Have London 2012 organisers failed to deliver on their promise to “change the face of British sport” when the Olympic Games were awarded to the city seven years ago?
“Legacy” and “participation” were the watchwords in the 2005 presentation that won Lord Coe and London the Games.
The new age of austerity has hit some of the more high-profile initiatives to boost those, such as the £162m Schools Sports Partnership in England but – as this straw poll in January hinted – governing bodies and clubs have realised that the Games provide an unmissable opportunity to promote their sports.
That, according to athletics great Steve Cram, is exactly what they should be doing.
“I don’t think the Games should or will have a remit for developing legacy,” said the 1984 Olympic 1500m silver medallist when I spoke to him a fortnight ago.
“I don’t think it’s [London 2012 organising committee] Locog’s job to get people jogging. The Olympics are about elite sport – a showcase. Locog has got too much else to do.
“I would look to local sports clubs and say, ‘You’re in the shop window; what are you going to do?
In 2006, funding body UK Sport made requirements of governing bodies before cash was released, forcing each to have a clear performance pathway, showing that funding meant to produce Olympic medals would go towards just that, with grassroots funding for sport development a completely separate issue.
The performance goal looks likely to be achieved, with one study forecasting 27 gold medals in 2012 – from a nation that won just one in 1996.
Perhaps the separation in approaches has helped to make clear that participation is just as important as performance. In programmes such as Back to Hockey and Explore Rowing, governing bodies seek to promote enjoyment, opening their sports up to those who may be put off by a win-at-all-costs mentality.
Cram was speaking to me as an ambassador for independent website Findarace.com, which aims to help potential competitors discover running, cycling, triathlon and swimming events that are nearby and suit their level of competition.
He has witnessed the explosion of mass participation in his own sport over the last 20 years and does his bit by organising the Marathon of the North in his home city of Sunderland.
Many more people want to get involved in sport, he reasons, but don’t know what to look for. It is easy for those within a sport to forget how complicated it is to get involved in the first place.
The 2012 Olympics will provide the shop window to attract new competitors to each of the 26 sports. Then it will be up to clubs, governing bodies and enterprising initiatives like Findaraceto get them involved.
“It’s important that youngsters see a sport and want to go to their local club, whether it be athletics or canoeing, taekwondo or boxing” said Cram.
“I hope that in 10 years’ time there will be people on the podium who say, ‘I saw the sport for the first time in 2012.”
Do you agree with Steve Cram – should clubs and governing bodies be responsible for promoting their own sport or should London 2012 be doing more? Please let me know what you think – either here or via Twitter to @martingough22