Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

2012 Games 'Will Fail to Boost Grassroots Sport'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

2012 Games 'Will Fail to Boost Grassroots Sport'

Article excerpt

Byline: MATTHEW BEARD

THE London Olympics may fail to deliver on its key pledge to boost thenationwide popularity of sport, it has been claimed.

Olympics chiefs came under attack for allegedly failing to devise a costed planfor improving participation in grassroots sport on the back of an increasingly"elitist" 2012 project.

Doubts about the Olympic sports legacy dominated the Evening StandardInfluentials debate last night and came to a head in heated and sometimespersonal exchanges between fellow panellists 2012 chief Sebastian Coe andauthor and Olympics opposer Will Self.

They were responding to warnings from audience member John Bryant of a"widening gap" between drug-enhanced elite sport and the Games' aims of drawingpeople into sport.

Mr Self said: "I'm always slightly surprised by the idea that kids who areordinary at sport are going to be galvanised to participate by eliteperformances. It's understandable Seb Coe wouldn't understand because he is anelite sports performer. Those of us who are just OK at sport actually are intimidated."

Mr Coe, double Olympic champion and chairman of 2012 organising committeeLocog, said: "I will fight the nostrum that this is just about elite sport. Thechallenge is not whether we finish fourth or 20th in the medals table but whatwe do to convert big British moments into 10,000 more kids picking up sport."He conceded London had a "Third World" sports infrastructure but said theOlympics would remedy this.

Mr Coe accused Mr Self of being a newcomer to the debate about the plight ofthe capital's sports venues. "You were never out there when we were closingplaying fields in Enfield. You were probably standing outside theatres."

Kate Hoey, the London mayor's commissioner for sport, said: "Legacy is aboutwhat is happening at grassroots level and there has to be a budget for ordinarykids in London. We haven't got that and we should be honest about the fact wehave spent so much time worrying about making sure the Games work andfacilities are built. …

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