Will London 2012 leave a legacy in Sussex?

editorial image

Having hosted one of the greatest sporting spectacles the world has ever seen, the question now post London 2012 is exactly what happens next?

More than 50 million people in Britain tuned in over the fabulous two weeks, making it the most watched event in TV history.

Great Britain’s fabulous 29 gold medal haul has gone some way to justifying the hundreds of millions spent on staging a home Games, but with national participation in sport flat lining will the wave of Olympic success carry the country to future sporting success or only lap at the shoreline?

“People are now starting to talk about the legacy the Games will leave but for us it’s been high on the agenda ever since London won the Games back in 2005,” said Sadie Mason, chief executive of Active Sussex, the Government-funded body charged with increasing participation in sport across the county.

“Bodies like Active Sussex and its partners have been working together on a large number of initiatives in the run up to the Olympics which will continue now they are finished.”

As part of the Government’s 2012 Legacy Plan, aimed at increasing participation in sport and physical activity by 2 million by the end of the year, Active Sussex has rolled out a number of national initiatives at county level.

Sportivate, launched two years ago has seen local clubs sign up to offer 14-25 year olds free or low cost sessions to help encourage youngsters to try something new. Around 1,500 have taken part so far and events like the recent wakeboarding at Hove have proved hugely popular.

The Sports Maker initiative puts the emphasis on training volunteers to organise activities in their area, and to date 1,118 people have signed up in Sussex with 440 of those attending workshops. The Sussex School Games, recently held at Crawley’s K2, gives school children at all levels the opportunity to compete in an Olympic-style setting.

But official figures show national participation in sport has actually dropped in the last three years, from 16.6 per cent of the population in 2009 to 16.3 per cent in 2011.

Those figures are reflected in Sussex, from 16.3 per cent in 2009 to 15.9 per cent in 2011, and currently only a fifth of the population of the UK are deemed ‘active’.

“Getting people engaged in sport is a major challenge,” Mrs Mason, a former GB basketball player who is also a on the Sport England committee acknowledged.

“The financial climate has had an effect but people are also time poor as well, so clubs need to think about catering for people who just want to rock up and play. We are about helping clubs attract new members and adapt to survive.”

Sporting interest always spikes during showpiece events like the recent Olympics, it’s maintaining that interest which is always the real challenge.

But with the Government pledging a further £500m to UK Sport over the next four years in the run up to Rio 2016, that should be filtered down to regional sporting bodies to divide.

And projects like the £150,000 redevelopment of the Withdean athletics track already in place, Mrs Mason believes the county is well placed to benefit from the success of London 2012.

“The word legacy has been banded about a lot but I do believe we have the opportunity to use the positives from the Games to make a lasting impression,” she said.

The Active Sussex website (www.activesussex.org) contains a host of information on the sports and Sportivate sessions available to try.

You can also visit http://joining.org/ and by typing in your postcode find a whole list of taster sessions going on near you.

Pictured are Mo Farah and Usain Bolt exachnging trademark poses (PA Wire)