children, lending support to the idea that children are most inspired by their heroes compared to the older age groups.

This ‘trickle-down effect’ was first outlaid in a 1970’s government study, but has yet to prove entirely conclusive.

Local athletics and swimming clubs are the ones expecting the rise in enrolments. They run for the entirety of the games in separate blocks, and role models such as Australian swimmer James Magnussen and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt have become pin-up boys in their respective disciplines.

The Sydney 2000 analysis indicated a sharp increase in swimming participation after both Sydney and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, and in an interview with renowned expert Gary Barclay he expects this trend to continue in 2012.

He states, “the performances of Olympians including Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones have resulted in a huge surge in learn to swim enrolments at swim schools immediately following each Olympic Games”.       

However a figure that stands out in the analysis is the decreased participation in the other major Olympic sport, athletics, which hit a post Sydney Olympics high of 40,000 registrations.

Over the last 12 years that has decreased to 36,000, a figure that owes much to the spike after the Commonwealth Games.

There a number of reasons for this, but NSW Little Athletics CEO Kerry O’Keefe believes it is financial flexibility families must assess when letting their kids play sport.

South Melbourne Little Athletics vice president Tim Allen also believes that funding is an issue, particularly for clubs who don’t have adequate facilities and volunteers.

Although not local the London Olympics is quite relevant when it comes to the legacy it will leave on British and world sport participation in the modern technological age.

London is the first host nation to devise an Olympic Legacy plan, the backbone of which is to harness Britain’s passion for sport and to get people physically active.

It is a plan driven by political belief of the crisis in British sport participation, but as sociology of sport professor Ken Green states this implied crisis is seemingly unfounded, “Young people are playing less sport. The Olympics will change this. Both statements are untrue”.

The London Olympic plan spawned much from the initiative Los Angeles took when they hosted the games in 1984, when the American city launched the LA84 foundation, which still distributes funds into the community eight years after its scheduled close.

The Official 2012 Olympic countdown Clock situated in Trafalgar square. It served as a reminder for people across the UK that London will soon be hosting the greatest show on earth.

The foundations motto is ‘life ready through sport’, and is a shining example of how sport can break down social barriers, and is more than just about winning medals.

This is what London can hope to gain from hosting the games, and according to British mother of two Clare Adams the Olympics has already inspired her children to try out new sports.

Our nation has been in a clutter about our seemingly substandard medal tally, but Australia’s deputy chef de mission Kitty Chiller said it wasn’t about the medal tally, but about inspiring the young generation to get involved in sport.

In an interview with the ABC’s Red Symons, she stresses the importance of sport in the primary school curriculum and cites the growing obesity in children as a reason for this.

Prior to the Olympics commencing the Australian government launched the PM’s Olympic Challenge, which encouraged organizations and parents to get their children undertaking physical activity in some sense.

Athletics carnivals were held right throughout the Olympic Games, and Ballarat Little Athletics president Shane Bicknell hailed their event a success, “The kids and teachers really enjoyed the day and we hope we have encouraged a few to become great little athletes of the future”.

While local swimming is often held all year round, the little athletics season will begin at the start of October, and local clubs will be bracing themselves for the expected rise in participation around Australia.

Even with the rise expected to be brief based on historical trends, the level of optimism amongst local club chiefs is high, and maybe the next Sally Pearson or James Magnussen will bounce out of their parent’s car this summer, amongst the hive of activity that is grassroots sport.