Tuesday, 7 January 2014

It’s not just cricket: home truths on a whitewash

The whitewash of the England cricket team during the latest Ashes series has generated acres of coverage. But most wasn’t as interesting as this piece by Matthew Engel in Saturday’s Financial Times – which isn’t really about “sport” at all. You can register with the FT to read the whole article. Or I have extracted the most telling bit below. And it isn’t about cricket.

“London’s bid to stage the Games had been predicated on the notion of “legacy”. Shortly after they ended, a friend of a friend snapped a picture of a lamppost by a block of flats in a London suburb. A banner still fluttered with one of the Olympic slogans “Inspire a Generation”. Below it was the traditional message “No Ball Games”. You can guess which sign has lasted longer.

Last month, Sport England published figures showing that active participation in sport among 16 to 25-year-olds had declined since the Olympics. Its chief executive, Jennie Price, said that more emphasis would now be placed on activities including “korfball, dodge ball, zumba and dance”. Olympic medals are not awarded for these pastimes, nor for obesity, at which the allegedly inspired generation is showing particular promise.

It is all a chimera. Olympic success is directly correlated to the extent to which governments fund the training of elite athletes. In the 21st century Britain chose to make that a priority. QED. It bears little relation – perhaps none at all – to young people’s health and fitness.

That depends on having widely available facilities, especially in schools; an emphasis on physical education; open space; a society where kids are free to roam and play informally away from parents who are not too terrified of the dangers from traffic and paedophiles; and a climate that encourages outdoor life. Britain has none of the above. Some of this is bad luck, some bad judgment.”

As they used to say, ‘No FT, No Comment.’

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