One of the biggest events to capture the nation this year was the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Each day the news agenda was filled with reports from the Games as our Olympians competed tirelessly to bring home 27 gold medals, putting them third on the overall medal table – the highest finish since we competed back in 1908, and an incredible achievement!
Events like this demonstrate what our country is capable of and help to bring us together as a nation to celebrate and be proud of our achievements as Team GB. That’s why we, as Great Britain, invest heavily in supporting these events – to create a sense of community and to inspire great success amongst one another.
Following the success at Rio, Team GB came home to huge parades and celebration parties, and as an advisory board member of the Youth Charter, a charity aimed specifically at inspiring today’s young people, I was privileged to attend the #legacyopportunity4all youth debate. The topic of conversation centred around how the nation’s young people can be inspired to lead a healthy, active and productive lifestyle now that the Games have come to an end.
The debate, which saw 200 students from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities gather together to put their questions to a panel of industry leaders, opened up some really interesting conversations. We invest a lot of time and money into getting our Olympians to the Games, but are we investing enough in providing engaging and motivating sporting opportunities that are available to everyone? The Government has invested £250 million in a five-year strategy through Sport England, aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of our young people and communities. Almost £350 million of public money (raised by lottery and tax contributions) was pledged to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the run up to Rio 2016.
Interestingly, during the #legacyopportunity4all debate, the main point raised was that a lot of young people didn’t feel like they had a connection to the Games. They didn’t feel like they were a part of the event or that it really related to them. It doesn’t appear as though many were particularly inspired to put on their trainers and get involved. Not only this, but for those who did want to take up a sport, many admitted they’d experienced difficulties with the accessibility and affordability of their local sports and leisure facilities.
It’s clear more needs to be done to make opportunities available to everyone, to encourage our communities to become more active. I believe inspiring children to get involved with sporting activities is enormously valuable as it’s a great way to help them build up their communication skills and confidence, and helps them engage with other people from a young age. These interpersonal skills are crucial, teaching young people how to reach their goals and ambitions, and achieve success later in life.
As someone who was invited to watch the #legacyopportunity4all debate, I think it’s extremely encouraging to see conversations already taking place to determine how we can get our nation fitter and healthier. But there’s still a long way to go to encourage youngsters in our communities to get out there on to the running track.