Summer of sport and that's it?

29 May 2012 by Karl Hallam

Olympics, Euros, Wimbledon, Test Matches, Tour de France ... an armchair sports fan's ideal summer. Some of these events even offer the opportunity of some victories for British athletes and teams. But, does sport offer something to society beyond the excitement for spectators, a limited number of competitors and business 'partners'?

A glance through the sports pages of the last few days gives a mixed picture. In football the big news this week is not the incredible success Roy Hodgson has had in lower expectations, rather the approval by the FA blazers yesterday of a complete change in the approach to kids' footabll. Many of us would say at last! Smaller teams, pictches, more emphaisis on skills now winning ... like the Dutch/Spanish. I am tempted to put a bet on Engalnd winning a major tournament in 20 years time based on these reforms. More importantly they should result in increased particiaption too.

Moving on to athletics we have had the bizarre story of a British athlete confirming themsleves as favourite for the one of the most demanding sports in the world with a new PB and British record against her cheif opponents for London. But, that development has been overshadowed by the allegation that someone high up in the sport thinks Jessica Ennis is a bit fat! Putting a side the ridiculousness of this at all levels, there is a more serious point about females, health and body image. If ever there was an opportunity for elite athletic performance to have a wider influence it would be if Jess won Gold in London. The activity levels of teenage girls is shocking and here is someone who shows another way ... the last thing we need is someone suggesting her kid of body is overweight, the starving size zero is surely not what we want people to aspire to?

Tennis continues to disappoint and until it emabraces increased particiapation across all sectors of society will not change.

Cricket at the top end is thriving and their youth development is promising, but why are there still so few Asian background players (something that could be said for football too).

Cycling still seems to be on it's own with British Cycling's twin tracked grassroots and elite level approach. They clearly articulate how they see Olympic and Tour de France success as drivers of increased participation.

Sport should be valued beause people like it, but it could offer so much more to us if we wanted it too. It's a great tool that we are not using. There is a role for national policy moves, but they could be local too. Sheffield, for example, needs to get over the 1991 Student Olympics and invest again in sport in the city. It is really something that could make us distinctive ...

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