Fury over lost London 2012 Games legacy as school sport funds dry up

Former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell has appealed for urgent cross-party talks to halt a decline in school sport, as an Observer investigation suggests the coalition is destroying hopes of a grassroots legacy from London 2012. This is from the Observer…

Exactly six months on from the start of the Games, an Opinium/Observerpoll shows that only 10% of people believe the government has played its part in increasing support for sport in schools and communities in the runup to – and since – last summer’s Olympics.

By contrast, 55% say support has either stayed the same or been cut back since the coalition came to power. Among parents of youngsters under 18, the figures are even more stark. Only 17% of parents say government support has increased since 2010, while 65% say it has either stayed the same or been cut.

At last summer’s Games, Team GB won a record medal haul, inspiring hopes of a surge in sporting participation and government action to boost the legacy. Six months on, a damning 59% of parents say they have either seen a decline or no improvement in government support. Only 24% say support has increased.

London won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics after convincing the judges that the Games would “inspire a generation” of UK sportsmen and women, and by promising that a permanent legacy would be built in schools and communities. Today a separate Observer survey of the views of headteachers in the state sector shows that many believed the promise had been on target for delivery until 2010, but a large majority now think things have gone into sharp reverse since the education secretary, Michael Gove, began dismantling Labour’s system of School Sports Partnerships (SSPs).

Chris Dunne, headteacher of Langdon Park school in Tower Hamlets, London, described the government’s decision as “an enormously destructive act, verging on vandalism” and said it was a tragedy that sporting opportunities had been cut back dramatically either side of the Games.

David Ellis, head of York high school, said: “It really is a national disgrace that we are not building on the goodwill, enthusiasm, excitement and motivation that London 2012 generated.”

Last night, Jowell, who persuaded sceptical Labour colleagues, including Tony Blair, to bid for the Olympics in 2002 and 2003 and was made a dame in the New Year’s honours list for her work in delivering the Games, said a cross-party deal had to be struck if the legacy promises were to be met. Previous behind-the-scenes efforts by Jowell to bring parties together have failed.

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