Olympic enthusiasm boosts sports participation – new survey shows
LGA media release 10 September 2012
Councils have had to draft in extra lifeguards, coaches and leisure centre staff and extend leisure centre opening hours manage to a surge in demand from Olympics-enthused residents.
As the 2012 Games draw to a close, a snapshot survey carried out by the Local Government Association has found swimming pools, gyms, athletics tracks and tennis courts across the country seeing an increase in users during Britain's Olympic summer.
Other sports in council-owned facilities which have seen more uptake include gymnastics, sailing, cycling, badminton, handball, fencing, table tennis, beach volleyball, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, canoeing, archery and hockey. Many councils' summer sports programmes for children have also been booked out.
Council facilities played a key role in the success of the 2012 Games with about a third of councils having their sports facilities used by Team GB or Paralympics GB athletes.
- 44 per cent of councils reported an increase in users during the Olympics.
- The 10 sports where councils with those facilities have seen the greatest increase in users are swimming (36 per cent of councils), gym (26%), athletics (17%), beach volleyball (13%), gymnastics (12%), sailing (11%), tennis (11%), badminton (9%), cycling/BMX (8%) and handball (7%).
- 28 per cent of councils have had members of Team GB use their sports facilities over the past year, and 34 per cent have hosted ParalympicsGB members.
Cllr Stephen Castle, Chairman of the LGA's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Task and Finish Group, said:
"The scale of enthusiasm and wide variety of sports people are wanting to get involved in is really inspiring, and this snapshot survey just gives an indication of what's happening across the country. Many councils predicted a greater increase once the Olympics finished and they had fully collated their figures.
"Across the country council sports facilities are being inundated with people enthused by our Olympic summer wanting to get involved with sport. There are queues at swimming pools, leisure centres, gymnasiums and even beach volleyball courts. Summer sports programmes for children have also been booking out which is a great sign as engaging youngsters in sport and a healthy lifestyle is a key aim of the 2012 Games.
"A key measure of the success of the 2012 Games will be if sporting participation increases in the years ahead. Councils have a key role to play in this as it's their facilities people often rely on as they find private facilities prohibitively expensive. It's essential governing bodies, councils, local sports clubs and community groups work well together to seize the fantastic sporting fervour generated by the 2012 Games and make sure we keep people enthused about sport once the closing ceremonies are a distant memory.
"Councils are doing all they can to manage Government's 28 per cent funding cuts without reducing their sports and leisure services. They are striving to increase membership to generate income, joining with each other to make savings, negotiating contracts to get the most of every pound, sourcing external funding and working with voluntary groups, local sports clubs and business to reduce staffing costs and keep services going."
Max Whitlock, who won bronze as part of Team GB's Gymnastic team, trains at the Basildon Sporting Village, a new centre funded by Basildon Council and Essex County Council. Since his win, its phones have been busy with people wanting to get involved, with more than 50 messages left one evening by people inquiring about the club.
Southend Swimming and Diving Centre, where Tom Daley and the Team GB divers trained for the Olympics, received a flood of calls from people wanting to take up diving. The council's beach volleyball net at Southchurch beach has had people queuing up for a go.
That National Water Sports Centre, which is managed by Nottinghamshire County Council, saw a sharp rise in inquires about canoeing and kayaking which increased following Team GB's gold and silver at Lee Valley.
Brighton and Hove City Council's beach volleyball court has had people queuing up to have a game, while the nearby beach volleyball centre is adding extra leagues and coaching sessions to cope with demand.
In Carmarthenshire, home to hurdler Dai Green, the council's five leisure facilities, velodrome and cycle paths have seen a sharp increase in users. Millennium Coastal Park, managed by Carmarthenshire Council, has been taking exceptional numbers of riders with whole families out on their bicycles. Bicycles at the cycle hire at Llanelli North Dock Visitor's Centre and at Pembrey Country Park Ski Pembrey Centre are in high demand.
Bradford Council ran dance, gym and sports camps over the summer holidays. They were fully booked, attended by 60 children a day, and many more on the waiting list. It's 'Playing for Gold' Olympic sports programme has delivered 75 summer play schemes, all fully booked out. The outdoor adventure summer courses were nearly full to the maximum of 12 children per course per week and all swimming and diving summer courses were full, with interest in the diving having increased.
Cherwell District Council's summer children's activity schemes, which were given an Olympic theme with specialist coaches, had double the number of children attending.
Tamworth Borough Council's children's summer activities, which include sessions on athletics, tennis, boxing, football and paddle boarding, all sold out.
Notes to editors
The LGA undertook a survey of officers with the responsibility for sports development between 8 August 2012 and 24 August 2012 within all councils in England and Wales. A response rate of 26 per cent (97 councils) was achieved by 24 August 2012. Full results of the survey are available from the research team on request.
For council case studies on specific issues, contact Ben Knowles
Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: Ben Knowles, Local Government Association Media Office, Telephone: 0207 664 3333
30 October 2012