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Lottery boost for London 2012 mass participation legacy

By Matt Slater

Prime Minister David Cameron and London 2012 chief Seb Coe (r) at a recent event
PM David Cameron and London 2012 boss Seb Coe want a legacy gain

UK hopes of gaining a countrywide legacy from hosting the Olympics in 2012 have received a £135m boost.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson announced the new Places People Play initiative in London on Monday.

The plan is funded by the National Lottery and focuses on facilities, volunteers and inspiring participation.

"This is the cornerstone of a grassroots legacy from hosting the Games because it enables everybody to play sport," said Robertson.

"With more lottery money being invested in facilities, volunteering and protecting and improving playing fields, there will be more opportunities for everyone to get involved."

What the five-year scheme, which provides £90m for venues and playing fields, does not do is tie itself to any fixed targets.

The last government initially made a legacy commitment of getting two million people more active, although that later became a pledge to get one million more people playing more sport.

The legacy promise we made to this country's young people is yet another promise that has been broken by the Coalition Government

Labour's former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell

But overall targets were conspicuous by their absence in Robertson's announcement, with the only vague commitment being that this would "encourage more people to get involved in sport".

Critics will suggest this confirms the widely-held perception that the "million more" goal has been dropped, or at least relegated to "aspiration" status.

There were some targets, though, for the volunteer recruitment drive and try-a-sport elements of the plan: finding and training 40,000 more "sports leaders" to organise grassroots activities, and inspiring 100,000 adults to "test themselves in Olympic and Paralympic sports".

The volunteering scheme, which taps into Prime Minister David Cameron's concept of a "big society", will lean heavily on the work already done by the various national governing bodies for sports and national coaching organisations, such as Sport Leaders UK.

And the push to promote participation, dubbed Gold Challenge, bears a close resemblance to an existing British Olympic Association (BOA) programme that focuses on personal development and goal-setting.

It is hoped adults who take part in Gold Challenge events will raise "millions of pounds for charity" and there will also be high expectations of a campaign called Sportivate that will give youngsters six weeks of coaching in the sport of their choice.

Sport England, the agency responsible for English community sport, will run the Places People Play programme with the backing of the key London 2012 stakeholders, the BOA, British Paralympic Association (BPA) and the Games' organising committee (Locog).

This will harness the power of the Games to promote sport and leave a lasting legacy of facilities, volunteers and more people participating in sport

London 2012 chairman Seb Coe

Jennie Price, Sport England's chief executive, said: "We can't all be Olympians or Paralympians but with great local facilities, inspirational sports leaders on the ground and sporting challenges to suit everyone, we can all be part of the mass participation legacy.

"We want to bring both the Games and grassroots sport to life to ensure that, in challenging times, sport receives the investment and attention it needs at a local level."

Price's mention of "challenging times" draws attention to another key element of this initiative - just how new is this money?

A precise answer to this question is difficult to establish as Sport England claims £100m of this package is new, with the rest being reallocated from their existing grant.

But increased levels of lottery funding for Sport England - and UK Sport, the agency for elite sport - have already been announced in the wake of last month's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

That process saw sport lose 30% of its direct funding from government, with the Department of Education-funded School Sports Partnership (SSP) programme being the most high-profile casualty.

Labour's Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell gave a withering response to today's announcement.

"The legacy promise we made in Singapore was to transform a generation of young people through sport," said Jowell.

"This additional money is welcome but it goes nowhere near replacing the funds already taken away from sport, particularly sport in schools.

"However they dress it up, the Olympic legacy promise that we made to this country's young people is yet another promise that has been broken by the Coalition Government."

Government officials, however, point to the greatly increased contribution from the lottery as evidence of their commitment to sport.

And with many still disappointed about the axing of the SSP scheme (and the earlier abandonment of free swimming for the young and old), the ring-fencing of lottery cash for a community sport legacy plan will come as a relief to the likes of Locog chairman Seb Coe.

"When we bid for the Games in 2005, we said we would use the power of the Games to inspire young people to take up sport," said Coe.

"Places People Play will harness the inspirational power of the Games to promote sport and leave a lasting legacy of facilities, trained volunteers and more people participating in sport. This is what we set out to achieve."

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see also
Cuts hit community & school sport
20 Oct 10 |  Sport Homepage
Key sports organisations to merge
26 Jul 10 |  Sport Homepage
Free swims in England to be axed
17 Jun 10 |  UK Politics
Cash cuts 'threaten' 2012 legacy
28 Jan 09 |  Olympics
Leap forward for school sports
16 Oct 08 |  Education
Grass-roots sport receives 480m
16 Dec 08 |  Olympics

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